I do not fish, at least not in real life. My father and grandfather used to take me when I was younger, but shortly after entering elementary school they decided I was old enough to bait my own hook and that was the beginning of the end for me. Pushing wiggly worms onto a hook? No, thank you. I continued to fish, using bread as bait, but it wasn’t too much longer before I had to start taking what I caught off the hook for myself, and mention was made of teaching me how to clean what I caught. Having to scale and gut fish was not something I ever envisioned myself doing, so I avoided having to do it by never catching another fish.
I do, however, fish in my classroom. My students and I play several different fishing-themed games, including Fishing for Contractions. There are several different ways of playing this game in the physical classroom, but today I’ll limit myself to two. Both methods require a collection of fish with contractions on half, and the words that can form a contraction on the other half (Pixaby is a great place to get royalty free clip art). You can purchase a PDF of the set I use by clicking the link above or the button to the side. I printed mine on white cardstock, cold laminated them (so the lamination wouldn’t peel when I cut through it), and then cut them out. You will need one set of fish for each group of students. We usually play in groups of 3-4, but it is possible with pairs or groups of 5-6. Once your fish are ready, you need to decide what type of pond you will use. This decision will affect how your students play the game.
The way I always envisioned playing the game was never feasible for the classroom setups I had. I really think it would be fun to actually fish for the contractions. I wanted to get magnetic fishing poles (with older students I’d have had to make my own by tying magnets to sticks or something similar) and thought I could make the fish magnetic by adding a jumbo paperclip over the mouth area. Then I planned to get a small inflatable wading pool and toss all of the sets of fish into it, mixing them all together. Then students could stand around the pool, cast into it, pull out a fish, and name either the contraction (if the fish had two words on it) or the words that made up the contraction. When they were correct, they added the fish to their catch bag. If they were incorrect, the fish would be thrown back into the “pond” to be caught again later. But, as I said, my classroom environments were never conducive to this plan, so I came up with an alternative that was easier on storage, the budget, and logistically.
I ended up making my own “ponds” by painting oatmeal containers. I am not an artist, so my “pond” looks a little funny, but the general idea is communicated. I painted one “pond” for each group. Before students arrived, I dumped one set of fish into each pond. To play, students reach into the pond and pull out a single fish. If they can correctly name and spell the contraction the two words would form, or the two words which make up the contraction, they keep the fish. If they are incorrect, the fish gets tossed back into the pond for later. This method may not be as dramatic, but it is still fun, and students seem to enjoy the activity (and I suspect my adults would prefer this particular version over the first anyway).
This past school year I, along with many others, was teaching online and needed a digital version of the activity. I ended up designing a game in Google Sheets and my husband coded a dice script into it for me. To play the game, I made a copy for each pair of students and gave them editing rights. Students were then able to type the contractions for the words indicated and, if correct (squares turn green when correct), “roll” the “dice” to see how many “casts” they got into the fishing pond for their points. Since this is a practice game I did not take a grade, so students did not need to return the completed game to me. Here’s a video showing how the game works to help you get a better idea:
Even though I’ve never been able to play this game the way I originally envisioned it, it’s still a fun game. I use the “ponds” for other games as well, so the time spent painting them was well worth it. If you make your own Fishing for Contractions game let me know how your students like it. Happy teaching, everyone!
Looking for another contractions activity? Check out this blog post from last March, this Green Eggs and Ham activity, and this bundle with all of these activities plus an extra one.
Want another fishing-themed activity? Maybe for math? Check out this blog post from last August and this parts of speech game.