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The GREAT Sentence Raffle Race!

We had a test on Friday, and as I was preparing review lessons for the week I felt a twinge of dread in the pit of my stomach at the thought of doing another day of a 'Jeopardy style' review games - don’t get me wrong, the kids love it and I think it’s an effective way to review material, but I always find it exhausting to try and refocus my huge class of 6th graders for each question. Plus, they always have so much energy when we play that they are bursting out of their seats (and I want to let them get out of their seats!)

As I was pondering my predicament an idea came to me, like a great big flood of divine-creative intervention.

While I was thinking it through, I was like… holy cow, this checks all my boxes.

Text-based review? Check.

Movement? Check.

Collaboration? Check.

Reading? Check.

Writing? Check.

Critical thinking? Check.

Fun & engaging? Check.

Essentially, The Great Sentence Raffle Race is a review game where you start with a bunch of questions cut into strips of paper. The students need to complete one at a time with their group and have it checked by me before they can go on to the next question. Each question the group completes becomes a raffle ticket, and at the end of the game I draw three tickets out of the basket and those groups win prizes.

After first period, I knew I had struck gold. I was ecstatic at the complete and total engagement I had going on in the room, and everywhere I looked I saw kids reading, writing, talking, running, smiling, dancing! (see video below).

Although my race was specifically targeted at reviewing grammar concepts, I know you could create your own sentence (or equation) questions for any content.

I hope you find this lesson as fun and exciting as we did.

Here are the details if you want to give it a try:

The Objective

As the title would suggest, the game culminates to a raffle drawing (for prizes). The objective of the game is to get as many “tickets” entered into the raffle as possible (the more tickets you have, the greater chances you have of winning*.)

* One of the best things about this game is that even if one team is moving much slower than the others, they don’t feel completely defeated, because they still have a good chance of winning a prize (and they often do!) I love the randomness of the prizes at the end, it keeps the students engaged the whole way through.

The Tickets

In my version, each “ticket” asks the students to write a complete sentence (with correct spelling and punctuation). Each sentence is focused on a different grammar/punctuation/capitalization rule or part of speech. The first set of tickets require that the students find an example in one of their books of a sentence that is following that rule and copy the sentence down correctly.

The second half of the tickets are the same as the first, but this time they ask the students to write their own sentences. This way, the students are able to review the concepts with the help of strong mentor texts, then apply those same skills through their own writing.

The Set Up

1. Create the tickets

If you are a middle school ELA teacher, you can download my raffle tickets here, if not - you could make your own*.

I usually prepare about 30 different tickets/questions. Make sure to number each question, so the students can move sequentially through the tickets.

*This is where The Great Sentence Raffle Race might turn into The Great Equation Raffle Race or The Great History Raffle Race or what have you. Basically, what I am saying is that while I explain how I use it for grammar review, it can easily be applied to any content.

2. Print and cut the tickets into raffle strips

Keep in mind, you’ll need enough for each group to have one multiplied by the total number of periods you teach (which can be a lot of tickets and take a decent amount of time cutting into strips.)

Each ticket needs to be numbered, cut into its own individual strip, and laid out on a table.

3. Bring a big basket or bucket for raffle tickets

4. Determine prizes

I do three raffle drawings at the end:

Third prize - everyone in the group wins a piece of candy

Second prize - everyone in the group gets to shoot the basketball hoop in my room, and if they make it in, they get to choose from a bag of big (dollar store!) prizes.

First prize - everyone in the group gets a piece of candy and a chance to shoot the hoop.

*Obviously you can choose whatever prizes will work for your kids.

5. Create group seating and/or groups

I would say no more than 5 people per group, 3-4 is probably the sweet spot.

Give each group a number and make sure to tell your student that they need to put their group number on the back of their ticket. If they don't, they won't be able to win a prize if their ticket is chosen.

6. Distribute books for each group

When I first did this activity I was afraid the student would have a hard time finding examples for sentences in their books, so I photocopied pages I knew contained the content they needed. The photocopies were never used. The students gravitated towards all the colorful books, and found their sentences with ease.

I have a small classroom library and use those books for the race, but I bet the school librarian would be willing to help with this lesson too, because the students are reading little samples of these books during the race and usually a few students are curious to check out one of the books they used after class and continue reading.

*I could also see this lesson working great with a book you are reading together as a class, and the students use their own copies.

7. Display a giant timer with the projector

The Google timer works perfectly well.

I gave my students 25 - 30 mins to play last time, and that seemed like a good amount of time. They honestly probably could have played for longer, but I wanted to give enough time for prizes, clean up, and a quick wrap-up at the end.

8. Play some sweet racing music

I searched for racing music on YouTube and used this video. It did the job of keeping the student fired up and moving.

Formative Assessment/Instant Feedback

One of the best parts of the game is that in order to get your ticket entered into the raffle I (the teacher) has to approve it first. It takes me just a couple of seconds to identify if they are using the grammar rule correctly and then I can provide them with instant feedback.

If it’s right I’ll tell them so and put it into the big basket of tickets (everyone cheers!) and tell the student they can grab the next ticket. If it is clear that the entire group is confused about the question, I can run over and do a super-brief review for them, then sometimes I open up a book and flip until I find a page where they’ll be able to copy their sentence from. “You can find your sentence on this page,” I’ll say, before running back to my spot in the front of the class

I wondered at first if I would be able to check all the tickets fast enough, but even with my largest class (44 students in 9 groups) I was able to get to them all.

*Having a para or co-teacher would be beneficial here so one person could be checking tickets and one person could be helping groups.

The End

The tickets that are submitted in the last minute (because there is usually a rush of last minute entires), I put under the doc cam and we decided together as a class if they pass or not.

With all the tickets entered into the basket, I ask for a drum-roll and draw a third, second, and first prize group. Occasionally, one group will win two of the prizes, and surprisingly their classmates don't get too beat up about it.

It's all about the luck of the draw!

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