I’m sure most of us have done this activity in class and it is certainly not original but it is fun, there are lots of possible variations and I want to share something I did with my classes this week which really seemed to work quite well – yes, this might be the first time I’m posting about a positive classroom experience! Don’t worry, I’m sure I can find something in the activity that can be improved. 😉
The students get into groups of four or five. One student is nominated as a “writer” for the activity. The class is then given 5 minutes, timed. The objective is for each student to contribute a word to the sentence and the aim is to make the longest sentence possible without it finishing. While the speakers are contributing words to the sentence, the writer is recording the sentence on paper.
Example of spoken dialogue:
- Amelia: We
- Barry: are
- Carlos: all
- Deanna: very
- Amelia: happy
- Barry: and…
You get the idea.
Part 2 (My numbers refer to the corresponding slides)
2. After the five minutes are up, the students have a couple of minutes to review what they said and make any corrections to spelling or word choice (they have probably already been doing this during the original five minutes already). They also have to do a word count. Meanwhile, the teacher writes this up a table on the board.
3. The teacher then gets the word counts from all the teams (I’ve put A, B and C, you could engage the learners more by getting them to make up their own team names). After this, the students have to pass around their written sentence to another group. With another team’s sentence they can get more points by finding errors. I am quite open with what makes a mistake and this can include handwriting if the students are having problems reading it (this is an issue that learners need to be aware of just like any other).
So now the learners have all their points though you could get them to pass the writing round again for a second ‘proof-read’ by another group.
4. For every error they found in other groups’ sentences they get 5 points.
5. For every error they made in their own sentence they get 5 points off.
6. Once they have gone through all of these, the teacher reads out each sentence to the class. Any extra errors that the teacher finds will get deducted from final score.
Once the students get the idea they then play the game again. The 2nd round scores will be added to the 1st round (so teams have a lead to protect or have another chance to gain the lead). This time you will notice that the learners are far more focused on not making mistakes that will hurt their points later.
So Why Did I Do It?
I’ll be honest, I initially thought of it as a fun little activity for the end of a class and mostly as a time-filler more than anything else but after seeing the reaction and studying the activity while it was happening I noticed that it can be so much more than that.
Students are involved in a highly communicative exercise where, after getting to grips with the activity, they quickly negotiate meaning and peer-correct as they “cheat” and help each other out. The person who is writing soon understands that poor handwriting will lead to poor marks (illegible handwriting will lose points) and this helps put them in the same sort of mindset they need to various exams, like Cambridge ones. Self-correction also improves as the students are eager not to lose and give away points for silly mistakes.
For the teacher this is a wonderful way to see what errors are being missed by all the students and therefore what correction will be of universal value. For the other errors that are caught by the learners themselves, the students become each other’s teachers.
This is a wonderful activity and I highly recommend it. It can be tailored be about a specific topic or to include specific vocabulary and right off the bat it forces increased use of relative clauses.