A Word Game for Any Subject
I love to play thinking games with middle school students, don't you? (Especially when they don't really view it as thinking)!
Making the Game
Quite a few years ago (at least 15) I went to a make 'n take workshop, and the person running it had several math and language arts activities made from cardboard circles. For this particular activity, a hole had to be made in the center of the circle, and a shoestring was secured to the bottom of the circle and threaded through the hole. The circle was divided into 32 sections, and each section was labeled with a letter of the alphabet (using some letters, like vowels, twice). As you can see in my OLD and very used wheel below, the sections can be colored so the circle is more attractive:)
How to Play
The rules of the game can be conveniently written on the back (less chance of forgetting them!)
Here they are:
1. Divide into 2 teams (sometimes I divide the class into 3 or 4 teams).
2. Spin the wheel for Team 1 (hold onto the shoestring and spin wheel).
3. A member of Team 1 stops the wheel with thumb and forefinger (so the thumb lands on only one letter).
4. The team must think of a word using that letter, in order to earn 1 point (they have 10 seconds to think of the word...I don't let them use proper nouns).
5. The team may choose to spin again. If they do, they must use their first letter AND their new letter in a word, to earn a total of 2 points. If they think of a word within 20 seconds, their point total is 2. If they can't think of a word, they go back to 0 points and the next team gets a turn.
6. If Team 1 gets to 2 points, they may choose to spin again to earn 3 points (using all 3 letters in a word in 30 seconds), then 4 points, (using all 4 letters in a word in 40 seconds) and so on. If, on any turn, the team can't think of a word, they lose ALL points, and play goes to the other team.
7. The first team to reach 6 points wins.....(this doesn't sound hard to the kids, but once they get to 4 letters, they often end up losing their points. It's tough to get to 6 points because of the combination of letters they end up with.)
8. The time limit is 10 seconds per letter, so as a team attempts to earn more points, the time limit increases. (3 letters = 30 seconds, 4 letters = 40 seconds, etc.)
Students really do enjoy this game and work hard to think of words....it's FUN thinking!
I made a video of the game a few years ago and added it to the Tools for Teaching Teens store (this is a group I collaborate with:-) - feel free to watch it to check out how to make the wheel and play the game!
Click to watch on TPT.
To Read Next:
Could you use a quick math activity to help your students practice identifying decimals in standard and word form? How about some comparing and ordering of decimals? I've got an activity that covers all of those for you:-)
When I created this one, we were just beginning our work with decimals (in grade 6), and my students had done a little bit of work with writing decimal numbers in word form. They had also worked on comparing decimals several times during the year, in our Daily Warm Ups book.
Using the Decimal Matching Activity
The first step in the activity is to match each card with a decimal number in standard form to the card with the correct word form. I allowed students to work alone or with one partner, and the matching didn't really take that long. I did have similar numbers (like 9.68, 9.068, 9.0068 etc), so that the students had to read carefully and take some time to compare those similar numbers.
Once students had their matches, I checked them before they moved on to ordering the numbers.
Using the standard form cards only, students ordered the numbers from least to greatest. I did not check these at this time, but instead had them write the correct order on their recording sheets so I could check later. However, as I walked around and checked in with students, I found some that needed to have a conversation with me about why 2.006 is not larger than 2.06... this was a good opportunity for individual conversations.
After recording the order, students had to choose 5 of the numbers to write in expanded form.
It was a relatively quick activity (10-15 min), and it gave me a good picture of these skills at this point.
The decimal matching activity can be accessed for free above. It is also part of a larger Decimal Unit Resources file that can be found on TpT.
To Read Next:
What's your favorite time of the school year? I'm guessing that it probably isn't testing time, nor the test prep weeks leading up to it! In spite of the fact that we never want to teach to the test or prepare students just for a test, the fact remains that students have to take the standardized tests, and we want them to do the best they can. So, how can we best use our test prep to help them?
1) Spiral Review
The most effective test prep method I've found is using spiral review throughout the year. The warm-ups I use review previous concepts, reinforce current concepts, and introduce new ones. This way, we are always solidifying concepts ("prepping for the test"), and as we get closer to test time, the warm-ups give us a chance to discuss concepts that might show up in the testing, but that we won't cover until after the testing occurs. Using these warm-ups may put me a little 'behind' in the curriculum on a daily basis, because they take time; but it helps solidify understanding and puts my students a little ahead with other concepts at the same time. I'm good with that:-)
For Teacher Appreciation week, I created two FREE problem solving math wheels (they are in the same PDF file) - they can be used to teach problem solving strategies, be used as a center activity, or be used as a finished early activity. When complete, they can be added to students' binders/interactive notebooks to be used as references all year.
I hope you can use them! Just click the image to download.
To read next:
Do you believe that one of the best ways to learn is by using a variety of activities, including games? I do!
It’s just more fun and students don’t even realize how much they’re learning.
While any game that helps kids learn is a winner in my book, I have some wonderful middle school games and activities I’ve created to use at home or in the classroom.
Truth or Dare Math (and ELA) Game
Remember playing Truth or Dare when you were younger? I’ve brought the concept to the classroom and incorporated math and language arts concepts (and Google classroom!). Students can choose a Truth, which is a one-point questions about the concepts. Or, they can boost their score faster with a more challenging Dare question. It’s one of my favorites among middle school games and it really gets the students excited.
I’ve always loved the dice game Yahtzee!, so I decided to create my own little spin on it. Students love rolling the dice and creating fraction pairs. The challenge comes when they have to convert those fractions into decimals or whole numbers. It only takes a few turns before students learn the rules. It’s an incredibly engaging game for small to large groups.
Footloose Task Card Games (Math and a couple ELA)
Why should learning concepts be boring? I’m always looking for and creating middle school math and ELA games to get students more engaged. With Footloose Task Cards, students answer various types of questions about math (and ELA) concepts - sometimes they are basic knowledge questions, sometimes they're word problems, and sometimes they're quite challenging. It's easy to differentiate using these cards:-) Students move around to get new Footloose cards each time they complete one, and they write all their answers and work on their Footloose grids. It's a great way to keep students practicing and moving - and it's amazing how quiet they are during this time!
Math Color By Number
Coloring for adults is one of the biggest trends at the moment, and it's become a great way to help students practice math concepts:-) I’ve put together a fun bundle that uses the color by number approach to make it more fun to learn and practice probability, algebraic expressions, prime factorization, combining like terms and more. While I do offer each separately, the bundle’s a great resource to have on hand as practice for a variety of math concepts for 6th and 7th graders.
I could list my own middle school games and activities, and those of others, for days. But for now, try out the ones above, check out the other activities I’ve created on Teachers Pay Teachers and keep coming back to the blog for more games and great resources.
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This is a post I wrote back in 2013 (now revised), on my other blog, so the observation I refer to was quite a while ago now...how time flies!
I was observed by one of my assistant principals today (a Friday). After 20 years, I don't get super-worried when I'm going to be observed, but I still feel a little anxious. Today, I decided to have the students complete a problem solving activity and then start a "Footloose" activity, even though they wouldn't finish....Footloose normally takes about 40 minutes, so I figured they could do about half and then finish on Monday. (I do this fairly often, to give students flexibility in their work time - they can take as long as needed to complete problem solving, but if they get done quickly, they can move on). Things went so well during the observation...AP commented that there was so much going on in the room, and that the kids were so engaged! I was happy:)
During the class, students worked on group problem solving, (which they have done previously, with other math skills). These particular problems involved comparing and ordering fractions. Our procedure was as follows:
1) Each group received a different sheet with a problem "situation" and 3-4 questions about that situation. (I have five different sheets so that we can do the problem solving several different days with the same concepts, if needed and if time allows).
2) Each group read their situation and each of the questions together.
3) Each student spent 5-7 minutes, thinking/working individually to solve the questions, writing their work on their own recording sheet.
4) When students completed their individual thinking time, they compared their ideas (and answers if they had them), discussed any differences in thought, and worked to agree on final answers.
5) The final answers (with work) were written onto a group answer sheet to hand in.
When we did this type of group problem solving the first time (with decimal problems), we spent about 5 days on the problem solving, with each group working on a different problem sheet each day. The students really like the problem solving, partly because they are able to talk out their answers with each other. It's great to hear their communication about math and how they are able to point out the steps a group member needs to complete or the concepts that they may have missed.
Today, it was great to hear them say "Oh, we're doing this again. I like this!" My AP commented that he listened to hear what they were talking about, to see if they were focused, and he could hear one student explain to another how the work that they had done was different from another student.
The problem solving took about 15 minutes, and then as each group finished their problem, they moved on to Comparing and Ordering Fractions Footloose. This is a great game for keeping students engaged, but moving! Students start out with one card and a sheet of paper with 30 blank "blocks" in which to write answers to the questions on the cards. Each card has a number on it, and students record the answer to each card in the same number block as the number on the card. After answering the question on the card they start with, students put the card on the chalk ledge and pick up another card with another question to answer. Students continue answering and returning cards until they have answered all 30 questions. Students work so quietly when they are doing this activity! My AP said it was like "night and day" when they switched from the problem solving to Footloose - they were talking about the p.s., but as soon as they started the Footloose, it was sooo quiet.....and I didn't have to say anything for it to be this way - it just happened.
As I mentioned, I don't really get worried when an observation comes around, but it was great to hear the positive feedback for these activities that I create for my students!
What are your favorite end of the year activities? One of my favorites for the end of the school year is to have the students create "Memory Wheels." I laminate them and save them to put up at the beginning of the new school year. Creating these wheels gives students a chance to reminisce about the school year, and the wheels give the incoming students a chance to see what the "old" students thought was fun about their 6th grade school year.
Students write "6th Grade" in the center, and then write a sentence or two in each section. They create illustrations to go with the sentences in each section.
Students use a template to help them create their wheels, and I have them use either oak tag or large white construction paper.
Other Wheel Template Uses:
The wheels could also be used at the beginning of the year, as a "getting to know you" activity. The student's name would go in the center circle. The student would need to choose 8 things to share about him/herself, and then write a brief description of them and illustrate them. I haven't used the wheel in this way yet, but I like the idea:)
The wheel templates can be used for any type of project, at any time during the school year. In the past, I have used the wheels as a book report project: students choose main events from the book to feature in each section, they write a brief description of each event, and then illustrate each one. The title and author are written in the center circle.
Update: I've created quite a few wheels in different content areas!
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Hi, I'm Ellie! My mission here is to support teachers as they work to provide engaging, meaningful experiences for their students. I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels, and am here to share what I've learned through those years, as well as what I continue to learn. I hope you'll find some ideas or resources here to help you out!