It’s taken me over eight months to add a second part to this, but I finally have something.
Today was a weird day; our chapter of FFA took a great deal of students to a local ag event (not surprising for a rural school), and so I knew in advance that I would be losing a lot of students. So, like all teachers do, I adjusted.
The only problem was that my classes of juniors didn’t lose nearly the proportion of students that the other classes did, so I was left trying to do something without pushing on with new material (because I hadn’t planned to). What’s a teacher to do with a spare day, no material, and the desire to keep an already rambunctious group of students from turning riotous?
A game, of course.
I can’t take credit at all for what I did; in his methods text, Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry Out Instructional Units, Peter Smagorinsky includes a page with a variety of unit ideas and other resources, including a list of vocabulary games. Having looked through them in preparation for today, I set my sights on Pyramid. (Check out the link if you’re curious about the game’s details.)
I’m a big believer in using word roots in order to help students associate meaning with words, which can also help somewhat when students identify these roots in new words and thereby make an educated guess at the word’s meaning in a given context. Pyramid does that pretty nicely, and the students responded well to it. I don’t think it seemed too much like an “educational game,” and there were moments when we were laughing so hard because of how the students were trying to convey the meaning of a word. Some students did better than others, and we ran out of time for it in the larger section, but it was clear from how involved students got that we’ll be doing it again. Who knows? Maybe I can use it as leverage (like my previous idea). You never know.
At any rate, I’m just glad that something worked. Every day is another step closer, and that’s a good sign.