I've been reading Ron Clark's books this summer. I just finished The Excellent 11, and I read The Essential 55 (finally) in early June. I am currently reading The End of Molasses Classes.
The Excellent 11 talked about how he has his students work on memorizing things because, in today's world, with calculators and the internet at our fingertips, students aren't learning how to memorize.
It makes sense, think about it, how many phone numbers do you currently know by heart? (The only ones I can recite, aside from my own cell, are my old phone numbers from when I was a kid and my Best Friend's growing up, neither are attached to either of us!) He teaches his students The Star-Spangled Banner (and it's history and the expected deportment one should have during it), he teaches them all the presidents in order (which helps their understanding of history by giving them a basis to start from, for example: What big war happened during FDR's presidency? or Who was President when you were born?) and among other things. When his students have memorized something they have to recite it in front of the class without a mistake. There is usually a reward for doing so.
In the case of memorizing the presidents, he divides the class into groups and assigns a pre-recruited faculty member to each group (like the gym teacher, principal, another teacher, librarian, or school secretary). Of the first time he did this, Ron says,
So, my plan is to have Monthly Mental Monday Mornings (or (M^2)^2 for short - which is also a nod toward my parents - both of their initials being M.M.)"If every person on the team could say the presidents in order by the end of the month, that team would get a free pizza party. The pressure was on! Students were quizzing each other, stopping their faculty member in the hallway, supporting one another, calling one another on the phone, and putting forth much effort to learn the presidents. It was wonderful, fun, and exciting! As different students finally learned them all, they would recite them with pride, holding their heads high and smiling from ear to ear."
Monthly Mental Monday Mornings will include: (one thing from each category)
Skills involved: Verbal, Social, Mental, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Math, Public Speaking
Pop Quiz - teacher verbally gives a problem and the students write the answer on a balloon and hold it up for me to see, after a certain number of problems, students who got all the questions correct get to pop their balloons - by sitting on them!
Math Ball - I have a giant inflatable soccer ball with numbers written on it, the ball gets tossed from one player to another, when you catch the ball you have to add/subtract/multiply/divide the numbers under your thumbs. You can also purchase them.
Skills involved: Verbal, Social, Mental, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Spelling, Public Speaking
Traditional Spelling Bee
Pop Quiz - teacher verbally gives a word and the students write the correct spelling on a balloon and hold it up for me to see, after a certain number of words, students who got all the words correct get to pop their balloons - by sitting on them!
Recitations - Students will have all month to memorize specific works and then recite them in class
Skills involved: Verbal, Social, Mental, Confidence, Public Speaking
The Star-Spangled Banner
The Preamble to the Constitution
A Poem! (Each letter/character in "A Poem!" is a different link!)
A famous quote
an entire Dr. Suess book
Spontaneous! - ("Surprise" activities)
Skills involved: Creativity, Verbal, Life, Social, Mental, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Public Speaking
Cooking Activity (which uses mental math!)
Storytelling (story starters, story cubes, etc.)
Random Show & Tell - students blindly pull an object out of a paper bag and have to immediately present as if it is a beloved Show & Tell object (examples: a spatula, a piece of fruit, an old shoe, a drinking straw, a baby sock, an old Happy Meal toy, a game piece, a baby doll, a random piece of packing material, a slide whistle, a fake spider, a tiara, a rubber chicken, etc.)
Pop Quizzes - games involving balloons and popping them. Two examples:
- Barnyard Scramble - a getting into groups game that takes a bit of prep for the teacher (or a parent volunteer) Decide how many groups you want and decide on a barnyard animal for each group, type/write the animal name on a slip of paper, fold the paper and place it inside the balloon then blow up the balloon and tie it. (The giant trash bags -ask the janitor for a roll - hold a lot of balloons nicely!) Tell the students the rules before you pass out the balloons or they won't pay attention: When I give the signal I want you to pop your balloon and collect the pieces and the slip of paper inside. Read what the paper says and start making the sound that the animal on the paper makes and try to find other people who are the same animal as you. You should have # in your group. When your group is full, sit down as a group and stop making your noise. Pass out the balloons and give the signal! This game is great fun to observe! Skills involved: Gross Motor, Verbal, Listening, Group Dynamics
- Hot Potato Show - Another game that involves stuffing balloons with a slip of paper, on these papers you want something different on each one, a tongue twister to be read, a silly action to perform, question to be answered (example: What is your favorite book? What is your least favorite chore? If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?, etc.) In this game only one balloon is in play at any time and the whole group stands in a circle and passes the balloons just like the game Hot Potato (the teacher can play music, or have the students sing, or perhaps work on the current recitation to be memorized perhaps as a call & response w/ the teacher, etc.) When the teacher calls out Hot Potato Show the student with the balloon must sit on it to pop it and read the slip of paper aloud (and if applicable do/perform/answer what the paper says). If a student gets the balloon and other students have not had it yet, the balloon gets passed to the nearest student who hasn't had a turn. Skills involved: Gross Motor, Verbal, Listening, Group Dynamics, Public Speaking
One game that will never be played in my classroom is Silent Ball.
I think Silent Ball was created by lazy teachers. There are many more valid and educational games for children to play! Even games where speaking is not allowed, or where gross motor skills are being practiced.
For those who do not know Silent Ball, here is how it was always played in my classrooms when I was a student:
Players silently sit on top of their desks and toss a foam/nerf ball around.
Players must sit properly in their seat if they
- make a noise
- drop the ball
- make a bad pass
Reasons I don't like Silent ball:
- It can be very exclusive. Kids only tossing to their friends, clumsy kids getting "out" early.
- If you don't want to play you simply have to talk and be eliminated, this student usually continues to talk and progressively get louder.
- Only a few students are engaged at any one time.
- The teacher is often not engaged - when I was in fourth grade I can remember the teacher actually leaving the room repeatedly while we were playing Silent Ball, and she never paid attention to our game. in fifth grade my Math teacher would read a book with her feet up on her desk while we played.