Do you ever find yourself with too much grading and not enough time? Yes, it’s the song of our people. I cannot honestly remember the last weekend I did not have a least a few hours of paperwork to catch up on that I did not have time for during my regular work week.
Splat: Divide students into two or more teams and give each team an unused flyswatter. Hang relevant vocabulary word on the wall. Provide the students with a definition or a sentence — minus the word. The first team to swat the correct word with the flyswatter gets a point. This would also work well with literary terms, characters, quotes — the sky’s the limit! This activity requires 30 minutes of preparation
Jeopardy: This is my absolute favorite way to prepare my students for a test over a novel, play, or other major unit. Simply create your Jeopardy game to highlight the important information you want your students to know. Divide the class into two teams, have them pick a spokesperson (the only one who can give answer), and have fun! I do recommend picking a squirrelly student to assist you with keeping score. Additionally, I take away points when a team is talking out of turn. You can find a template to create your own Jeopardy! review game here. This activity requires 1-2 hours of preparation, but you can reuse it over and over.
Timeline Puzzle: This is a quick review activity that requires 5-10 minutes of preparation. Take a short story, play, or novel and chose 10-15 important events. You can either write them on the board — out of order, or type them up and cut them apart. Have students, in groups, arrange the events in the correct order. When one group is done, send members out to help other groups.
Students create their own test: This is another one of my favorite collaborative pre-test activities. In groups, students create the test they think they may see in the next day or two. I have them write a mix of questions: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay. Not only are they responsible for coming up with meaningful questions (no gotcha! questions, they are also responsible for writing the answer key to their test. Once complete, I team up groups to challenge their classmates. Preparation time: none! Give credit for participation.
Students Teach their Peers: Here’s another minimal-prep activity. Assign collaborative groups to a particular section of a novel or play. I use this all the time when I teach Shakespeare and The Canterbury Tales. Tell students they are responsible for teaching the rest of the class their assigned portion of the novel, play, or ____. (Add your own ideas here.) I grade them as they present their information. Additionally, all students are required to take notes during presentations.
Four Corners: This activity is good discussion theme, persuasion, and some controversial topics related to literature. The instructions can be found here, although you can adapt them to fit your needs. I love doing this activities with my older students, as the discussions we have are meaningful and increase their interest in the reading. Prep time: 20-30 minutes.
Who Am I? — This is a fun post-novel or play activity. Write the names of characters on tape or address labels. Put them on students’ backs so they cannot see their name, but other students can. Students may ask each other only yes or no questions until they figure out which character they are. This would also be fun with literary terms. Prep time: 15 minutes.
Snowball fight: This fun vocabulary game is a crowd-pleaser. This works with vocabulary, literary terms, or even as a review before a test. Prep time: 10 minutes.
I recently discussed the ideas of advertising and persuasion with my 10th grade English students. “Be wary,” I told them, “because everyone wants to sell you something.” Isn’t that the truth, though? And isn’t it true that we teachers are trying to sell something, too? A lesson or a unit or perhaps even good manners?