This was a bit of a kooky lesson idea that attempted to reap the learning benefits from my children’s tendency towards loudness and my own tendency towards messiness.
The children were split into three groups of five, with each group taking one of Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives as their topic. They were given two minutes to discuss the definition of that word, and to come up with examples. Nouns and Verbs were both strong, but Adjectives had become confused with adverbs.
After clarifying the definitions, the task was shared with pupils. They were to work in their groups to find more exciting synoynms for words they already know, using the thesauri. We modelled together how to use a thesaursus, and how to check the word group of a given word.
Then, they worked collaboratively with each other and competitively against other groups, in order to find as many interesting vocabulary items for their group as possible. Each one of these, they wrote on a large-ish rectangle of sugar paper. In the end, after working like troopers, each table had collected about 60 words.
Then came the cheeky part. Using my sensible voice, I asked them all to give me their attention while one of the children collected all the cards, making sure to keep them in the three groups. Then, whilst the children watched with horror, I shuffled and chucked them all over the classroom floor. This left a jumble of around 200 words scattered about randomly.
I told the children that their job was now to work together to get their pile back – one by one, members from their group would be called up (so all of the Partner 1s from all three groups) and they had to rummage about finding words that belong to their group. They could only bring 2 back at a time, meaning they could not randomly grab any old card.
Also, the children who were not collecting had to work together to double check that the card belongs with them. Finally, once they had collected them all, I went around and corrected any errors in their piles (if you look at the picture at the end of this post, you will see what they had before I corrected them – a strike rate of about 80%).
This activity worked really well for a few reasons
1) The format of the activity worked as a very engaging hook. Grammar is quite dry for all children, but for my low attaining group, it is something that they find not only boring but very difficult. Grammatical understanding requires a fairly strong level of literacy and a fairly wide vocabulary, and my boys generally struggle. By turning it into a quite physical game – like Crystal Maze meets Countdown – they worked on explicit grammatical knowledge in a way that they found fun.
2) The activity layered the knowledge, moving them from dependence on my instruction, to independent and collaborative application of the knowledge. We began by sharing prior knowledge, and identified the confusion over the nature of adjectives. They worked in a group to define the terms. Then, working independently, but contributing as a team, they were able to begin searching for adjectives/nouns/verbs, and in their own ways, became used to the features of these words. They were able to check each others understanding, and pupils were helping each other when weaker members contributed erroneous words to the group’s pile. Finally, once I had chucked all their work on the floor, the collection activity required the boys to not just find a word and see whether it was an adjective/noun/verb, instead, they had to search for adjectives/verbs/nouns. In order to complete the task, as they all did, they had to independently recognise whether a given word was one of theirs, and as such, they were operating using the specific grammatical understanding.
3) All children experienced a feeling of success. The group nature meant that those who were stronger took on leadership roles, correcting others mistakes. The competitive nature meant that it was in the mutual interest of group members to support each other, and those whose subject knowledge was weaker were being supported by their group members.
4) The level of pupil interaction was high – children were shouting amusing things across the room that are seldom heard. “Find ‘moribund’, we don’t have that yet!!!” “NO NO NO NO NO NO don’t choose sprint, that’s a verb innit!” and “Guys, is desolate an adjective?”
All in all, a very effective lesson with high levels of engagement, consolidation of grammar and – as a teacher bonus for the final day of term – no marking.