Impromptu Use of Word Ladders – A Comment

A ladder of "playground don'ts" Naomi's Photos
A ladder of “playground don’ts”
Naomi’s Photos

Act One:

One sleepy teacher (played by yours truly) decides to read one post with an intriguing title before finally going to bed: “Games for Adult Learners – Word Ladders” by Teresa Bestwick”. With an opening line that stated: “Word Ladders are fun for any age and they’re easy to play with minimal preparation from the teacher” I simply had to read on.

“This could be useful, but I’m too sleepy to think about how I could use it in class now. I’ll think about it another time”, said the sleepy teacher.

Act Two:

Setting – second period, our high-school English Room. One wide awake teacher (still played by yours truly) and 8 students, who were not so wide awake. Some of the students who were supposed to be in class were absent, while some other students were there because their lesson elsewhere had been cancelled. Mixed levels and abilities.

“Class, we’re going to play word ladders” announced the teacher brightly and drew a ladder with seven rungs on the whiteboard. “You are all a team, competing against the hourglass. You can help each other but you have to complete the task before the sand runs out, in both directions (turning the hourglass over). {Note: In Special-Ed classes there are many advantages to steering clear of students competing with each other. No one gets insulted or feels inferior}.

Students wake up, as they’ve never played that before. Neither has the teacher.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

The word “train” is entered on the bottom rung. The last letter is in a different color. One student is then chosen to be “the scribe”, gets the whiteboard marker and faces the class, ready for my signal. “See the word train? It ends with the letter n. When I say GO, you must come up with a word that starts with the letter n. The word after that one must begin with last letter of the word before it. And so on”. GO!

The students talk and sign animatedly. Words that aren’t spelled correctly are not accepted. During the first round students simply replace the words they can’t spell with other words. Class beats hourglass easily. The task Bestwick called “Last letter first” was great fun but too easy.  Teacher decides to try Bestwick’s suggestion “Going Up”, but starts off by writing “a” as a one letter word at the bottom rung (as opposed to starting off with a three letter word). Students like the challenge. By the third word they start thumbing through the dictionaries the teacher had been  quietly placing on the tables. Answers are found, class wins. They want another round.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

A new scribe comes to the board. This task is a merger of the previous two tasks. The word on each rung must be longer than the first but also begin with the last letter of the first. The first word is “I”.  It sounds hard but with group work , a lot of thumbing through dictionaries and some unusual words such as “ogle”, the students win once again.

Though the teacher seems to think she has won.

Act Three

The teacher is sleepy again. Still played by yours truly.


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