Todos para uno y uno para todos

Sounds a little like a pirate slogan, yes? Three Muskateerish even. Todos para uno y uno para todos. It’s what I decided to name my new review/assessment game.

“Numbered Heads Together” has been around a long time. I always do Lettered Heads Together because I like to practice the alphabet that way. I use the game often to:

  • give all students one more chance to hear the new material from the chapter in context
  • give the slower processors a pretty safe space to work out their thinking and their tongues with peer support
  • give the faster processors an opportunity to show their maximum acquisition (a nice way to say “show off”)
  • encourage them to share information instead of covet it
  • let them move around the classroom
  • get them to key in and “laser listen” to the material
  • provide the comprehensible input in a format that makes them WANT to find interest
  • assess output to see how they’re doing

After hearing Alfie Kohn speak the other night, I decided to change the rules of the game a bit. I have always set up the game in a cooperative/competitive format:  Teams discuss and come up with an answer. I call a lettered head. The first one who pops up gets to answer–wins or loses the point for their team. There is a winning team and, of course, there are losing teams.

After listening to Alfie talk about the dangers of “academic competition” in school, I really rethought this game. Now, it’s “all for one and one for all”. The whole class is working for points for the class–and there still get to be teams. It worked great and was a huge hit with the kids and with me. Big time fun, engagement, focus on meaning, focus on success, fight the fear. All good. No “team” is smarter or better than any other team. No “team” is lesser, dumber, etc. than any other team. I thought they might think it was lame since they are very competitive, sporty kids. I was wrong. Doing it this way took off a layer of worry for them.

Read on:

  1. I choose four names out of the box for each team.
  2. The teams gather in different areas of the room. I say: “Equipo 1 aquí, por favor. Equipo 2, aquí, etc.” When they get really good at organizing themselves, after a few times of playing the game, I let them come up with an “appropriate” Spanish name for their team. For instance, this time we had Los Fatales (silly name based on one kid who ALWAYS answers the question, ¿Cómo estás?, with “Fatal”, Los Cállates, Los Azules, Los Habladores Cabezones, etc. Dumb stuff, fun stuff. I help them out or this takes forever.
  3. I assign each team member a letter: a, b, c, d “Fulano, eres A. Sutano, eres B., etc. Todos los A’s, levanten la mano, por favor. Los B’s, etc.”
  4. I ask the question*. I speak SLOWLY (can’t impress upon you enough the necessity to speak slowly in all activities).
  5. Each team physically huddles together to discuss the answer. I say: “Júntense. Arrímense. (with motions)”
  6. I give the groups time to discuss the question, come up with the answer. Each group member must feel confident that they have an answer (they will need it for the next step). Then I repeat the question to the class.
  7. I choose a letter. For instance:  B
  8. All the B’s run to the center of the room away from their teams, huddle up with the new group, and tell each other what their original team believes is the correct answer. Each one weighs in. Then, they either agree because they all have the same answer or they negotiate a better answer among themselves. I love watching that part.
  9. When they are ready, I choose one of their tickets. That person answers the question.
  10. If they answer correctly, their team gets the point which goes immediately goes toward the class score. If they get it wrong, no point.
  11. If anyone speaks English (smart alec remarks, criticisms, whatever) during the “answering part”, profe gets a point (that happened a couple of times in one class).
  12. Before we began, we did one practice round with a silly question in English (since I had changed the rules). The question was: ¿Quién es Joe Biden? I just walked them through the format slowly. It was easy.

At the end I asked them:

  1. how well they had understood me?
  2. how well they had remembered the new vocabulary?
  3. how well they had remembered the details of the plot?
  4. how well they thought they had contributed to the activity?

They give me 0-5 fingers to answer the above questions:  0 – lowest to 5 – highest

Lots of fives on all questions. The cheers at the end of the game were loud and enthusiastic. Many yelled out, “¡Todos para uno y uno para todos!” Alfie was right.

*I used the Comprehension Questions (reworded) and Discussion Questions in the Treasure Chest which accompany Piratas.

7 thoughts on “Todos para uno y uno para todos

  1. Hi Jody,
    I’m so glad you’re finding time to blog! The things you have bee writing about Piratas have been eye-opening for me.

    This game sounds like fun. It has all the elements of a game, except for losers. So what do the points count for? Do you reward them in any way? And are they negotiating the answers in Spanish or English? (I have a feeling you’ll say that they do whatever they need to…)

  2. The points don’t count for anything really. On my board, I have this little corner where I have written the class names. When somebody speaks pretty terrific Spanish spontaneously, I may give the class a point toward Kinder Day or game minutes. Of course, they’re going to get Kinder Day and a game from time to time anyway. It’s just fun to notice cool stuff they do from time to time and for them to “decide” what they get to do. I have moved far away from “rewards”. The research is pretty clear about the “demotivation” that really is taking place–very short term gains and pretty ugly byproducts.

    Yes, students use much Spanish and English during their negotiations. It is up to them. It’s all done in whispers so it doesn’t really bug me. 🙂

    Answers, however, are in Spanish.

    So good to hear from you Carla. I liked what you said about “higher order thinking questions” in your response on a certain blog. The questions spring from a natural necessity to understand something in the reading–not an artificial construct to make sure we cover higher order thinking questions.

  3. I like this post a lot–partly because it dovetails with what Carol told our Alaska group yesterday about processing time, and partly because it goes with the Alfie Kohn stuff I was just watching again today. The way you explain helps get all the nuts and bolts clear to me. I need that clear vision of the process to really understand it. I love the idea of having groups run to the middle and get a consensus. Would love to observe you sometime!!

    1. That was my favorite time, too–the run to the middle time. They were completely unaware that anyone was watching or listening. They were just figuring it all out.

      You are welcome any time! What a treat that would be! (Except the month of April–out for hand surgery)

  4. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, too–the brain breaks, variety, change of state, etc. Sometimes, it seems there are so many “filters” I need to have in mind in order to plan a class well!

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