Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ER Grammar Activity

At the end of September I had the incredible opportunity to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, GA.  I was inspired by all the teachers at this school, especially Kim Bearden, who uses creative teaching methods to engage children.  During a workshop, she encouraged us to transform our classrooms into different kinds of learning environments in order to bring learning to life for our students.  I decided to follow in her footsteps and turn my classroom into an Operating Room for a grammar lesson; my students worked on "sick sentences" in an activity that reviewed parts of speech, synonyms/antonyms, appositives, analogies, types of sentences, and punctuation.  Everything the students did aligned with our Shurley Grammar curriculum. 
This type of activity took a great amount of preparation and planning, with each child getting his/her own, unique "patient" to work on, but it was so worth it!  The students were completely engaged and really seemed to enjoy this lesson. 
When I was in college, one of my professors explained that we, as teachers, should try to engage as many of the students' senses as we can during a lesson (this helps the brain learn, of course), so I tried to do that throughout this activity. I attempted to create a visually stimulating environment that actually looked like an operating room--I covered students' desks with white sheets, hung white curtains, had bags of fluid and "blood" hanging next to plastic tubing, and projected a picture of nurses and doctors working in an Operating Room. The students dressed the part of doctors/nurses by wearing gloves, surgical caps and masks, and disposable surgical coats. I even dressed in scrubs and donned a stethoscope around my neck. While the students prepared for "surgery," I played sounds from my Promethean board that one might hear in a hospital--phones ringing, doctors being called over an intercom, machines beeping, etc. During the "operation," I played the constant beating sound of a heart. Finally, to alert the students that they had 1 minute left to work, I played sounds from an EKG with a flat line alarming them in the last 10 seconds. I initially gave the students 20 minutes to operate, but ended up have to extend the time a little in order for everyone to finish.
 My young surgeons, getting ready to go into the OR:
 Since there were no written directions on the patients, I clearly explained beforehand what the students were to do once they arrived in their Operating Room.  They immediately got to work:
 I circulated while the students worked and asked if anyone needed assistance.  At times, I would hear a student yell, "Dr. Bowman, you are needed in Operating Room #2!" when help was needed.  I encouraged them not to yell since I was making my rounds.  Once I was able to assist, I, of course, responded with, "Yes, Dr. ____?"  They loved this and it was so much fun to see them in character; two of them began using a British accent...I'm not sure why but I just went with it. 
The students were allowed to name their patients if they wanted: 
 Mainly, cutting and pasting were involved in this activity.  However, I did have students highlight the nouns in several sentences.
 Here's one patient--Harry--and you can see how I created him.  I wish I could attach the documents and share with you, but each patient was different.  I used an 11x17 size copy paper and hand drew the patients.  In the head area, you can see that I created fill-in-the-blanks for vocabulary words and definitions.  On the left arm, I created basic sentences and had the students glue down the correct end marks.  On the right arm, I gave a couple of analogies and had the students identify the types.  The legs had sentences listed in which the students were required to highlight the nouns.  As you can see, this student messed up on Harry's leg, so he needed a Bandaid.  Finally, the feet had synonyms/antonyms listed and the students had to identify them. 
  You could use this any way you want (or for other subject areas!).  I just put information on the patients that lined up with what we are currently learning about in our Shurley Grammar program.  This activity was a huge hit and I think the students will remember it for a long time.
Note: I used clothing racks to hang the sheets and enlisted the help of parents in order to get all the supplies.  I did go around to local hospitals and doctor's offices and ask if they would be willing to donate materials.  While some places couldn't give me everything on my wish list, I always walked away with something, even if it was just a bag full of tongue depressors!  The community was very willing to help out my class.  As I said, though, the parents were the biggest contributors.  They let me borrow the racks, sthethoscope, etc.  One mom in my class is a nurse, another dad is a doctor...so they were able to bring in lots of supplies to help make sure this activity was a success.  


  1. Wow! You invested a great deal in this lesson. It is such a clever way to engage students. A+ for the teacher!

  2. Where did you find the outfits for them? Super fun and cute!