Monday I shared with you the various activities I use at the beginning of my unit on question words: posters, notes (including the new digital version), match up cards (also in digital), and the free games Beach Ball Questions, and Escape! The Question Grid (the digital version includes a bridges variation). Today I’d like to share with you the games and activities we play in the second half of our unit.
One of my students’ favorite games is Paint Can Questions. This is a game I created in 2015, and it is a physical race game (yes, my students actually run back and forth). To make the game I gathered 6 used paint cans, 90 paint stir sticks (Ask for them at any store that sells paint. In my experience they are always happy to donate however many you need.), three colors of spray paint, and boat letters. The total cost of the project was about $25, a little high, but not too bad for a reusable activity (especially one I’m still using five years later!). Gathering the paint cans was the greatest challenge (they are considered toxic, so stores can’t give them away), but my amazing family and friends helped me (and were happy to clean out their basements/garages; I just left the lids off to let any remaining paint drain/dry). I then removed the labels on the cans and spray painted them black. The sticker letters were easy to apply to the sides of the cans, and much faster than trying to neatly paint the question words, making them well worth the money. Spray paint made preparing the stir sticks easy and quick. The final step was using a marker to write the questions (minus the question word) on the sticks. I actually made three different sets of sticks (each a different color), so multiple teams can play at a time.
Before playing, I line up the paint cans at one end of the room (I try to take students to the cafeteria or other larger room to play. When I’m unable to use one of the larger areas, or go outside, the students help me shove all of the desks to the sides to make a safe running area.), with the question words facing towards the start line. Students are divided into teams (usually three or four students to a team), and given a set of sticks. Once I tell them to begin, the first student on each team reads the question on one of the stir sticks, consults with his/her teammates about the correct answer, then runs and places it in the correct paint can. Once the first person has returned to the team, player two takes a stick and repeats the process. Play continues until all of the sticks have been placed in cans. I then quickly check the sticks in each can, giving teams one point for each correct placement (thus the different color sets of sticks). The winning team is the team who finished the fastest (I give three points to first place, two points to second, and one point to third) and most accurate (it happens fairly often that the slowest team actually wins the game due to increased accuracy).
Students love paint can questions, and usually beg to play again, and I almost always give in to them. This semester, and it’s looking more and more like next as well, we are fully virtual. I enjoy the game as much as the students, so I really wanted to find some way to use it digitally. I considered a lot of options, including digital task cards, self-grading digital task cards, and even another cover up or board game, but really wanted something special for this activity. I finally settled on creating another mystery pixel art activity. I used the same questions as the paint can game, and themed the picture around color and painting (see image above). You can get either the Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel version of the mystery picture by clicking the picture and button above, or the links earlier in this sentence.
Once we have worn ourselves out running back and forth, I like to play one more board game to practice asking and answering questions. Question Land is a game that is very loosely based on Candy Land. In the paper version students roll a number cube to see what question word they will use (the numbers and words are on the game board for easy reference). In the digital version, they use a specially scripted “Dice” menu to “roll” a question word. After discovering which question word a player will use, game play is the same for both versions. The student first answers the question asked by the previous player with a complete sentence. Then he/she asks a question of his/her own, using the word indicated. If the question is grammatically correct, the player moves his/her piece to the next square containing the question word he/she used. If the question was not grammatically correct, he/she stays in place. The first player to reach finish is the winner.
The finally activity we use in our unit is another free download from my Teacher Pay Teachers store. Questions and Answers is a writing and speaking activity for up to six students (if you have more students simply make more copies of each page). Each page has three different questions with the words mixed up. In a separate square are the answers to the questions. Students must unscramble the questions and write them correctly in the provided space. Once students have all had a chance to unscramble and write their questions, they walk around the room, talking to one another. After finding a partner, they take turns asking and answering questions. At the bottom of each page is a place to mark if they were able to answer their partners’ questions correctly or not. After students have asked their questions of five others, and answered the remaining 15 questions in the activity, they return to their seats. They count up how many questions they were able to answer correctly (all of the questions relate to USA history), and the student with the most correct answers is declared a winner. As stated before, you can download this activity for free by clicking the picture above, or the Questions and Answers links in this paragraph.
By the time we finish all of these games and activities students have a good grasp on question words and how to use them. If you’re looking for a quick way to grab most of these activities (you’ll have to make your own beach ball and paint can set), you can find discounted bundles in my store. Three different discounted bundles are available: paper activities only, digital activities only, and paper + digital activities. Happy teaching, everyone!