Tic-Tac-Toe for Content Discussion


On Wednesday, I tried this activity with the 5th and 6th grade gifted science class I was subbing for. The teacher asked me if there was any teaching activity I wanted to try with them, especially one that lent itself more to science or history content that I hadn’t been able to use in my Language Arts classroom.

I wrote down a list of key terms from the chapter on gravity and motion on the board (e.g., free fall, gravity, acceleration, mass, air resistance, friction) With older students, especially in a history class, you could have them find the words or phrases themselves. Then they made a tic-tac-toe grid on poster paper and wrote one term in each space. After that we numbered each space and they were to write one sentence that contained 3 terms in a row, either down, across, or diagonal. I actually mapped out the rows and we labeled them A-F. The kids had a good time working out their ideas about each term, sometimes realizing their misconceptions about them, and trying to write a sentence that used them correctly. When they were done, each group presented two of their “harder” sentences. An example: “Aristotle thought that two falling objects of different masses would hit the ground at the same time, but he was wrong.”

I think this is a great activity after students have read content to have them grapple with the ideas and discuss them in a small group. I learned this in a conference session at my university and we tried it with history content. Not sure how I could use this in an English class, but you may be able to adapt it to the plot of a short story or terms of fiction.


Classroom Twitter as an Exit Card

Through Pinterest, I found this idea for using Twitter as an exit card to have kids reflect on the lesson that day or a project for that week. I’m not sure how one would use it in a middle school classroom with 160 kids, but I like the idea of having exit cards be visible to everyone, not just something that each student writers to the teacher. (From http://classroomsimple.blogspot.com) Will put this one in the hopper and think on it for awhile.


Creative Writing: Poem Prompts

1. Write a poem  using the headlines cut out of a newspaper or fragments of poems from a notebook. Cut up the words and rearrange them to create new meaning.

2. Choose a poem that you like. Cut it up and mix up all the individual words or phrases. Get rid of some and recompose the poem into something that is your own

3. Try writing a poem of only negative statements: “I don’t…I no longer…I won’t…I would not…I cannot..I don’t even..I never…

4. Write a “contradictory poem.” Example (from Peter Handke, from “The Wrong Way Around”): I do not look at things, and things look at me. I do not move, and the floor under my feet moves me.”

5. Take a story out of a magazine or newspaper. Transform it into a poem by using the words and phrases but deleting and recomposing it.

6. Write a poem from the perspective of any inanimate everyday object, like a coffeepot, your car, your pencil, or the doors to your school. Use first-person and try to imagine the world through the object’s eyes as if it were alive.

7. Write a poem made up only of questions.

8. Write a list of questions. Then write the answers. Delete the answers and make up a poem from the answers you have left.

9. Take a favorite poem. Run all of the words together without punctuation. Then create a new poem by adding new line breaks and puncuation.

10. Write an “This I Believe” poem.

{Many of these ideas came from The Aspiring Poet’s Journal, by Bernard Friot, Abrams Books 2008)

Creative Writing: Writing a Collaborative Story

Each person begins with a piece of paper with a random prompt or first line written on it. They write one sentence to continue the story and pass it to their left. The story continues until time runs out or the teacher announces that they should conclude the plot. Teacher can discuss parts of a plot: introduction, conflict, character, tension, resolution, conclusion.

Some ideas for first lines:

I knew what I’d done as soon as the door closed.

 It wasn’t as if anyone got hurt.

 It started that day when Elizabeth went to the bus stop and no one was there.

 Looking back, Tom could pinpoint the minute that things started getting creepy.

 Two thousand ten was a good year to be a twelve year old, as long as you weren’t Buddy McGee.

If our team had , my life might have turned out very differently.

 No one likes a bully Charly thought, but everyone seemed to like Rachel Adams, queen of the 7th grade.

 All the trouble started that day when the school bus crashed.

 The gossip at school that day was that Grant Mullins, the new kid, lived in a leaking houseboat propped up on stilts in the swamps off of Highway 10.

I had my bags packed for weeks but Monday was the day I had decided to run away for good.

 Looking back, no one quite knows who started the rumor that Mr. Jones, the science teacher, was one a CIA spy.

 On Monday morning, Sara picks me up in the automated flying car and we travel over to the Floating Island to pick out new soccer clothes.

Creative Writing: Creating an Exquisite Corpse Poem

Writing an Exquisite Corpse Poem

Everyone needs to write their word under the fold, so that all the responses end up on the same side of the paper and, of course, no one unfolds it until the end.

The Prompts

1. Write down an article, definite or indefinite (A(N) or THE)

2. Write any adjective (i.e. describing word e.g. yellow, funny, huge)

3. Write down a single concrete noun (i.e. one that names one of something concrete – dog, elephant, apple, trombone, child, waiter, spiderweb)

4. Write down an adverb (i.e. a word that describes how something happened – e.g. he ran slowly)

5. Write down one of the following verbs: carries, remembers, chases, sees

6. Write down a number larger than 1

7. Write down any adjective (as in step 2)

8. Write down any plural concrete noun (e.g. dogs, elephants, apples, trombones, children).

Next Step

Pass the paper around one last time then open and read the full sentence.

The Outcome

You should end up with a collection of very strange but grammatically accurate sentences, such as:

The shadowy pickup Truck triumphantly chases fourteen enthusiastic elephants.

A frightened fence-post hurriedly carries two reluctant doors.

The glorious sheep quickly remembers four happy windows.

Don’t Stop There

Each person uses the sentence they have ended up with as the first line of a short poem and chooses one of the others as their last line.