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.


Participation Management: Named Popsicle Sticks

I saw this technique being used in both Ms. A’s class and Mr. H last week. Both teachers had students write their first name and last initial on a popsicle stick. Both had them color-coded by class (4th hour = red, 2nd = blue) and placed them in labeled cups. In Algebra, Ms. A picked sticks when reviewing homework to randomly call on students. Once your stick had been chosen, she left it out so that all students had a chance of being called on during that hour.

Participation Idea: Poker Chips

{I’m still working this one out, please accept the work-in-progress nature of these ideas. }

I’m playing with the idea of rewarding participation, but in a random way, that would encourage quality participation but also encourage those shyer or less confident kids. I would give out a few poker chips each hour to students based on their participation. Perhaps even give some out when students were working well in pairs, small groups, or individually. Students would be able to either turn these chips in for a (cheap) daily prize (funky erasers, tiny cars, mini-notebooks, bouncy balls) or put their name on them and enter to win a bigger prize every quarter. What would that big prize be? No idea yet. Would I pay for it myself. Sure, especially if it means getting kids to work longer, more quietly and more cooperatively.

Also, I’m not sure what actual physical object would work best. Something uniform in shape and weight, that kids could write on, that would be either cheap to replace or reusable.

Homework Idea: Oops Pass


Mrs. J, who teaches 8th grade Language Arts, gives every student 2 Oops passes at the beginning of every quarter. The pass has her name and class on it and gives the student permission to turn in one assignment late. The student, however, must still complete the assignment. If a student does not use an Oops pass by the end of the quarter, s/he can turn them in for 5 extra credit points. Mrs. J keeps track of how many Oops passes each student has turned in so that no one can claim another student’s. I saw a kid (smartly) hole-punch his Oops passes and put them in his 3-ring binder to ensure that they didn’t get lost.