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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Take me out to the classroom

A few nights ago, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was also trying to think of some ways to get my kids involved in this year in learning basic concepts. I had just read a small article about exercise in the classroom, so I thought maybe incorporating the two might yield some good results.

What my fevered brain conjured up was a new game called Place Ball. Now I use the term "new game" very loosely, as it may very well have been thought of before by greater minds than mine. But it's new to me at the very least.

This is just an idea -- I've never actually put it into play, but I think it might be fun to try this year. We usually cover place value early -- like in the second or third week of school. Place value is something that they should have learned in second, or even first grade, but for some reason, the kids at my school tend to reformat their brains every summer (sometimes they do this over Christmas break, spring break, and weekends as well). So while the concept may remain vaguely familiar, it's still something that many of them struggle with.

So I have two iterations of Place Ball. The first, which could be played indoors or outdoors, is to aid with rote memorization of the place value names and the order they come in. It basically amounts to "running the bases," OR in this new game -- "running the places."

I have my students' desks arranged into five "tables," with each table consisting of four or five individual desks. My overhead machine sits in the center of these tables. I will move this overhead machine over to a position of safety like against the wall or back in a corner, but leave a single desk in the center of the room. Then the five tables and this additional desk will be the six places/bases.

In Texas, third-graders are responsible for learning their numbers up through 999,999 -- so the bases would represent Ones, Tens, Hundreds, Thousands, Ten Thousands, Hundred Thousands. The kids will stand in a line along the side of the room and take turns running the places, calling out the name of each as they tap it with their hand.

I would expect this to be a pretty fun and exciting activity for them, so every time someone has successfully rounded the places, there will be lots of cheering, and any time someone makes a mistake (ie, Ones, Tens, Thousands, Hundreds), I don't think they'll get too down on themselves since they'll be getting plenty of opportunities.

The second iteration is more application. This could be played on a very small scale indoors, but would work much better outdoors. Six kids spread out in a line facing the teacher. Each of these kids represents a place value. The teacher will throw a ball to one of the kids and call out a number. This could be tossing a tennis ball from 5 feet away or throwing a football from 20 feet away. If the teacher calls out THREE and throws the ball to the person in the Hundreds Place, that child is then responsible for remembering that 300 is part of the overall number. The teacher would then throw the ball to another place value and call out another number. At some point, the teacher calls out, "What is your number?" At which point, the kids group together and fit the pieces of their puzzle together to form an overall numeral.

In a large outdoor space, the teacher could be the central point, throwing to multiple lines of children, so it would not be limited to only six kids at a time.

Anyway, that's my idea, and I think it will be very interesting to see how it actually works in practice. I would love to hear feedback on this idea, from anyone who has done something similar, or just from anyone who has thoughts about Place Ball.

At the very least, I expect it to be fun, enlightening, and free of steroid accusations...


Miss Melanoma said...

Teaching is a stealing profession, and I'm stealing this idea! Look at the big brain on you.

Keep em coming! I could really use an idea for teaching photosynthesis if you've got any spare time before you fall asleep at night.


Anonymous said...

I did a non-ball version of your second iteration during our summer school program. My only problem was keeping the other parts of the number (kids) focused. I think adding the ball would fix this. I loved the opportunity to get the kids out of their seats and active. I'm also doing a presentation for the teachers on place value this coming Monday so maybe I'll play it to open things up.

Mister Teacher said...

Thank you ladies! I love to hear feedback on how things worked (or didn't work)!