Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elementary games and activities for English class

[As a part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I'm posting here once a day during November.  Today is Day 16.]

My co-teacher told me early on to feel free to use any childhood games in my English classes so the kids can have fun while learning, but also be exposed to a new game (from another culture).

Go Fish

So I had my 4th graders play "Go Fish" as one of their activities one day last month, and will use it on Monday with my 6th graders.  Their books have flashcards in the back of the book for each unit, and in these two instances the flashcards and their key expressions happened to work well with "Go Fish".  Instead of asking: "Do you have ~?", they use a key expression from the current lesson to ask for the card.

Around the World

When I was in elementary school, we often played "Around the World" with math facts.  Everyone sits at their desks.  The game starts on one end of the classroom when two students stand up.  The teacher would hold up a math flashcard and the two students try to say the answer first.  The "loser" would sit down and the "winner" stays standing and advances to the next desk.  That student stands up and the two compete with another flashcard.  It's a fast game.  To win, you must have moved from your original seat, all the way around the classroom (world), back to your seat.  So if you've advanced halfway around the room and you lose, you sit down in the seat where you're standing, you don't walk back to your original seat.  Make sense?

I've used this once in a regular class with 5th graders by showing photos of a lesson's key words on the TV (with powerpoint), and have played the game once with my after school "Special Class".  Although there are only two students who need to say the answer at a time, most students were actually pretty engaged and attentive.

A What?

A third grade memory I have is sitting in a circle with my class and playing "A what?" game.  The teacher started with an item and passed it to the student on her right, saying: "Adam, this is a pencil." 
Adam: A what?
Teacher: A pencil.
Adam: Oooooh a pencil!

Then Adam takes the pencil and hands it to the student on his right.
Adam: Sarah, this is a pencil.
Sarah: A what?
Adam: (Turns head to the left and asks the teacher) A what?
Teacher: (to Adam) a pencil
Adam: (to Sarah) a pencil
Sarah: Oooooh, a pencil!

It's an easy dialogue, so it turns into an almost rhythmic feel as the string of students gets longer (A what? A what? A what? A what?).  When the pencil got a certain distance around the circle, my teacher would start a second object going around the left side of the circle.  It was easy until the two criss crossed, then things got a bit interesting.  I'm not sure what the purpose of the activity was, if not just to fill time.  Regardless, I remembered it all these years later, and tried it with my Special Class when I had a day of Halloween games/activities.

I passed around "a witch" and "a mummy".  It was something new, so they stayed engaged and caught on to the dialogue.  It was good because everyone had to do some speaking.  They laughed a lot, especially when the two items criss-crossed.  They struggled at that point, but eventually both of the items got back to me.

I'm putting this one in my back pocket for now, but if I could think of other phrases to use for the dialogue, I think it could be a good activity with that group again.

While hunting for good activities/games to use in my winter camps (any suggestions whatsoever, please leave a comment!), I jogged my memory and tried to think of any other game or activity I had done in elementary school.


In elementary music class we would often play Crocodile-Moray.  It's a circle game, but I won't get into the details -- you can read those here.  I think this could be a fun activity, but the thing is the words make no sense -- most aren't even in English!  This is how wikipedia says the version from Wisconsin goes:

Crocodile moray, croc croc croc 
Ey cinco cino, cinco cinco soc soc 
Ey cinco cino, malo, malo, malo malo malo! 
One, two, three, four!

This is what I remember singing:
A crocodile moray, croc croc croc
Ey sino sino, sino sino sah
Ey sino sino blow, blow, blow, blow, blow
Uno dos tres cuatro!

But regardless, would the students really gain anything by learning these silly fake words in the game?  I've been thinking about writing some new words to the tune.  Anyone want to lend me a creative hand?  I would be eternally grateful.

Then somehow I got to a camps website with different cheers and chants.  I knew the words to most, even though I had no recollection of learning the song, and no memory of where I sang it.  For example, do you know the "I said a boom chicka boom" chant?

I said a boom chicka boom

I knew all of the words, but like I said, I'm not sure how!  I do think I could actually use this one day during camp to fill some time.  They would be speaking in English and making English sounds, and doing it in different styles would (hopefully) be fun for them.  Here's a video if you don't know the chant:


Then I stumbled upon some weird chants that I knew the words to, and could not help but wonder: Who the heck wrote these chants in the first place, and how did they become so well known?  Take "Grey Squirrel" for example.  Here are the words:

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail.
Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail.
Take a peanut from your hand AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR NOSE!

What?!!  Ah, I can't use that in class!  Why is this a thing? And why on earth do I know it?

Another one I came across was "Funky Chicken".  Again, I knew the words and I didn't really understand its purpose.

I actually might be able to use Funky Chicken one with my Daycare kids if they could learn "What's that you say?", because I think it would be fun for them to move around and act things out.  I don't know if they would understand what we were doing though, because I could see them just trying to repeat what I said instead of saying something else.  I also see them just speaking in Korean and taking all the papers out of their desks, ripping them up and throwing them on the floor as they normally do during my class.  I could use it with the older kids in a winter camp, as well.

Comments, please

And with that, now I'd really like to hear from you.  Did you play any of these games when you were younger, or know any of the chants?

Would you like to write some alternate words to "Crocodile Moray"?  (Pretty please?)

Do you have any ideas for me: games, activities, chants, songs, pointless call and response things?

What did you play in school when you were a child?  Whatever it is, I can probably tweak the rules/words so that it can be used in English class or in a camp.  (Keep in mind, I've heard English camps here are less about learning lots of English and more about having fun in English, so that's why I first started looking into these childhood chants and cheers).

UPDATE 11/18/13: My co-teacher said today that the kids love it when they make something in the camps.  So art projects and such are fair game!  I guess one day during this past summer camp they had to use straws and other materials to protect an egg, then had an egg drop.

Update 2014: Here are the two camps I ended up creating during the year:

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