The ABCs of Learning

Every high school student knows his ABCs, and that’s a good thing since those very ABCs are a good tool in allowing kids to learn in fun ways. A number of assignments I use require the basics of the English language, and here are a few I’ve used recently.

1) I had one of my classes choose a Greek/Roman myth to read outside of class while we read a play in class. Once the students choose their myth, they must retell the story using 26 sentences. The first sentence starts with a word beginning with an A, the second sentence starts with a word beginning with a B, and so on through the alphabet. I also require that the students include a citation for their source material, and the 26 sentences must be free of any errors. Not one grammar, spelling, punctuation, or content error is allowed.

They have 26 days to get the assignment completed perfectly for 100 points. Any error reduces the score to 50 points. One correct sentence a day doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Plus, the kids can turn it in to me for correcting as often as they wish. I put a check mark at the end of a line if I find an error, and the students’ job is to find and correct the error. I stop marking errors after I find a third one. It’s rare that a student does not get it done perfectly in that time.

2) I put students into groups of four and have the students write their ABCs down the left side of a page as if numbering the page. Then I give the students a word such as “said” or “good” or “bad” or “sad” or some other overused and simplistic word; they write this word at the top of the page, and I give the students 15 minutes to write down as many synonyms as possible for the given word. I sometimes make this a competition with candy bars to the top group, but I always collect the students’ lists and have my TA compile their lists into one master list which gets hung on the wall. They then have a master list of better words than the given simplistic starter word.

3) I have the students in their groups of four letter their page (as in #2 above) at the conclusion of a novel of study. Then the students are to write down any characters, traits, themes, locations, or other terms related to the novel that they can (all of which is written by the letter which begins the word). For example, after reading Julius Caesar, the students may have a partial list started like this:

  • A: ambition, alliteration, attack, Antony, allusion, antagonist, avarice, Artemidorus, allegiance, apostrophe
  • B: Brutus, beloved, betrayal, blood, body, bias
  • C: Cassius, Casca, Cinna, Crassus, conspiracy, coronet, commoners, Calphurnia, compromise, chaos, Cicero, connotation, constancy, climax

Again, the students turn in their lists, my TA compiles them, and the students have a massive study guide, one they generated without needing me to create it for them.

4 thoughts on “The ABCs of Learning

  1. Jim Mayers (@MisterMayers)

    I love this idea of creating this kind of study guide. I am a 10th grade English teacher who struggled teaching Julius Caesar this year, and I am going to do this with my upcoming study of Heart of Darkness. What a great idea!

  2. cmroberts1

    I love these ideas. I will be using them in my classroom. It would be great if you would include a picture (maybe of your list), so that I can pin this post to Pinterest. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


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