Monday, March 24, 2014

Lame Bag: Will the Prize be Cool or Lame?

This game is surprisingly very well-received by students. I "begged, borrowed, and stole" the idea from another Curry student that I went to school with. In fact, she is the same one who inspired one of my other favorite games, Historopoly

Lame Bag carries with it mystery, suspense, competition, and prizes. Oh, and content-related questions...


1. Gather 3 prizes. The prizes could be "cool" or they could be lame. But, there should be at least one of each. Here are some options for "cool" and lame prizes.
"Cool" Prizes: homework passes, extra credit, school store/snack bar bucks, toys, glow sticks, koosh ball, trading cards, candy, rubber band bracelets, etc.
Lame Prizes: toilet paper, random food items--can of tuna fish, broccoli, packet of ketchup, coupons for "high fives" or "fist bumps" from Mr. Piedra, a piece of paper with my autograph, etc.
2. Label three brown lunch bags with the numbers 1, 2, and 3. Place each prize in one of the bags and don't let the students see what's inside!

Official Lame Bags (prior to being numbered)

3. Set the online stopwatch for somewhere between 10-20 minutes. I don't let the kids see how long I've set it for. That's part of the mystery.

4. Have a list of questions to pose to students. You could play this game as a way to go over a test students had taken the day before. If you do that, use the test questions. Or, you could also generate a list of questions from your most recent unit of study to prepare for a quiz/test. I would say that having about 40-50 questions should be enough.

5. Figure out a method to calling on students. You could just move around the room, however, doing so could offer a slight advantage to some students based on how much time you initially put on the clock. Another way to call on students could be drawing names from a hat or using a random name generator.

6. Write the numbers 1, 2, and 3 (matching the bag numbers) on the chalkboard/dry erase board in your room.


Take turns calling on students and asking them questions. If the first student gets a question right, they can "claim" one of the bags. This is acknowledged by writing their name under the number 1, 2, or 3 that you wrote on the chalkboard/dry erase board. Then, the next player tries to answer a question. If they get it right, they can choose either of the two unclaimed bags, or they can "steal" the claimed bag by writing their name underneath the number 1, 2, or 3 on the board. If they choose to "steal" a bag, then the name above theirs is crossed out. 

Play continues until the buzzer sounds. This means that some players may have the opportunity to answer more questions than others. It's just the luck of the draw!

At the end of the game, the names that have not been crossed out get to open the bags and claim their prize. So, in the example above, Janisha, David, and Marcus would each get a prize. Remember though, it could be "cool" or it could be lame!


At the end of the game, I call each winner up one at a time and get them super-pumped about their prize (some already are thrilled, others a bit nervous). Then, I have them reach down into the bag and pull out their prize. They know ahead of time that "it could be cool or it could be lame" as I play this part up.

I'll never forget the first time I played this game. One of my more enthusiastic male students, Deshawn*, was so excited that he won a prize, he came to the front of the class reached down in his bag, expecting candy or a toy perhaps, and pulled out a...wait for it....wait for it... a Q-tip. His reaction (and that of his classmates) was priceless as he stormed out of the room in a jovial manner. He came back in seconds later exclaiming his love of the game and his desire to play it again. Years later, I rarely call the game Lame Bag anymore. I call it Deshawn's Game.

*As always on this blog, the student name has been changed to protect the identity of my students.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why I Don't Go Over Study Guides The Day Before A Test...And What I Do Instead

What's going to be on the test?

What do I need to know?

How should I study?

All of the questions above, often asked by students, lead me to believe that study guides are an important resource students can use to prepare for a test. 
School is boring...

I already know this stuff...

Do we have to...

Blah Blah Blah...
All of the statements above, also often said or implied by students, lead me to believe study guides aren't something that should be an automatic thing to merely "go over" the day before a test.

There are very few words that peak the interest of students more than the phrase "extra credit". Somehow, if you call something homework, depending on who you teach, many of the kids simply won't do it. But, the minute you call something "extra credit" they decide it's totally worth it. So,  taking the idea from my clinical instructor, I assign the study guide as an extra credit opportunity for my students. I provide about 8-12 pages of graphics, maps, charts, fill-in-the-blanks, open-ended questions, etc. for students to answer at home to prepare for the test.

I assign the extra credit study guide a week before every test to allow plenty of time for students to complete it at home. I give up to 10% of extra credit on tests. So, that if my test is worth 100 points, they can earn up to 10 points. However, if a student does only half, I give them 5 points. And if a student does just one page of the study guide, they'll get 1 or 2 points, etc.  I don't grade the study guide for accuracy, but rather for completion...the accuracy grade comes in to play on the test!

Providing the study guide to students ahead of time also let's them know what's on the test and gives them a way to prepare. It gives them an opportunity to grow in responsibility and organization as they must keep track of the extra credit for a whole week. But, it also frees up the day before the test to play review games or delve deeper into the content, rather than go over the study guide as a class or do mundane review sheets. Let's face it: many of your kids know the material and we are failing to meet their needs if they are bored out of their minds going over the study guides.

Instead, we can meet their needs by reviewing in challenging and engaging ways, using movement and high energy, building and strengthening relationships, and ensuring students know the material at the same time.  I would encourage you to read some of my previous posts to learn more about the games we play:

Minute to Win It 
Name That Term
Fish Bowl

I will also be writing about some other review games as time marches on...