Utilizing Competition to Review & Learn Concepts

This year I've been struck by how competitive my students are. They love to win. But even beyond winning, they just love to compete. They love games and scoreboards and trying to win. I've been trying to tap into their competitive natures in order to encourage learning, and I've been amazed at how it changes their motivation. Here are a few of my wins lately: 

Math Warm-Ups with Quizlet Live

I love making adults play Quizlet Live too. Great for Back to School Night, trainings, staff meetings, and more! 

I love making adults play Quizlet Live too. Great for Back to School Night, trainings, staff meetings, and more! 

We've moved a more critical-thinking based math curriculum over the past couple of years (yay!). However, we still need to practice the math facts. At the beginning of the year, I started doing this with Quizlet Live, the whole-class game that Quizlet has using its study sets. (Check it out here, or just start playing with kids and have a round to figure it out.) My students are walking in the room excited to do math. My students are reviewing and retaining math facts. My students are enjoying working in a team. All of this because of a little competition. And here's the beauty of it: I do almost no planning for it. I search the Quizlet decks that other people have created and use one of theirs. I do a quick scan, and we go at it. Yes, we find mistakes because I don't read them carefully, but it doesn't matter. We learn from that and the students feel awesome when they find something wrong because they know what's right. We <3 Quizlet Live! 

Summary or Commentary? with Kahoot

Sometimes topics lend themselves better to a Kahoot, which gives individual students or teams multiple answers to choose the correct one from. The nice thing about Kahoot is that students have to look at the projector for the question, causing a bit more of a whole-class feel. I also like that I can pause after each question and have students explain why the correct answer was in fact correct. This allows me to correct mistakes in the midst of the moment a bit more than Quizlet Live. Then students can apply their learning to the next question. 

This week my seventh graders were struggling to decipher between summary and commentary in their writing. So I decided to utilize the engagement that comes from their competitive spirit and play a Kahoot on it. By stopping and explaining every one, they finally got it! I can't wait to see how their understanding comes out in the next piece of writing we do! 

Run to the Spot Review

This year I've been mentoring the teachers at The King's Academy on using technology as they pilot a 1:1 program. On the days I come they either have chapel or club, a time for playing games and building community. One of the first days I went they were learning their modified, rotating block, so they played a game to help solidify it. Teachers spread out throughout the gym floor and held signs with letters (one for each period A-G) or times like "lunch." The host then read a clue and the group of student participants had to run to the answer. The last one there was eliminated. For example, the host would shout, "The last period before lunch on Wednesdays," and the students would have to run to the teacher holding the G. 

This is exactly the type of game I needed for my active seventh graders. We played it as we reviewed the different elements of short story. I taped the "5 Things" throughout the basketball court and shouted out clues as students ran between answers. "Author's Main Message": they ran to theme. "The 'people' of the story": they ran to characters. "The main problem of the story": conflict. We had a lot of fun. (Goal for next time: keep people who are out engaged in some way. -- Any one have an idea?) 

Integer War

My math students just finished a unit on operations with integers and rational numbers. It's always a challenge to help students grasp operations that involve a negative number. And most of the time it's so boring to them. Enter: playing cards. Suddenly, when you make it a card game and call it war, students are instantly engaged. Throughout the unit we were constantly practicing our operations with playing cards. 

Red cards are negative numbers and black cards are positive cards. Flip over two cards, say your answer. Whoever has highest number takes all of the cards all of the cards from the round. 

For example, say you have a black 5 and a red 3. 

If you're playing addition.... 5 + -3 = 2

If you're playing subtraction... 5 - -3 = 8

If you're playing multiplication... 5 * -3 = -15

If you're playing division... 5 / -3 = -5/3

This was a great way to practice our math facts without being bored to death. The instant it was a competition, my students were all in. I recommend groups of 3, giving students a piece of scratch paper, and requiring that each student verbalizes his or her own answer before anyone takes the cards from the round.