Sunday, June 29, 2014

Choose Your Victim

            This is not my own idea.  I got this idea from a colleague, who told me he that he himself got it from somewhere on the Internet.
            However, despite this not being my own original idea, it’s something that worked reasonable well for me in the classroom, and so, in my continuing effort to keep some sort of track of all the different activities that I’ve used, in order to remember them so that I can re-use them later, I’m going to briefly write about the activity here.

            The idea is that you divide the class into two teams, and have each team stand facing each other.  There is a ball, and one student from one team will ask a question and then throw the ball to someone else on the other team.  Whoever receives the ball has to answer the question correctly.  Then, they make a new question, and throw the ball back to someone else on the other team.  If there is any mistake with either the answer or the question, then the student who made the mistake has to sit down.  If a student repeats a question that has already been asked before, they also have to sit down.  The team with the last person standing wins.
            All of the questions and answers are supposed to use the target grammar for that lesson.  For example, my colleague recommended this game as good for “Have you ever…” questions with the present perfect, and I used this game with that grammar point in my own classes.

            I did this game with two classes of young learners: a morning class of 10 students, and an afternoon class of 20 students.

            It worked great with the class of ten students, since it ended up being two teams of 5 people each.
            With the larger group, it worked less well.  Classroom control became more of an issue with the larger group.  With only one student holding the ball at any one time, the other 19 students quickly became bored and started talking among themselves.  This often meant that I couldn’t hear what the student with the ball was saying, and couldn’t accurately judge whether the sentence had been produced correctly or not.  Which meant that I had to put more energy into classroom control and getting the other students to quiet down and not to lose focus.
            Also, as the game dragged on, students who had gotten out early also began to get bored and lose focus.  The weaker students were quickly eliminated from the game, but the stronger students stayed standing forever.  In the end, instead of playing till the last man, I decided to put a time limit on the game, and then just count how many people were left on each team.
            The game unfortunately discourages inventiveness or risk taking, and causes students to continually just return to very simple words and sentence structures.

            NEVERTHELESS, in spite of all these negatives, I think I’m going to keep this game in my repertoire.  At the very least, it is a game that forces the students to produce the target grammar point at the end of the lesson.  And as a young learner teacher, I am constantly desperate for new games and activities to keep my students from getting bored.  I think I’ll put this game in on my second or third tier list of activities—something I only use maybe once a term, but something that is still worth using every once and a while just to mix things up a bit.

Student on team 1: “Jenny, have you ever been to France?” (Throws ball to Jenny, on team 2).
Jenny (on team 2): “No, I haven’t.  Jason, have you ever eaten pizza?” (Throws ball to Jason on team 1)
Jason (on team 1): “Yes, I do.”
Teacher: “Sorry, Jason, the answer is ‘Yes, I have’.  I’m afraid you’re out.  Jenny, choose another victim.”
Jenny:  “Michael, have you ever drunk coffee?” (Throws ball to Michael on team 1)
Michael: Yes, I have.  Thomas, have you ever went to China?”

Teacher: “Sorry, Michael, it’s ‘gone to China’.  You’re out I’m afraid.  Jenny, choose another victim.

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