the Year’s Blues
If you are coming to the end of a school year, or wish to challenge a pastoral care or school camp group, here are some suggestions to keep the little tackers occupied. You may like to try out these ideas and tell me how they went.
Walk Right In
Here is an activity I tried recently with the ‘Brainwaves’ group in Hobart. It went for about 40 minutes. All that was needed was a door. I am sure that you have one or can find one within your classroom.
Simply explore the many ways a person or persons can enter a room. A student stands outside the door and the class is encouraged to look at the door awaiting his or her arrival. It is better to wait as this builds the focus and the drama. Doors have great theatrical possibilities!
The student enters the room in a certain way. He or she may be fleeing or even hesitant or reluctant. Explore the many ways to enter room. Leave this open to your students. I am yet to see a group not come up with good ideas.
You may like to explore movement. Discuss the meanings and what may be happening in the scene – a good guessing game. Explore the sounds that can be made outside the door and how they can add to the meaning. Build in dialogue. Even encourage two students to enter at the same time.
This is a fun filled activity that requires nothing other than students facing a door and a lot of imagination. You may even like to discuss the significance of doors in our lives. Explore the types of doors we enter and leave.
You may even like to create a scenario like I did recently at the Awakenings Drama Festival in Horsham, Victoria. We created the space of a lift by arranging chairs and then explored how people enter lifts and how their body language changes. This is also a good insight into discussing personal space.
Anyway, best of luck with these activities. You may even like to create stories about magical doors. Where do they take you? What do you find? Who may enter?
Another activity is to divide students into groups and ask each group to sell a chair. Who comes up with the best advert? Students can explore the properties of the chair, its use or even who has been sitting in it.
This can work really well. Leave it open to the imagination of your students. You may then like to launch into a discussion on chairs and what they mean to us – are there special chairs at home for e.g. Grandma? You can then design written adverts or even stories about a special chair.
I first came upon this game in England. It is a terrific game and is a great way to start teaching as well as introducing a circle into learning. The group sits in a circle and has to randomly count to ten. One student says ‘one’, another ‘two’ and so on. If two students say the same number at the same time the group has to go back to zero. No system is allowed. Let the students identify what they have to do to reach ten. Watch carefully for any form of signalling where a student indicates that he or she is about to say a number.
This game is an excellent opportunity for you as the teacher to tune into the subtle effects that occur in a room when a group is challenged and focused. The more you conduct this game the more you will recognise how students need to tune into each other to reach a shared goal. Ask the students to observe what is happening within the group. The effects are quite palpable. The game confirms that much of the work in good teaching occurs at a subtle non-spoken level. Set class records and compare to other classes.
There are many types of brainteasers that you can use to stimulate students. These can be used in form group sessions, for extras, or to simply challenge students and to introduce them to concepts such as open and closed questions, concrete and abstract lines of thought as well as convergent and divergent thinking. It is interesting how in this activity students get to experience a range of thinking styles. Again the experience is far more powerful than a text based introduction to thinking styles.
Many of these questions can be framed as 50 or 100 question quizzes with even the possibilities for students to form into groups, and then ask questions, if the question count is running low. If a small number of students know the quiz ask them to be observers and to report back what they have noticed.
Students may like to explore the world of Palindromes and construct their own – sentences and words that can be read forwards and backwards.
"A man, a plan, a canal: Panama"
"Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts."
"Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus."
"Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel." 1614
"Doc, note. I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod."
"T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet."
"Cigar? Toss it in a can. It is so tragic."
"Dennis and Edna sinned"
"Lager, sir, is regal."
Ten animals I slam in a net.
Too bad I hid a boot.
Was it a car or a cat I saw?
Identify words. Here are some: madam, rotor, racecar, and radar.
Translation is a fascinating activity that you can use in a variety of ways within your teaching.
I can remember working with a grade three class in Melbourne. The students came from many backgrounds. Many spoke other languages at home and were put into the position of having to translate for parents or grandparents.
There was even the example of a girl who had deaf parents. This involved another form of translation and left me with the question of whether – as I had once heard – that the babies of deaf parents learn at a very early age to cry silently with an emphasis on the face rather than through making noise.
Anyway, I explained to the grade three class how language and words can change through the ages e.g.- "nice’’ in Shakespeare’s age was a derogatory word (see this site). It originated from the Latin ‘nescius’ meaning ignorant or foolish. This raised discussion on how words can be misinterpreted and allowed students who translated, to come forward with misunderstandings that they had experienced.
I asked a student to be an interpreter. We invented a language – ‘gobbledygook’ – and I played the role of the speaker of ‘gobbledygook.’ A student was assigned as the English speaker and the other as the interpreter. I entered the room and started speaking in a strange tongue. The interpreter translated this into English and the English speaker’s reply came back in ‘gobbledygook’ via the interpreter. Of course this involved considerable imagination, improvisation and guesswork. We were able to build upon the comments to create a very funny series of exchanges.
I was surprised how easily the students were able to step into these series of roles and create ever-changing contexts that shaped and were reshaped by the body language, the replies and the translations. Importantly there was freedom to experiment unlike a real translation.
We were even able to set up real translations in which students communicated from their parents’ native tongue – in one case Mandarin – to an English-speaking student. I found this a most interesting experience and felt that the students were able to show a variety of skills to their classmates.
I can remember a week earlier having little doubt about the diversity within Australia’s population. At that time I had been in an ESL class supporting the teacher and students with different teaching methods. I asked the students what were their parents’ nationalities. The range within the small group included Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Russian.
Translation is an excellent method of challenging students. There is considerable evidence that translation is the very basis of how we communicate and learn – taking other information and breaking it into a form that has meaning for us. This also applies in terms of communicating that information to others. Just the simple act of translating information into another form can pose considerable challenges and force the student to really grapple with meaning. You may have come across this table of how we learn once posited by William Glasser in "Control Theory in the Classroom", Perennial Library 1986.
It places great emphasis on students actively and physically working with knowledge, group work and in particular translating knowledge back to others:
Imagine your students translating your area of study from that of e.g. a secondary school textbook into a children’s book for six year olds. This requires considerable grappling with language and may even require the need to find new metaphors and analogies to make that knowledge even more understandable.
Ask the students to create a grid of nine chairs – each to correspond with a square on a naughts and crosses board. Students should form two lines. One line is the naughts and the other the crosses. The front student from each line is to take a position on this grid and either to have his or her arms crossed to signify a cross, or above the head in an arc to indicate a naught. This is a contest. You can have the best of five games. An alternative is to ask students to face questions pertaining to your subject area. If either side gets the question right a student can go to a chair within the grid.
I came across an alternative to this at a seminar to challenge bright students. It involved the drawing of the grid on the board labeling each naughts and cross square – A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3.
Two students stand at the front of the room and play a game of naughts and crosses in their minds without looking at the grid e.g. "Put a cross in A3."
Rather than the more formal role-play sessions use this activity as a means of generating fun possibilities and new meanings. Students should adopt the roles of people within the field of study or objects. The aim of the activity is for people/objects to communicate to each other via a telephone exchange. A call must be made to the operator and a connection made.
The conversations must have a beginning, a reason and a natural end. The person or object phoned must then create another conversation with another student by going through the exchange. It does not matter if the people are not in the same era. Conversations will generate many new possibilities and links and create a sense of difference e.g. just how different the world may be seen through the eyes of different characters e.g. in a novel. "Hello operator, this is Kylie Minogue here, could I please speak to Buddha."
Get small jigsaw puzzles of about fifty pieces. Groups compete against each other to see who can complete the jigsaw first. Discuss how the group worked. A good introduction to team processes.
Students should get into groups of four. Hand each group a secret word. The aim is to give four dictionary definitions for that obscure word: three lies and one truth. Can the audience guess which student is lying and who is telling the truth? Groups can vote and contest.
Quirly: cigarette rolled in corn leaf
Quaff: to drink a lot
Pettifogger: anyone who argues over little details
Nabob: wealthy powerful man
Momser: a rude man
Klaxon: horn for early car
Jix: person who interferes
Jape: joke or trick
Gimlet: gin cocktail
spelling word –
Flaybottomist: school teacher
Choctaw: fancy step in ice skating
Chouse: to cheat
Chintzy: cheap or poorly made
Buttinsky: person who butts in to conversations
Balbriggan: men’s white cotton socks
Podunk: insignificant town
Snood: woman’s hair net
Termagant: violent person
Tiggerty boo: okay or right
Faro: type of card game
Gibus: folding opera hat
Aglet: end bit of a shoelace
Anitifogmatic: alcoholic drink
Another great activity is to get students to make anagrams from their own names or others. Whose name makes the most words? Make rules whether words should be two letters or more. This may keep the students well occupied. Look at Christian names or surnames.
Explore the funniest uses for a bucket. Teams to list as many uses for a bucket. Teacher to decide the team with the funniest responses.
Female Names: Give the students a random list of the below names. Divide students into teams. What are the ten most popular female names in the UK? Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Male Names: Give the students a random list of the below names. Divide students into teams. What are the ten most popular male names in the UK? Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Buying a House: Give the students a random list of what is below. Divide students into teams. What are the ten best ‘turn ons’ when buying a house? Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Buying a House: Give the students a random list of the below names. Divide students into teams. What are the ten worst ‘turn offs’ when buying a house? Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Phobias: Match the phobias. Point for each correct answer.
fear of chickens
Worst Fears: Give the students a random list of the below fears. Divide students into teams. What are the ten worst human fears? Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Lost in the Desert
You and your group are members of a tourist group that has gone into the Simpson Desert. Your Land Rover has blown a tyre, caught fire and been burnt to a shell. All pockets have been emptied and you have discovered items thrown from the Land Rover. Rank the items in order of 1-15 in order of their most importance to your survival. Number one is the most important item. Point a correct name. Point in correct spot.
Best of luck with the above challenges and feel free to contribute others or give me feedback. It will be great to further build the website resources.
© Copyright In Clued - Ed 2009