Once such lesson that has evolved over time for me is the most recently named McGordon Games. Nathan introduced me to the idea of a grammar competition five years ago with his awesome Garvin Cup. I think back then it was a series of lessons and games based solely on grammar that lasted about three weeks. The basic scenario of these Games is that each class competes in teams. They compete in challenges (grammar, writing, reading, whatever) and win points. Even if you come in last place, you earn points. Each "team" is usually comprised of 3-4 students that go by a new team name. The first challenge of the games is teams have to create a name and a team flag. The team names are always the best. Let's see: The Fire-Breathing Bunnies, Meowing Kittens from Outer-space, and Flaming Oversized Cheeseburgers...just to name a few. By the end of the Cup or Games, a winning team from each class is named. They get their picture taken for the Wall of Fame so that their, "legacy lives on for all generations to come." They also get some sweet prizes.
Since then, we've changed and grown the idea each year. One year, we even had a school-wide Olympic games with each of our ELA teachers representing a different continent and making it a school-wide competition. Our Opening Ceremonies were legit.
This year, my team and I have decided to combine some grammar skills, expository writing, and the book Chew on This to serve as the inspiration for our games. Since Chew on This is a book about fast food, that's been the theme this go-round. What has been the Gordon Cup is now called The McGordon Games. (I told my students that The Gordon Cup got bought by corporate sponsors...ha! It fits perfectly with the book.) We're learning various standards and then competing in games, both physical and mental. Usually we'll study a concept and then do some sort of weird minute-to-win-it style game. These Games always work so well because you can really use the students working in teams to your advantage and theirs.
I pre-select my teams to ensure that skill levels are pretty even across the classroom. This helps students who might struggle with certain concepts too because now they have a team with which to work. Then we do pretty much EVERYTHING to earn points. I leave Power Play clues hidden around the room sometimes (for example, if everyone in your team is silently working on Google Classroom when the bell rings, you'll get two extra points) ; teams play games to win points; teams earn points for turning in their homework on time; teams earn points for good behavior and positive sportsmanship, everything. They can also lose points. It's a great incentive to get students excited about class and what they're learning.
Lastly, we REALLY talk-up these games. We start talking about it on day one of school. This creates a super excited atmosphere on the day when you announce that it's FINALLY time! It also helps to play this song on repeat all day.
I highly recommend doing a unit with some sort of friendly competition involved. It makes it more enjoyable for me and the students. I'm so thankful that my friend introduced me to the concept those many years ago! I could write so many things about all the various activities we do and how to keep up with scores and whatnot, so I'll be adding a few posts to this page over the next few weeks to show you some more McGordon Games tips and tricks!
Thanks for reading.
7th grade ELA