I’m not a baseball fan, but I’ve had enough friends, colleagues, and students who are to understand at least the basics and to have attended a few games. Yesterday was the first game of the World Series, and even though it’s been a few years since Michigan’s beloved Detroit Tigers have been in the World Series (and even more since they won), I, like most Michiganders, am loyal to our Tigers. One summer my co-teacher and I taught an entire week’s worth of classes themed around baseball vs. cricket and we wore Detroit Tigers shirts every day! (Of course it may have also been a creative excuse to wear t-shirts to school each day…)
The World Series isn’t what really has me turning my thoughts towards baseball though (in truth I had to use Google to find out when it would be), the reason I was thinking about it is because I’m preparing a new-to-me class for next semester, a level one grammar class. Any ESL teacher knows the first grammar subject of any beginner’s level book: present tense to be. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve taught this particular grammar structure over the years, let’s just say a lot. When I first started teaching adults, and later middle school, it frustrated me that there were few games and other activities to practice basic grammar and vocabulary, such as present tense to be, designed for older learners. There were lots of cute games that looked like fun, but they were all geared for young children. Eventually I stopped being frustrated and decided to make my own. Am, Is, Are Triple Play was the first of many triple play activities I’ve designed, and one of the first activities I designed ever. It’s been through a few revisions over the years, the most recent of which being a face-lift and conversion to digital last year, but the heart of the game has remained the same.
A triple play activity is an activity that can be played in three different ways. This particular activity has the options of slap, response cards, or task cards. Over time I included board game versions as well, making them quadruple plays, but as this activity is baseball themed, and there’s no such thing as a quadruple play in baseball, so I haven’t changed it. If your students are absolutely in love with board games, you can always use the sentences (task cards) with a random game board and playing pieces to make it into one. For now, let’s just take a look at the three versions of play that do exist with this particular activity.
This is a fun whole-class game that all of my students enjoy. It was just a couple weeks ago I played a different version of it with my advanced adults and they wanted to know when we could play again. To play you need signs for each possible answer (for this game I made full page signs with Am, Is, Are on them), sentences missing the possible answers, and some fly swatters.
To play, divide the class into two teams. Each team sends one representative to the front of the room with the team’s fly swatter in hand. The opponents stand, facing the board where you’ve affixed the answer signs (I use strong magnets), fly swatters at the ready. The teacher reads one of the sentences, saying “blank” for the target word. The students then race to slap the sign containing the correct word to complete the sentence. The first student to slap the correct sign (or whoever’s swatter is on the bottom) wins a point for his/her team. The students return to their teams and new representatives are sent forward. It’s a quick, fun way to practice both the target grammar/vocabulary and listening skills.
Response cards are a great way to quickly assess the entire class’ knowledge of a particular grammar topic. They are also a nice quiet listening practice activity for those days when your ears (and head) need a break from all of the noise. All you need is a set of cards with the possible answers for each student.
To proceed with this activity, give each student his/her own set of cards with the possible answers. I highly recommend printing on card stock and laminating for durability and reuse. The teacher reads one of the sentences aloud, saying “blank” for the target word. The students then hold up, word facing towards the teacher, the card containing the correct word to complete the sentence. The teacher can then quickly scan through the cards and get a sense of who is correct, and who is not (you can also make the cards different colors for even faster checks). If you’re practicing grammar/vocabulary that is new to the students, I recommend telling students that no one can raise an answer card until you give the signal. Read the sentence as before, wait a moment, repeat the sentence, wait again, and then give the signal. This will give students more time to think, and reduce the chance students will “know” the answer because they see someone else put it up first. It’s also possible to do this activity by having students write their answers on white boards and show them to you, but that takes a little longer. If you’re looking for a digital means of checking answers, look into Plickers.
Task cards can be used in so many different ways: as cards for board games, student scoot, card scoot, center work, etc. All you need are cards with individual sentences/problems/questions on them and a recording sheet for student answers.
My middle schoolers always liked using task cards as a student scoot activity. I’d spread the cards around the classroom (hanging on walls, sitting on shelves or desks, etc.) and give each student a recording sheet and clip board. The students would then walk around the room, stopping at each card, and recording their answers on the provided sheet. It’s very important to remind them to pay attention to which number card they are looking at and to record their answers in the correct squares! Even when I remind them to do this, there’s usually at least one who doesn’t follow directions and ends up getting nearly every question wrong because he/she wrote the answers in the wrong boxes. My adults prefer to stay in their seats, so I usually give each group of 4-6 students a stack of task cards and enough recording sheets for all group members. They then pick up a card, read it, record their answer, and return the card to the center before taking another. I still remind them each time to pay attention to the card numbers but it’s not nearly as often that one forgets and has problems as a result.
This was also one of the first activities I digitized, and I knew I wanted to see my students’ answers to these particular practice sentences, so the digital task cards that students clicked through weren’t going to work. The need for a digital version of this activity also came long before I learned how to make self-grading digital task cards, with or without drop-down answer options, so I needed another option.
What I decided to do was create a drag-and-drop activity. I shrunk my task cards down a bit and made them the background of each slide (to prevent accidental, or not so accidental, changes). I also added four movable (when in edit mode) baseballs to each slide. The students then read each sentence. To indicate their answer, a baseball was dragged and dropped into the correct glove for each sentence. To check students answers I had to scroll through each slide deck and look at where they placed the baseballs. It was not very convenient, but it also didn’t take nearly as long as I feared it might. Let’s just say if I need to use the digital format of this activity again I’ll probably do another redesign and create self-grading task cards instead.
Am, Is, Are Triple Play is far from the only activity I’ve developed to practice the present tense of to be, but it’s always been a favorite. I recognize that’s likely because it’s one of the first activities I ever developed on my own, but it seems to be consistently popular with my students as well. Here’s hoping next semester’s class enjoys it as much as those of the past. Happy teaching, everyone!
Need some more activities/resources for present tense to be? Try these links:
Need multiple activities? Want a discount? Try one of these bundles:
Interested in more baseball-themed activities? Try these links: