Tag Archives: writing

Team Throw Downs

9th March 2015

2015-02-13 09.02.43

You know when you give an essay prompt to your students and you can just tell they are struggling to come with an original thesis statement or maybe a hook for their introduction? They are sitting there, staring at the paper and the paper is winning the contest. Or, when all of a sudden the lesson is flopping and you need a quick activity or competition to get them excited about the lesson or the content again?

I am sure I am not the only teacher who has these moments where they need to “wake up” their students and get their blood pumping. I want them to be successful but I don’t want to give them all the ideas either and sometimes it is a fine line with engagement as well. So, I modified this idea from Catlin Tucker who is just simply AMAZING and if you haven’t visited her site, you are REALLY missing out.

Basically, I anytime I need a quick small group competition, I call it “Time for a Throw down.” As soon as I start to play “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor through my classroom speakers the students know they are about to enter some type of throw down competition between groups.

Here is one example:

  1. I gave my students a handout with ideas for hooks to start their essays. I then assigned a hook type to each table. The students had 5 minutes (as a group) to come up the best hook (or attention getter) using their assignment hook type for their synthesis essay prompt.
  2. Then they typed it up using a padlet.com wall address that I set up and provided to them. Padlet walls are easily set up once you do it once or twice and can be created in less than one minute if you see your lesson failing and need to quickly save it.
  3. Once each table’s hook was posted on the Padlet Wall, I showed them on my projector screen and went through and discussed their overall effectiveness and tie in with the prompt. In front of the whole class, I critiqued their work and picked the best one and it was INTENSE in there.
  4. The winner got candy (2 pieces) and a clothespin to their team shield (see Motivation Clothespins) and the losers got a Dum Dum sucker (which could be a little mean spirited but they all thought it was funny – Air Heads would work too).
  5. It took about 15-20 minutes total and I was able to get some good results. I think the students felt more comfortable about using the new hook ideas in their essays as well. I also told them they were not allowed to use any of the hooks made in class so that also gave them another challenge.

***Below is how they turned out – the prompt was about using cell phones while driving.




XO. Brit

The Snark Off

15th February 2015



Around this time of year (middle of third quarter), most of my students have grasped some of my basic writing requirements through my lessons, reinforcement through student exemplars that I show in class, and well, practice, practice, practice. They are now usually ready to add wit in order to elevate their essay’s voice, style, and argument.

However, it is hard to teach sophomores and juniors how to be witty. Some students have natural talent for it but most do not. Thus, my esteemed colleague and I came up with what we call “The Snark Off”. The Snark Off contains some class competition, trophies, and lots of fun and in the end the students are able to practice being a little snarky in their writing, while still maintaining professionalism and a strong argument with supporting evidence.

Like the idea? Get the entire lesson with statements and sample paragraphs here – IT IS FREE.


  1. Begin by putting up a statement in front of the class and ask the students to silently brainstorm evidence that would defend/refute this statement.
  2. Ask for volunteers from the class to provide the evidence they came up with.
  3. Then, show them a sample (written by the teacher) that uses evidence but has a more snarky tone.
  4. Ask the students why it is more effective with the voice than just listing evidence points in a paragraph.
  5. Then have the student pair up with a partner and then find another partner pair that they would like to go up against (to see which pair can be more snarky on the same topic).
  6. Provide the double partner pairs with the same statement (the teacher will need to generate about 10 statements that will be used multiple times but obviously the student pairs will come up with different evidence with different voice so repeats won’t matter).
  7. Provide the rest of the hour for students to work on their “snarky” paragraph and tell them that they will present them tomorrow in class.
  8. The next day, have the pairs go up against each other and have the class vote (you can use www.polleverywhere.com to do the voting from their cell phones so the voting is anonymous and the results are instant but make sure you set this up ahead of time).
  9. The winning pairs get mini-trophies with chocolate in them (we got the trophies from Party City and the students wanted them displayed in the classroom the rest of the year).

The Snark off is a quick two-day lesson that will help your students with their voice, as well as, give them an opportunity to practice argumentative writing with source evidence.

Please post a comment with any questions and don’t forget to check out the full lesson plan with standards here.

XO. Brit

image used courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/stasi108/snarky/