By Teachers, For Teachers
Tired of worksheets and the same old classroom routine?
Tired of the rolled eyes and distracted students?
Tired of covering the usual topics, texts, and formulas year after year?
We all get to that point where we just need something new and fun in our routine. Even though we still need to maintain high academic standards in all our lessons, throwing in a little twist once in a while can do us all a world of good. Take a look at these classroom games and activities and let us know what you think!
Instead of just having the students listen to a historical or political speech, throw a Bingo card in front of them and see how they react! Ask them to fill their card with the typical words or topics they might expect from such a speech, and then they are much more likely to pay attention to the speech’s topics. For the State of the Union speech, for example, students can fill their card with topics like “poverty,” “education,” “economy,” “small business” and so on. You can even do this for your own lectures or other class discussions.
The Wheel of Insanity
You can program a Power Point slideshow to rotate very, very quickly through slides. So quickly, in fact, that the naked eye cannot clearly see what is on any individual slide. This comes in handy when you may want students to work on a seemingly randomly assigned task. Create your Power Point with at least a dozen different slides that ask your students to do anything related to your course (these can be full-on challenging academic tasks or just-for-fun activities), and turn it on to rapidly reel through these slides. Then, ask students to take out their phones and take a picture of the screen whenever they’re ready. Whichever slide their camera captures, that’s what they do!
Dance It Out
Students will likely remember details when they have specific motions that correspond to the ideas they need to remember. Create a “class dance” that you add to throughout the year, including ridiculous-though-meaningful motions that incorporate your course’s central ideas. They’ll be sure to remember the dance and the ideas then! Be certain to film them dancing and laughing, and post it to YouTube so their friends can make fun of them.
Back and Forth
Label one wall of your classroom with a giant “Yes” and another wall with an enormous “No.” Have your students clear the desks out of the way and stand in the middle. Then fire away at them with tough “yes or no” questions that challenge them socially and morally. Students need to walk to the side of the room that has their answer. This is a great way to introduce the next topic your class will be studying, but it also challenges students to publically answer each question. They can see what they think in relation to their peers, and this invites lots of thinking and powerful discussion. And sure, students can stand in the middle of the room if their answer is a “maybe.”
Beat the Teacher
No, not physically beat the teacher. “Defeat” the teacher is better, perhaps. While students are asked to do well on their homework, quizzes, and tests, they are not often asked to match their wits directly against you. Put something at stake for both you and the class, and then have the ultimate matchup of “The Students vs. The Teacher.” If you lose, you do something embarrassing. If they lose, they do an additional academic assignment or whatever else you may decide. A great way to add some fun to tests, fast facts, vocabulary, and other academic content!
“Loco” is Spanish for crazy, and that’s exactly what students become when you turn reviewing into a relay race. Divide a desired idea, like a math problem or vocabulary concept, into 3 or 4 steps. Then divide your class into a few teams. Each member of the team must race to the board and complete their portion of the task, then race to tag their next teammate. When learning turns competitive, it turns loco!
Take a Poll
With websites like polleverywhere.com, taking a survey or poll has become a simple and fun task! Set up your poll to ask several questions related to the current topic you may be studying with your class. Let your students use their technology (phones, iPads, etc.) to respond to the poll and see what they think! Post the results online and around your room. And for some additional interest … have their PARENTS answer the same questions and see where youth and adults agree or differ!
These are just a few tried-and-true ideas. What other fun, quirky, academic activities and classroom games have you done? Share them with us, please!
Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.