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First, a nod to Peg Bracken for the title of this series of posts. She called one of the chapters in her classic I Hate to Cookbook "Stealing From Knowledgeable People" and then proceeded to share the tips and tricks she'd learned from other cooks. Next, I'd also like to direct you to the post that inspired this one: Kara Wilkins' "Grudgeball...A Review Game Where Kids Attack!" on her blog, To Engage Them All.
To paraphrase John Donne, “No teacher is an island...” The best of us wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t sometimes look to colleagues to find ways to keep our classes interesting, not just for our students, but for ourselves as well. While there are concepts we return to again and again, if we taught the same thing the same way for twenty years, everyone would be bored. This post is the first in a series about good ideas I’ve stolen…uhm, adapted…from other teachers.
Pardon me for being Captain Obvious, but the Internet has multiplied our opportunities in an almost unimaginable way. Without it, I would have never found out how Kara Wilkins created a game called “Grudgeball” to help her middle school students review. The feedback on the original post indicates that the game has been used and adapted by all kinds of teachers; this is how I’ve used it in my speech and drama classroom.
Grudgeball basically works like this: students are divided into teams. Each team gets 10 “x”s on the board. Each time a group answers a review question correctly, they may erase two “x”s from another team’s stock. In addition, the team may choose to shoot for the chance to take away more than one “x”. If a team is knocked off completely, they may play back in by getting the question right and making a basket.
That’s it. It’s simple.
Wilkins’ original post shares some of the adjustments she’s made over time, and I made some adjustments for my classroom. For instance, she uses a Nerf ball and basket. I set a trash can in front of the board and use a large foam dice for a projectile. I’ve marked the 2 point and three point lines on my classroom floor with spike tape. The number of teams is flexible, but you need at least three. In my drama class, we have four, because we have four houses, which I explain here.
Originally, I used the game to review theater history in my introductory class. I compiled a list of questions and declared the game would be over when we ran out of questions or the bell rang, whichever came first. Chaos (and fun) ensued.
Recently, though, I set up a game to help my students in drama get to know each other better.
The day before we played, I asked students to write down three facts about themselves that were unique to them but they were willing to share. For instance, one person wrote “My brother is a freshman at the University of Missouri”, another wrote “I am the shortest person in the class”, while a third wrote “I played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream this year.”
The day of the game, the statements became questions: “Who played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream this fall?” or “Who has a phobia about frogs?”
As heated as it became, this simple game helped the class get to know each other a little better, created some bonding moments for the houses, and was fun.
For this game to be successful, a teacher has to be able to tolerate the competitive zeal that erupts once its underway. If you can do that, you'll find it's an energetic way to get students to review or come together as a class.