Sometimes obscure websites have the greatest hidden treasures. A few months ago, I came across a grammar activity website that included directions for a Grammar Auction classroom activity. I thought it sounded promising and decided to try it out this week.
Setup: I prepared 20 sentences, some written with grammar errors and others that were written perfectly. I made a PowerPoint to help me keep track of the sentences, each one given a random, non-sequential “lot number”. When students came into class, I randomly separated them into groups of 3 or 4.
Activity Introduction: Groups were given $5000 of fake money as their auction budget. For each sentence up for bid, or for each “lot”, I would read a Spanish sentence. After repeating the sentence, we started the bidding at $50.
Final Objective/Winner: Students wanted to spend their money on quality items, not defective items (the poorly written sentences). At the end of the auction, the winning group would be the group that bought the most correct sentences. If there would be a tie between groups, the winner was the one that spend the least amount of money.
Students didn’t know how many sentences were available and never knew when the auction was going to end, therefore they couldn’t just sit on their money and do nothing. Today I had a homework assignment for students at the end and as a reward for the winning group, I gave them a automatic pass on that assignment. It was definitely a motivating factor.
Probably one of the greatest activities I have ever done.
My Spanish 2 students had been working on their proofreading skills so this was a perfect time to introduce the auction. I had wondered if reading the sentences to them was too difficult and thought about showing them the written sentences, but decided that might be too easy. They did a GREAT job with the learning outcomes. They listened carefully and discriminately, they discussed with their group members, reasoning with each other to determine whether or not it would be a good buy.
Gamesmanship was a huge part of this and I think that made the students like it even more. It wasn’t just about buying a good sentence and not a bad sentence – – it was about watching your money, budgeting, trying to run up bids on other teams, trying to bait other teams into buying bad sentences, etc. There were a lot of undercurrent things happening in the class but the activity still revolved around knowing our Spanish grammar. It was kind of like a game stacked on top of a game. I love this for a couple of reasons. 1) I feel like my students that easily understand things get bored with repeated practice activities and games, and the added layers involved in the Grammar Auction allowed them to experience something else in addition to bottom-line learning outcomes. 2) Students that struggle often feel left out or overwhelmed with straight-up practice activities and are sometimes instantly turned off and disinterested in activities they perceive they will not be successful in. The added layers serve as hooks or tributaries that help pull these students into the core of the activity. I saw students that started out just as the money counter or the bidder, but as the activity progressed, they became fully involved without really having to try. It’s a trick on them, treat for me.
I was hugely pleased with the processing and application of learning concepts that I witnessed and thought this was a valuable experience for my students. I feel very good about our upcoming Grammar Test on Friday. But the students are the real judges. They seemed very engaged and excited, but asked anyway: Was this activity something we should try to do again? The answer was a loud “YES!”. Honestly, it was the most enthusiastic YES I’ve ever gotten.
The only downside to the grammar auction is that I budgeted for each group to have $5000 and printed only $50 bills. So I had to count 100 $50 bills. For each group. For three different class periods. Ouch.