The Verb Olympics
The Verb Olympics is a grand title for a deceptively simple idea. It is a relay race to practice conjugating verbs. I use it quite a lot because it works amazingly well to teach as well as motivate students to conjugate verbs correctly. Students always do better on tests that involve conjugating verbs when we have had a round of the Verb Olympics the day before.
Basically, you divide your class into two or three teams. If you have more than 15 students in your class, divide them into three teams, less than 15, divide them into two. You then let each team choose a country to represent. Because I teach middle school, Djibouti pronounced (Ji- BOO - tee) Get it? is usually represented along with several other random nations. Whatever.
The next step is to for each team to choose a captain. I tell the team that the team captain must be someone who gets how to conjugate whatever tense of verb we are working on without using a reference sheet. After a minute or two of arguing, one captain from each team steps up to the board. The job of the team captain is to make sure that the process of conjugating stays on track. The captains themselves may not write but they can instruct others what to write. That way if someone blanks out under pressure, they can rely on the team captain to tell them what to write.
To play, the teacher writes a verb on the board to conjugate. All three teams compete simultaneously to be the first to conjugate the verb correctly. One by one, each member of the team must run to the board and writes a form of the verb. The first person runs up and writes the first person singular, the second person writes the second person singular etc. Each person must hand off the marker and run to their seat before the next person comes to the board. When all the personal endings of the verb has been conjugated, the team sits down. The first team to have it completed it correctly, wins a point for their team. If there are three teams, I usually award two points for first place and one point for second. If the first team finished does not have the verb conjugated correctly, I tell them that they have not won and then let them argue over where they went wrong. Meanwhile if one of the other team finishes the task correctly, then that team wins. Again, the team captain can't write anything, he or she must get one of their team members to fix wherever they went wrong.
I can only take credit here for the name of this game. The amazing German teacher at Concord High School, Laura Ernest, explained the process to me. While the idea of relay races is certainly not new, her addition of a team captain standing at the board to keep the task from completely running off the rails makes this work well. This activity instructs, engages, and requires no preparation or technology to implement. All hail the Verb Olympics! Citius, Altius, Fortius