Leveling the Playing Field – Playing Games when Teaching One-on-One

I never pretend not to know the answer when I’m playing with a student in a “one-on-one” setting. Students see through that right away. They expect the teacher to know the answer and would have no respect for a teacher who didn’t know the answers.

Teachers don’t have to pretend. There are many ways to level the playing field. Teacher and student can enjoy really playing while still ensuring that the student will win a fair amount of the time (but not ALL the time!).

Here are some examples using the game BASEBALL:

Baseball game for class

A simple baseball diamond is drawn on a piece of paper, on the board, or (as in this picture) pasted onto cardboard with a picture of a baseball player in the middle. Baseball is not a common sport in Israel, so the picture makes it easier for the students to visualize the actual game.

The “ball” is one die. You can’t throw higher than 4 so if you get a 5 or 6 you must throw the die again (I sometimes place stickers over those numbers). Colored discs, coins or anything else can be used as markers.

The basic rules are simple. You begin at home-base. You throw the die. You must complete the number of tasks that is indicated by the number on the die. In our example the task is translating vocabulary items that appear on flashcards. Then you progress from base to base. Every time you pass home base you get a point. The player with the most point wins.

Now, how does the pupil play against the teacher?

Option One:

The student is the only one who throws the die. If the pupils throws “3” but could only translate two words out of three shown on the flashcards, the student progresses two bases and the teacher progresses one. If the student knew all three words, the teacher, on that turn, didn’t progress at all.

Option Two:

Both the student and the teacher throw the die. The teacher doesn’t have any task to do but always has to move one base less than the number indicated on the die. The student progresses in the same manner as before.

Option Three:

I use this one with students with emotional issues. The student gets two turns, the teacher gets one turn. If a student gets a translation wrong, he has to repeat the teacher’s correction and then can progress.

Option Four:

The pupil competes against the clock and himself, not the teacher. This is a circular game; it doesn’t really have an end. The pupil plays for 4 minutes and writes down the number of points she got. The next lesson she plays with the same pack of words, same time, and sees if she improved her score.

Works with all ages!

Goal 19: Why teachers should get credit for bird watching.

This goal of the 30goals challenge deals with  “burn out”, which is a very real problem for me. I’ve been a teacher for 25 years and I’m very involved in what I do.

I’ve been spending less free time doing other things  since I started blogging and reading all these fascinating blogs by others! Yet I feel that doing so encourages me to keep going! Don’t really know what to do about that one.

Anyway, here’s something I wrote for a local English teacher’s  publication, the ETNI RAG on why bird watching is good for teachers:

by,

a puffin

Goal 18: Sharing a Story about Take2 of the DISAPPEARING TEXT!

This goal of the 30 goals project is ” a piece of cake”! Participating in this whole challenge has been about sharing my story! Since I’ve begun the words seem to come pouring out!

So, today’s story is about my second attempt at adapting Jason Renshaw’s disappearing text strategy. I’m really excited about this. Tried it twice today!

Lesson one went very well. There were only 3 students (3 were absent!), two VERY weak 12th graders (20 year old girls) and one bright, 10th grade boy. Once again we created a text on the board about the holiday of Purim. The weak girls suggested the content (in Hebrew) and the bright 10th grader supplied a lot of the vocabulary and sentence structure in English. Again, 6 sentences.

Then we started erasing words. At first one by one they came to the board to complete the words. But then just the girls took turns at completing missing words and they turned to the boy who fingerspelled the spelling of the words for them. Suddenly these girls were paying attention to those pesky “is” “are” which don’t exisit in Hebrew. These are girls who don’t remember the meaning of simple words such as “walk”. But here, because they helped create the text, at least during the lesson, they remembered the meanings of the individual words and focused on whole sentences and structure! Wow!

Two hours later I became ambitious and tried the strategy again with a rambunctious group of seven  10th and 11th graders (with 2 other pupils doing other things in the back). These kids use four different coursebooks, big differences in level. It was noisy but they liked creating the text. They were surprised enough by the idea of me erasing words to be fairly quiet when I had them come one by one to complete two missing words each.

But then I had a bit of a problem. When I ereased words the second time, the pupils who weren’t writing gradually stopped following. There were seven of them and the process went too slowly. Ideally we should have split into groups for the second “word filling” time, but how was I supposed to do that? It’s a tricky issue to divide them into two equal groups (fair share of different abilities) and, since they just invented the text, I didn’t have the text to hand out to each group! They wouldn’t copy the text off the board – that most certainly doesn’t work with these pupils.

Any sugesstions?

I’m really pleased about the addition of this new strategy to my “toolbox”!

NOTE: This counts as completion of goal 16. Teaching frontally in such a manner is definetly a change in my learning center!

Goal 17: Help Them Shine

I see this goal of the 30 goal challenge as something different from what came up before regarding the need to look for some kind of academic success as a basis for future learning. This one is about making sure students know that their classmate is good at something, even if its hardly related to their English studies.

With some students I’m proud to report that my strategies work. Once again, I bless the YALP vocabulary program we’re using. When students tutor each other with the vocabulary flashcards, the “tutor” doesn’t need to know the vocabulary, the answers are on the other side of the cards! What matters to the students is who is the patient, encouraging pupil acting as a tutor. Some of the weakest pupils are good tutors (repeating for emphasis “some“. Nothing ever works for everyone in my class!)

Then there are the kids that are our “resident computer experts”. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re just wrapping up a literature project. The pupils needed WORD and powerpoint. Some pupils needed help with these programs. We have a computer in class (no Internet) so our “experts” were very helpful. This computer has WORD7 which is fairly new to me so they helped me sometimes too!

In addition, I think the fact that all levels and grades are mixed places slightly less of a spotlight on the students still working on 5th grade material in 11 grade. There are so many different books (different colors of the covers) being used that an easy book doesn’t stand out quite as much.

However, there are definetly situations when the weak students are acutely aware of where they are compared to the others (I have a 10th grader still on her ABC’s) and they don’t feel happy…

Comment on ” Going, going, gone (in)”

Jason Renshaw describes a lesson here based on the “disappearing dialogue” technique, which he used with a text created by the students with his guidance. I also read Anna’s  very helpful description of her adaptation of it here.

Had my first shot today at adapting this with 4 of my fairly strong Hard of Hearing 10th graders. I knew there would be problems but I also know that I need to try something out in order to understand how it ticks and what I need to adapt.
Instead of Christmas we created a passage about the upcoming Purim holiday. It  started off well. These are kids who have a better vocabulary and do speak a bit. However, they don’t understand each other in English and I had to write every single thing they said down. Which is fine for the first part, as we were creating a short reading passage. The difference between the vocabulary item “party ” and “celebrate” came up and that was good. They also confuse between “Present” as in “gift” and “present” as in “present simple”, which they practice (I said they were pretty strong!)

We wrote it using Passive as we’re working on that now.

After we read the finalized short text (6 short sentences). I erased all the verbs + aux verbs (6).  Then I made the mistake of having them copy the text and fill in the missing words. WRONG. I should have offered each one the board-marker and have them choose a missing word to fill in on the board. Then I could have erased more words and repeated the process. This way I was stuck. There was no way that I could give them new paper and have them copy it out again with more words missing – they DO NOT LIKE COPYING OFF THE BOARD.

By reflecting on this blog I find that I actually defined what I could have done differently and see how it could work even with the need to write everything down.  Especially if I let the pupils come to the board (some want to stay there!).

Since it’s a learning center, I had other kids in the background doing other stuff (two were taking a test and two were with a teacher’s aid). I’m eager to try the strategy again with Deaf students who don’t speak English orally (we use Hebrew and ISL in class).  But I’ll wait until I have assistance in the lesson again. I ususally don’t spend more than  a few minutes at a time by the board explaining something. This activity requires a frontal lesson and I can rarely include everyone in anything at the same time.

So, this post is a “to be continued one” too!

Half of Goal 16 – To Be Continued!

Goal 16 of the 30 Goals Challenge is “Change Your Environment”.  I really agree that both the students and I need a change sometimes. So far the only thing I do is sometimes take the kids to the computer room. However, unless I plan really well the time spent there may be fun but not suitable for all the pupils at each level.  In addition, I now have one computer in my class (no Internet). That’s great because its often one or two pupils who need a computer activity and it becomes a work station.

So, I thought I would take a better look at the classroom and share some pictures with you. I’ve been thinking about moving the tables around, hmmm….

The door from the inside

That was the door from the inside. Now here is the YALP Project area. Inthe photo you can see the group diplomas I recently put up to add some spice (till now it was just individual tracking sheets).

YALP Group Diplomas

Now here are the BIG BINDERS. Each of the 70 kids has a personal plastic bag where they can keep pages or  where I put worksheets for them in advance.

The BIG BINDERS

Here are the regular binders with workplans, fun questionnaires (such as How romantic are you?), exercises, etc.

The REGULAR BINDERS

Some wall photos:

Vocabulary related to hearing lossWorld MapsWall photo

The old tables and chairs:

the desks

The picture of the broken window didn’t come out too well. There is also a picture of pages from a calendar stuck on the wall, depicting words in Enlgish, Spanish and American Sign lang. Some kids are interested in Spanish! Didn’t include a picture of the computer, its just a computer!

Last picture – the closet! Take note of the picture for “FALL”  – just right for the poem “The Road Not Taken”!

The closet

Goal 15 – “This Bridge Will Only Take You Halfway There”

Goal 15 of the 30goals challenge is “Be A Guide”!

This brought to mind a most relevant poem by Shel Silverstein:

The Bridge
`
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.

We can only be our students’ guides, we can’t do it for them.

Goal 14 – Rose Gardens have Thorns

I read this challenge relating to classroom culture before going to school this morning and thought it about during the day. There were examples today of what is good about our clasroom culture and the necessary evils that come with it.

Since the classroom is designed as a learning center, there is a relaxed atmposphere. Kids do get up and move around, a certain amount of talking is acceptable because students can help each other or work together. It is actually easier with the students who are deaf as they aren’t bothered by the converstions going on in different corners. Some hard of hearing students talk very loudly (because then they hear themselves) and that sometimes bothers the hard of hearing students.The classroom is also much more decorated than your average high-school classroom (at least here!). I’ll post pics soon!

Overall I know the students like the atmosphere because they often want to” hang out” in the English room when they don’t have a lesson (I only let them do that when there aren’t many pupils or when they’ve come to volunteer). It’s often a pleasure to see them working together!

However, roses have thorns. Pupils talk to each other , they don’t sit facing the teacher, communicating through her.  Sometimes, like today, kids start arguing following a remark made by a student. Another pupil’s schedule was changed and he came at a different hour. We don’t “save seats” and he couldn’t  sit where he used to sit in previous lessons. He got very upset – in other lessons he gets the same seat! About twice a year actual physical fighting breaks out between boys with behavorial issues. SIGH…

Some teachers see me as soft on discipline beause of this. But in their lessons students are supposed to sit facing the teacher and all interaction is controlled!

I feel that the advantages of this system are greater and I’m sticking with it. But there are problems…

Skip to toolbar