Published: 17 December 2013 Updated: 17 December 2013
Tags:exquisite corpse games snowball Warm up Writing
Out of great adversity often come the greatest inspiration. In this case the adversity was mine and the inspiration a colleague’s. But the students don’t have to know that. The other day I came running up to my friend at work almost in tears after a difficult class: “They’re so bored in class. They don’t understand what I want from them. Every time I try to explain, it ends up being so boring! Help!” After some more venting and some grappling with the problems individually, we came up with at least one solution: the need for a fun warm-up game at the beginning of class. This is a great writing warm up that has a lot of applications.
We devised this brilliant synthesis of Exquisite Corpse and the Snowball Fight Game that another teacher was using as a review. The students loved it and it produced some pretty good work. It definitely energized them. I have a few ideas for follow-ups but I’d love to hear more:
How To Play Snowball Texts
- Bring in enough blank pieces of paper as you have students–they should be identical.
- Before class put a model on the board, something like this
- Introduce the activity by asking students if they text or chat on Facebook. Elicit the kinds of things they talk about.
- Ask if they chat in English. Elicit or introduce the idea that if they are on social websites all the time, using English is a good and fun way to practice.
- Tell them that you are going to practice in the class, chatting with each other, but the fun part is that you won’t know who you are chatting with.
- Demonstrate with the top part of the model dialogue. Show that you want a literate conversation.
- Quickly review the bottom part of the dialogue. Elicit what is wrong with each response. (#1 is rude, #2 is random #3 responds to the question, instead of continuing the conversation and #4 isn’t writing).
- Now hand out the papers and tell everyone to write a question they would ask a friend over text or Facebook or Twitter. You can put up some model Qs like:
- How was your day?
- How much homework do you have?
- Do you have any plans for the weekend?
- Are you watching the Olympics?
- When everyone has written something (you can play too to guide it a bit), have them crinkle up their papers and on the count of three, throw them around the class. Ideally, they should be throwing them randomly to create random conversations, so watch out for students throwing at a specific student.
- Now everyone scrambles for a paper, opens it up, reads it and answers it.
- Once everyone has answered it, they crinkle it back up, and throws it.
- Then everyone scrambles for a paper, opens it and reads it and CONTINUES the conversation. This step requires a bit of attention to make sure they aren’t answering the original message or doing something else odd.
- Repeat ad nauseaum. For a warm-up 10 minutes is a good 8-10 line conversation.
Some teaching tips:
- Watch out to make sure they are continuing the conversation and not just writing random things.
- Make sure they are writing complete answers and not racing to get to the throwing and running around bit.
- Keep an eye out for where snowballs go and make sure none get lost or that no one is hogging them.
- Part of the fun is that they can write freely, without the teacher knowing, but depending on the age and level, you might keep an eye out for bad language, abusive messages, and slacking off.
- I tried to turn this into an exercise on coherence and with some more input from BBBBAF, I’d do it like this: Ask what they have in their hands. Someone should say, “A conversation” and someone else should say, “A mess/nothing/a joke.” Ask what kinds of things make it a messy dialogue. Then put them in groups and say, “Fix it. Make it coherent. Rewrite sentences, add transitions, reorder, delete sentences. Do what you gotta do.”
- You could turn it back into a snowball game by having students guess who wrote what parts of their conversation.
- One obvious variation is to have them do it in partners, so it becomes more of a real conversation. I’d put them back to back, or even on opposite sides of the room so they can’t communicate any other way.
- You could say that they have to end their message with a question, to keep the dialogue going. (a la The Question Game)
- You might turn this into a structured writing activity, so person 1 writes a thesis statement. Person 2 gives an example. Person 3 elaborates on that example. OR Person 1 writes a description of a person. Person 2 writes an action sentence. Person 3 gives a background and thus they make a communal character study.
Other ideas? Suggestions? Variations? Similar activities?
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