Years ago at a language arts in-service training, one of the presenters showed us a game called “Write It!”. I used it a few times, tweaked it a bit, and now its one of my favorite writing activities, and my students’ too.
Because note writing in class between students is usually about spreading rumors or setting up a fight or other negative issue, and makes paying attention or staying on task problematic, I have a strict rule against note writing unless we’re playing “Write It!”
The rules while playing Write It! Are straight forward:
Absolutely No Talking Or Making Noises. ( Duh! – you WRITE IT! – get it?)
No Airmail (no tossing a note to someone – you must place it on the table in front of them).
No Put Downs
No Foul Language
You Must Write Notes To Many Different Students, Not Just Your Friends.
The steps to playing the game are also simple:
1) Put your name on your note. (so the recipient knows who it is from)
2) Make a nice comment. (“I like your shirt” or “You played well during our soccer game at recess.” NOT – “Well you’re not as ugly today as you were yesterday! – An actual positive comment.
3) Ask a question. (“Which Sponge Bob is your favorite?” or “Have you seen Such and Such movie?”)
4) Deliver It! (Walk the note to the person and set it on their desk in front of them).
5) Answer It. (Answer the question you were asked and deliver it back to them.) Now that note is dead. If you have another question for the same student you must send a new note, with a NEW nice comment and a new question.
I have students tear one sheet of paper into eight note-sized pieces to start, they can get more paper as needed. I strictly enforce the no talking rule, which includes laughing while delivering a note. The first time a student is talking they are out of the game – they may not write notes, get notes or read notes they already received. After 3 to 5 minutes I let them back in with the proviso that the next time they are talking they are done for the game. I almost NEVER kick someone out twice.
So what happens? Kids communicate like crazy. I tell students if they can’t decipher handwriting or meaning – don’t answer the note. If you delivered a note and it never gets answered you might need to resend it and be more careful. This forces students to really think hard about spelling and meaning. They write and write and write. I’ve had games go for 45 minutes, but that is rare. I usually stop after 15 to 20 minutes and even 8 to 10 minutes is fun and leads to plenty of writing. AND kids get lots of “nice comments” from other students and questions about what they are doing and what they like, and more – and they learn more about each other.
We talk about the ethics of comments and questions and including students that you know often aren’t – and it almost always goes well. I have had students bring me notes with inappropriate “nice comments” a few times in all the years I have played this, but we have a discussion with the parties involved and work it out. BTW – does this have a ring to it? Does this sound like similar ethics to those we espouse students to have while online? Yes – which is what lead to me blogging about this. We played this game on Friday and afterwards several students mentioned how this was just like what we have talked about when making comments on blogs or even writing posts and not rumor mongering about someone.
After our game Friday I asked my students what they like about Write It! Students agreed that they send notes and get notes from students they don’t usually talk to. Someone said it was like texting. I asked how many had cell phones (I already knew the answer … almost all of them) and how many texted. Almost all hands went up. How many enjoy texting and text a lot? – about a third (9) raised their hands. How many really don’t text much and don’t really enjoy it? – Also about a third. How many like playing Write It!? – Enthusiastically all hands went up.
Give Write It! A try!
Learning is messy!
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