Picture Prompts Sentence Challenge Game

One of my favorite teacher podcasts is Spark Creativity by Betsy Potash. A few months ago I was catching up on some of her episodes and I listened to episode 159, 3 Creative Ways to Teach Sentence Structure. Since I’m teaching our advanced grammar and writing course again this semester, I was very interested in this episode. I already have a game to practice compound sentences, Compounding Conjunctions, but I have long wanted a game to practice complex sentences, and one that would allow mixed practice would be even better. One of the ideas she described was a sentence challenge game in which you displayed a picture and challenged students to give a particular type of sentence (simple, compound, complex) about the picture. My mind immediately went to my Picture Prompts Game and I instantly knew that it would take next to no work to utilize this existing game for the purpose of practicing simple, compound, and complex sentences.

It was a little over a year ago that I wrote about Picture Prompts, a game I originally developed to practice question words and/or cause and effect. Since creating it, I’ve used this game countless times to practice forming and asking questions in every tense, cause and effect, and other skills. My students

enjoy playing it and I like how it allows for some less scripted speaking practice. The game includes 24 different picture cards and a game board. The basic idea is that on a student’s turn, he/she will choose a picture card and ask a question or state a sentence about the picture that practices the target skill. Students tend to get very creative and it’s always a lot of fun to hear what they say about the various pictures.

The only adjustments needed to use the game to practice simple, compound, and complex sentences were the addition of a couple items: something to tell students what type of sentence to make and a “cheat” card to help them remember the three types of sentences. To create the “cheat” card, I used the picture card template, replacing the image with a short definition for each type of sentence and a list of the conjunctions for compound and complex sentence formation. In order for students to know what type of sentence to create, I decided to make two different options: a roll key card for when we played with dice, and spinners for when we used CD spinners. Using dice is the easier option for me, especially when I’m traveling from school to school or don’t have storage in my classroom(s). However, my students of all ages love using the CD spinner stands my dad made for me and, since I have a lot of old unused CDs and DVDs at home, they end up being cheaper than purchasing dice for me. It didn’t really take me any extra time to create both options, so I did and now we can use whichever is most convenient for that particular classroom situation.

A few weeks ago my first group of students tried out Picture Prompts Sentence Challenge and loved it. They enjoyed playing the same basic game as before (we’d previously used it to practice making passive sentences) but with a new twist/challenge. I think next time we play (we have a review of this skill coming up), we’re going to try an alternative version of the game. I’m going to give each student a small whiteboard and dry erase marker. Rather than taking turns drawing picture cards and stating sentences, students will have a sentence show down of sorts. One image card will be turned over for the entire group to see and then the spinner will be spun. Students will have a predetermined length of time to write an appropriate type sentence for the image. After the time expires (I’m thinking 30-45 seconds), students will show their sentences to the rest of the group. Any student who successfully writes a unique (not written by anyone else in the group) sentence that is of the type spun (simple, compound, complex) will get to roll and move his/her piece. I’m thinking this will challenge the students to think beyond the obvious and create more inventive sentences for each picture. It also means no student is passively sitting and waiting for his/her turn, every student is creating a sentence for every image.

As I explained in my original post about Picture Prompts, it wasn’t a difficult game to create, so you can easily make your own version and use the files included with this post to play the Sentence Challenge version of the game. If you don’t want to make your own version, you can purchase mine using the links in this post. The download will include the dice roll card, spinner label, and “cheat” card for Sentence Challenge, as well as everything needed to practice question words and cause/effect.

Afraid you missed some of the links scattered throughout this post? No worries, here they are again: