This semester I’ve been teaching a new-to-me advanced grammar and writing course, and have been really enjoying it. It’s been fun to revisit some of the activities and materials I used in the Academic Reading and Writing course I developed a few years ago. Something that may surprise teachers who are unfamiliar with English language learners, is that advanced students often struggle with some “easy” grammar and vocabulary, especially prepositions and conjunctions. These generally small words cause no end of difficulty for many students of English, and require an inordinate amount of practice and review to master. This semester’s group of advanced students is no exception, and I’d already noticed they were in need of a review of conjunctions when we came to a unit about identifying and writing compound sentences.
I knew I could do a discrete review of the four main coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, so) using my Tie That Binds activity, but this is a very packed course and we don’t have time for any review topics. If I wanted to review coordinating conjunctions (and we most certainly needed to), I needed to find a way to do it while covering the required content and compound sentences provided the perfect opportunity. Besides, why create a game that practices only one skill when more than one is possible?
The game, Compounding Conjunctions, is rather simple, both in its creation and play. I used a basic game board, one I’ve used many times before, with squares around the outer edge of the paper with the start and finish being in the same square. I simply added the four most common coordinating conjunctions (and the ones I find require the most practice), one per square, in a repeating pattern around the board. I then wrote six simple sentences, each expressing an opinion that could be expanded upon in some way. These are the sentences I used, though you could easily use sentences that were more interesting, or applicable, to your own students:
- The legal voting age should (not) be raised.
- The United States should (not) require a year of military service for every citizen.
- Students should (not) have to wear school uniforms.
- Sugary drinks and snacks should (not) be allowed in school.
- Internet access should (not) be free for all people.
- Teenagers should (not) have social media accounts.
I added some turn directions to the board and it was ready to print. I printed and laminated enough boards for groups of up to four students (our classes are capped at 20, but we often overfill them so I made enough for six groups–when I have more than 24 students I simply add a playing piece to the necessary sets and increase group size to five students). All that was left was to prepare the playing pieces: one number cube and four place markers for each group. I like to put everything in snack size Ziploc bags for easy distribution. What we use as playing pieces varies, depending on what I have available, but favorites include plastic counters, mini erasers, and milk jug lids.
The directions for the game are simple. The first student rolls the number cube and moves his/her piece. He/she then uses the conjunction on the space to expand the sentence corresponding to the number roll (so if a student rolls a two and lands on a square that says but, he/she would say, “The United States should (not) require a year of military service for every citizen, but…”). If the student is able to state a grammatically correct compound sentence, he/she remains on the space and play continues to the next player. If the sentence is not grammatically correct, he/she returns to the previously occupied space and play continues to the next player. The first player to return to Start/Finish is the winner.
The Digital Version
Converting this to a digital game was easy. I simply made the game board the background of a Google Slide and added the “Dice” script my husband wrote for me. This script does not actually add dice, nothing moves or animates on the screen, but it does allow students to “roll” without leaving the game file. What it does do is add a menu item at the top of the screen that says Dice. Students click “Dice” and “Roll” to randomly generate a number between one and six. The number is displayed in a pop up box that says, “You rolled a X.” The box can be closed by clicking OK or the X, and students can then move their piece (circles I added) to continue the game. I always give my students the option of typing their sentences into the chat box, rather than speaking them aloud, because many of them are parents and don’t like to turn their microphones on due to background noise.
My advanced students have played this game twice thus far this semester. The first time was for its intended purpose: to practice creating compound sentences and review coordinating conjunctions. The second was to practice creating claims that could be argued (the first step in our lesson on writing a thesis statement). They enjoyed the game both times and deemed it a success. As is my custom during game time, I circulated, listening in, and gathering formative assessment data regarding my students’ strengths and weaknesses (one way I knew they needed to review conjunctions). It’s also always interesting to hear their opinions on various topics and the discussions that inevitably ensue between them–great unscripted speaking practice, another bonus! Happy teaching, everyone!
Don’t want to make your own game? Here’re the links to purchase mine, as well as the “dice” script and conjunctions practice activities: