Toss and Tackle

This exercise, a winner of the 2006 Style Pedagogy Contest, was contributed by Amanda Sigler.

Style: General Principles
Identify/Generate the principle
Time: 20 minutes

I found the following exercise a good way to review toward the end of the semester. Students toss a soft object to their classmates and help each other “tackle” LRS concepts.

Directions: Bring a soft object, such as a squishy ball, mini football, or bean bag, that students can pass to each other. Have everyone stand up. Briefly explain the exercise: Whenever a student catches the ball, he/she will answer a question before passing the ball on to another student. Students can choose to answer any question they wish. You can distribute the questions as a handout, use an overhead to project the handout, or write them on the board.

- On overhead or board, checkmark problems as students answer them so everyone can easily identify which questions have already been answered.
-For more complicated questions, have students explain their answers: ex. “What makes ‘K’ a chained topic string?”
- If a student has trouble answering a problem, resist the urge to explain yourself and ask the class to help.

Questions for use as handout or overhead in Microsoft Word format.

Answer Key

Rationale and value of exercise:Students benefit from reviewing concepts quickly and collectively. The most valuable categories ask students to apply concepts they have learned; other categories are more rudimentary but nonetheless assist students in reviewing important principles. Often as students practice concepts they forget the most basic definitions underwriting them, and it’s helpful to return to terms and examples earlier in the semester. The exercise, versatile in its application, can be tailored to fit the needs of particular classes: if your students need more work distinguishing formal from informal register, then you can add more examples to the “voice” category. If your students have mastered topic strings, then the “strings” category could be replaced with a problem-framing paragraph in which students identify the status quo, destabilizing condition, costs and benefits, resolution, etc. And this exercise need not be saved until the end of term: if you are playing at the beginning of the semester, then you can select categories addressing concepts which have already been covered.

- If the number of questions precisely matches the number of students, have students sit down when they answer a question to ensure that everyone gets a shot. (Alternatively, having students stand until the game’s conclusion will keep them in suspense, since the ball could be passed to them on any turn.)
- If you are playing at the semester’s beginning, use a mini-version of this exercise as an ice-breaker, and have students call out each other’s names as they pass the ball.
- Break students into teams. For an added twist, suggest that each team will decide which question the other team will answer.