Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why I think Speed Games are great for my slow students

I'm a big fan of speed games, especially when it comes to using them as class warmups on a Monday morning.

For me, there's nothing better than a surprise attack that will pop open my elementary students' crusty eyes and get their little hearts and adrenaline racing with a game, which forces them to think on their toes. 

Unfortunately, my Korean co-teachers aren't always big on using speed games.

But there's many reasons why I like using them--

1.   It eliminates mental blockage and bullshit.

Kids absorb more than we think. Aside waking my students' minds at the beginning of class so I get their focus from the start, speed games trick the mind into thinking it knows the answer!

Often their minds know the answer. If you're under the gun or in a life or death situation, you'll find the answers that you're looking for can surface quickly. But our minds are often prone to self-doubt, laziness, sleepiness and shyness.  So we second guess their answers, fear we'll be laughed at them if we're wrong or don't pronounce something correctly.

Speed games are like life or death situations. They're like a mental Liquid Plumber, quickly clearing the mind of blockage and bullshit.

2.  It heightens one's sense of concentration in a  short and painless way.
Speed + stakes accelerates concentration and focus.

Most students like a bit of a challenge and want to test how good they can be, but sustaining stern concentration and self-discipline for a long period of time is hard. For example, some Buddhists can meditate for hours, while sitting in front of a plain wall.

Not everyone can sustain that kind of long, dragged out focus. When I administer speed games, my students know they're being given a "test" which requires  intense concentration,  but they also know, it'll be quick, short and painless.

3.  You do more than you think.

In Korean classrooms, most lessons involve a game or competition. This is because Korean students are ultra competitive.

Speed games are like athletic events, allowing students to experience heart pounding adrenaline highs (and climaxes), and allows them to experience extreme feelings of achievement if they succeed. It's much more exciting than a monotone class of learning by rote.

But why is this good for challenged students, when it seems like there'd be an even more obvious excuse for them to fail?

Simply put, you don't have time to think. There's only time for movement, doing and action.

 Where the scholastic student relies on brain, memory and "thinking", the challenged student can often excel when it comes to activities which rely on instinct and doing. Enter that zone and you've entered their arena of confidence.

4.  It can encourage team-building and success.

Do anything quick enough, and you'll find everything just flows. You become one with speed, your teammates and environment.

If I direct my speed games towards teamwork (i.e. a speed chain where each contributes the answer down the line), my challenged kids participate more. Oddly, they like speed challenges.

You wouldn't think that, right? With the pressure on high and being the center of attention .. you wouldn't think they'd like this situation. But I've seen some of my most challenged students rise to the occasion, succeed and triple their confidence as a result.

My students all know who the weak links in the class are. The weaker student senses that as well. On an individual level, their peers expect them to fail and generally do.

But there's two points that most folk don't recognize in the challenged student:

•  If you're expected to fail, then you have nothing to lose in trying. And should you succeed, you triple your achievement by surprising yourself, your teacher and the entire class. When my challenge students were able to contribute to the success of their team, it built their confidence.

•  When you're a weak student, other students generally avoid you, especially smart ones. But team speed games encourage mixed team-work. Students don't have time to complain over a weak student being in their group. The team must gel immediately, cooperate and work together, as if their life depended on it. They must become fast friends and rely upon each other.

If you have a smarter student relying on you as a friend, a fellow teammate... chances are, you'll try harder, knowing your participation is valued by others.  On the other turn, the stronger students want to win, so they help the weaker students, by encouraging support so their team can succeed. The challenged student wins all the way around. 

Speed doesn't kill the weak; it improves life!

1 comment:

  1. Yep, speed games are fun - as long as the 'weaker' kids HAVE to participate in an equal fashion. Otherwise, the team may simply ignore that person's efforts.