Tag Archives: games

Genre Study Made Easy

The 4th and 5th graders have been studying genres. I’ve noticed that no matter how much time I spend on this subject they don’t seem to be able to apply what they learn. Often they can give me a list of genres or define them, but if you ask what genre they are currently reading right now they don’t have a clue.

I started this unit with a power point presentation that I modified for my classes. I found it on this wonderful site called Pete’s Power Point Station. Be prepared to spend some time in this vast array of links to a huge variety of power points. It was easy to import the ones I liked into my Promethean IWB. Some of my students actually gasped when they saw the first page. There was so much on the one that I used that we didn’t even get through everything and will probably come back to it again from time to time.

Next I put students on computers to play games. My objectives were two-fold; they need practice logging into the system and they need to learn more about genres. There are some wonderful genre games that I linked on the 4/5 Links page of my website. I let them choose which ones they want to play, making sure they understood that the objective was to learn more about literary genres and if that objective was not met there was no point in using the computers. According to my observations, the top 3 games were Genre Battleship, Genre Hangman, and Genre Word Search (which unfortunately does not always load correctly).

At the end of the quarter they will take a pencil and paper test. Why pencil and paper? Because sadly, I still have students who are having trouble logging in. This happens for various reasons: they haven’t turned in a signed AUP, they’re relatively new to the school and haven’t been on the computers much yet, they are ESL or SPED students who have other issues. I don’t think it’s fair to give these students less time to take the test because they have trouble accessing it.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t use the computer to make the test. I think there are a number of sites to help with this but I only looked at a couple. Quizstar is one I think I’ve used before but since I couldn’t remember the account information I started another one. Unfortunately I’ve only seen “Your mailbox is over its size limit” messages in my inbox and no message with the activation link for this new account. Next I tried EasyTestMaker. They didn’t send an activation email so I was able to get started right away and it was kind of fun. I’m not done yet but I won’t mind going back to it. Who knew MAKING a test could be fun?

Having access to the work others have done is an incalculable advantage. As so many others have said, why reinvent the wheel? Making learning fun is something many of us strive for on a daily basis and we have a ready-made fun source right here. If games are going to help students learn, then I’m all for them. Online tools make our jobs much easier and take the drudgery out of some things. Who knew GIVING a test could be so much fun? [Insert evil grin and wicked Halloween laugh here!!]

The Right Technology

There’s no point in abandoning old lessons for new technology if the old ones work.  Today my fifth grade class did one of their favorite activities.  The most advanced technology they used was a post-it note.

I use 3×5 cards with call numbers on them.  I have everybody (picture book) cards, fiction cards, and nonfiction cards.  Sometimes I mix them together.  Today I decided to just do fiction since the everybody picture books are being moved and don’t have new labels yet.  Each student gets a card and finds a book with a matching call number.  They bring the book and card up to a large conference table, write their name on a post-it note and stick it to the card.  After putting the card in the book, they get another card from me.  They have to do this without talking.  I’m the only person they can ask for help.

This is an important assessment for me.  I check the books and cards to make sure they match and collect all the post-it notes for each student.  If they don’t match I make a note of it.  For the students, it becomes something of a competition and they strive to find more books than anyone else.  I can quickly tell who is having trouble finding books on the shelves.  Basically it’s a test but they think it’s fun.

Today I told the students that we were going to be doing an activity that I knew they liked.  When I held up the cards they cheered!

Abby’s Ad

Last week in our media studies lesson we tackled a couple different issues.  We read from Judy Blume’s book, The Pain and the Great One to illustrate point of view.  Next, we discuss the point of view of companies trying to draw attention to their products through their ads.  The Media Awareness Network has an online game that students can play to learn about different gimmicks companies use in their ads.  Over the last 3 quarters we often found ourselves trying to do this lesson when computers were being used for testing so we changed the lesson so that students do not use the computers.  Instead, I show them the highlights of the game and 5 gimmicks that companies use.  We tell students to devise their own ads for the cereal that they liked best when we were doing the taste test.  Students can do a single sheet ad like for a magazine, or a storyboard for a commercial.

The kids really get into this activity.  In fact, one student went home and made another one just so I could include it here in my blog.

Abby's Ad

Abby, who’s in first grade, was so excited about it that she didn’t even finish the coloring, but you get the idea.  She illustrates 3 of the 5 gimmicks.  Her theme is underwater adventure.  Her spokescharacter is a toothy fish.  And her catch phrase is in the speech bubble.

When students get so excited about something you’ve done in the classroom that they act on their own initiative, teachers can’t help but be excited with them.  Now I have to figure out how to turn those storyboards into cartoon commercials.  How many more students could catch this excitement then?