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Using Games for Instruction

21 Mar

Games are frequently used in classrooms to review a broad stretch of material in a short period of time.  They’re exciting, keep momentum flowing, and tap into students’ competitive edge.  Jeopardy and Bingo are two of the more popular ones.  But what about using games during instruction before review?  In the language classroom, games are an excellent structure for providing context for language usage.  They can provide a scenario, or prompt students to use key vocabulary/grammar concepts.  While not ideal for first instruction, games can be used for practice and reteaching.  Here are three games that I’ve used successfully with Beginning ESOL students.

1. Go Fish–Disney Style!

I created my own set of playing cards using Disney characters.  Students had been introduce to grammar and vocabulary for describing physical appearance.  While playing Go Fish, instead of asking “Do you have any Cinderellas?”, the students had to ask, “Do you have a girl with blond hair and blue eyes?”  The weirder the characters, the more fun they had!

2. Simple Board Game

I created a board game that looks like Monopoly but is much simpler.  Students roll a dice and move their playing pieces around the board.  Each square has a question on it (“Where did you go last weekend?” )  When students land on a square they must answer the question.  I made each square the size of a post-it, so we can easily change the questions.  Sometimes I write new questions, and sometimes the students write new questions. 

3. The Betting Game

This is one of my personal favorites!  Students are given 10 questions.  They write down their answers for each question.  Then they are given $100 in pretend money.  They bet up to $100 on how certain they are that their answer to number 1 is correct.  For example, they may bet $50.  If they are correct, they add that amount to their original $100, so the student would now have $50.  If they are incorrect, it is subtracted, so the student would now have $50.  Then they place a bet on how certain they are that #2 is answered correctly.  They can bet as much as they have after the first round.  We continue betting as we discuss the answers to all ten questions.  The winner at the end is the student with the most money, not necessarily the student with the most correct answers!


Planning for Discourse

16 Mar

Over the past few months I’ve been keeping a running list of classroom structures/activities/strategies that facilitate student-to-student discourse and student-to-teacher discourse.  It seems like a good time to post the list, so here it is in no particular order!

  • Wait Time I and II
  • 10-2
  • Peer review/edit/critique
  • Plus/Deltas
  • Drivers and Restrainers for why we’re able to prove our hypothesis
  • Charting progress
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Critical Challenges
  • Higher Order Thinking Questions
  • See-Think-Wonder
  • Modeling Thinking Aloud
  • Shared Inquiry
  • Literature Circles
  • 3-Step Interview
  • A-B Discussion
  • Paired Verbal Fluency
  • Speed Dating
  • Teammates Consult
  • Labs
  • Discussion
  • Jigsaw
  • Experts and Scribes (Write What I Say)
  • 6 Thinking Hats
  • Gallery Walk
  • Inside-Outside Circle
  • 4 Corners
  • Consensogram
  • U-Shaped Discussion
  • Ranking Ladder
  • Socratic Seminar
  • Checking for Understanding
  • Evaluate peers’ Explanation
  • Activotes
  • Talking Chips
  • Placemat
  • Students Evaluating Lesson Material
  • Document Analysis
  • Discussing Inferences

Discourse Cards

25 Feb

1. Create a notecard for each of the following:

  • Agree/Disagree Share whether you agree or disagree with a comment or explanation.  Be sure to explain your agreement or disagreement.
  • Restate Repeat what was just said in your own words. (Not directions!)
  • Check/Repeat Clarify in your own words what the teacher or a classmate says.  “So you’re saying…”
  • Further Participation Add a comment to the class discussion.  (This may also be an explanation of a concept.)
  • Questions Ask a classmate a question or for clarification.

2. After explaining each card, pass the cards out randomly to students prior to a discussion.  Tell them that they are expected to participate in the discussion according to the directions on their card.

3. After students participate, either collect thier card, or have them randomly pass it to a classmate, and continue the discussion.

Created by Rebecca Green, 7th grade math teacher at William H. Farquhar MS, and is an adaptation of the 5 Talk Moves from Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn. Chapin, O’Connor, and Anderson.

Speed Dating

6 Jan

1.Arrange the desks in your classroom so that there are two concentric circles (one inside the other), with the inside and outside desks facing each other. 

2. Randomly assign seats.  Tell students that the inside circle never moves.  The outside circle will always move one desk to the right. 

3. Assign students a discussion prompt. Provide 2 minutes of individual think time, then 4 minutes for pairs to discuss.  After 4 minutes, have the outside circle rotate.  Provide another 4 minutes for discussion.  Continue for 3-6 rotations. 

Single Question Version– Provide a single challenging question for students to discuss.

Multiple Questions Version– Provide multiple questions for discussion.  During the first round, each pair discusses a different question.  As students rotate they engage in a jigsaw where they share answers for their original questions, record their new partners’ answers, and discuss further.


23 Dec

1. Provide students with a provocative/ambiguous artifact.  (work of art, political cartoon, graphic)

2. Engage students in a discussion using the three prompts:

  • What do I see?
  • What do I think about that?
  • What does it make me wonder about?

3. Consider private think time before the discussion, using partners before whole group discussion, etc.

from Harvard’s Project Zero