Friday, November 22, 2013

Hot Potato

My new "hot potato"
Last weekend while out running errands, I saw a "Hot Potato" game at the Five Below store for $3.00 and picked it up thinking it would be great to use in the classroom somehow.   You see, us teachers are always, and I mean always thinking about school, our kids, teaching, no matter where we are or what we are doing.  The fact that I didn't know what or if I would use it didn't matter.  I had to have it.  

I tucked it away in my closet at school Monday morning, noticing the "Two AA batteries not included" notation on the front of the box.  That would probably be the biggest obstacle in using it in my classroom.  It wouldn't be the first item to sit in my closet all year simply due to the fact I didn't have all the pieces. 

I open and close that closet several times a day as I get out our classroom Netbooks, grab a piece of chocolate for myself, or search for paper plates or plastic utensils for kids to use with their lunch.  Kids being kids, they love to look inside and see all the very interesting things that "teachers keep in their closets".  After all, it is also the closet where I hide away the birthday gifts that I give to students that I purchase through Scholastic book order points.  I imagine it's a very magical closet to a kid.  It's the closet where, no matter what we are searching for, can always be found inside.  Yarn, magnets, paper bags, you name it, it's probably stored somewhere inside this closet. 

So, today, during indoor recess, I noticed the kids had a little ball and had arranged themselves in a circle on the back carpet and were playing a game of "Hot Potato".  
Hmmmmm.   Interesting.  We've had several indoor recesses already and not once had they played this game. In fact, in all my years of teaching I have never witnessed a game of "Hot Potato".   I couldn't help but wonder if one of them had seen the game in my closet and decided to organize a game today during recess.

So, as the kids were reading at IDR time, I came into the classroom, strolled over to the closet and took the "Hot Potato" game out.  Instantly,the class was riveted.  Their eyes got big and they mouthed "HOT POTATO" to each other.  I walked to my desk and opened the box.   

"Are we going to play "Hot Potato"? squealed one little one, bouncing in his chair with excitement.  

"Maybe," I answered.  "But I need batteries."   I pointed to the notation on the box.  

In a flash, one little cutie raced to my desk.  

"I can bring in the batteries on Monday!" he offered.  "I'll remember!" 

Such exuberance.  For a $3.00 game. I loved it. 

"Well," I began, looking seriously at the little boy at my desk.  "If you want, you could go and ask Mrs. Payne if she has a couple of batteries."  

I barely had finished the Mrs. Payne part of the sentence and he was out the door.   The students pretended to read as they waited for our little friend to return, suspended in anticipation. 

Withing seconds, literally, he was back at my desk, beaming ear to ear as he dumped the two AA batteries into my hand. 

"There!" he announced. "I did it!"  

The majority of heads smiled and bobbed up and down.  They wanted to play.  They hoped we could play.  But they weren't sure if I would let them or not.  In our busy day, there's not time for playing silly games.  Besides, I like keeping them in a bit of suspense sometimes.  So I told them to put up their books and their reading folders.  I explained that we would be reading our weekly Scholastic News next.    At this point they were torn, as they love Scholastic News (we use the Promethean board so it's interactive and has videos) but they also really, really, really wanted to play this "Hot Potato" game.  

But they are kids.  And I am the teacher - the one in charge.  So they dutifully put away their book boxes and returned to their seats.  They saw Abraham Lincoln appear on the Promethean - the cover of this week's issue.  And they are kids.  So they immediately were sidetracked with Abe and excited to see what was in this week's magazine.  

After we finished learning and reading the Scholastic News, I clicked on the game, a favorite with the kids.  It is a Jeopardy like game that lets the kids review the important elements of the week's issue.  I picked up the potato.  I clicked it on.  

"Hot Potato!  Ready?" it screeched.   

"Well.  Are you ready?" I asked the students, as the toy began playing a tune. 

And before they could respond I gently tossed it to a student.  He laughed and tossed it to another and on the potato went as the music played.  Suddenly the music stopped and we all froze.  

"You're up!" I told him.  "Go select a category on the board and answer the question."

They were so excited.  Although the game is usually enough to keep them engaged and on task, the hot potato was something new and fun.   

"Does this thing get hot?" questioned one as he quickly tossed it over to a friend.

Third graders can be so fun.  And so literal.

After the game, I put it back in "the closet" and closed the door.  It had been a hit.  It had helped make learning more fun today.  

This week, I've felt like I've been in the middle of my own "Hot Potato" game.  Being tossed back and forth.  Rushed.  Running out of time.  Afraid I will get stuck with the potato.  

Lucky for me, I work with wonderful people that are always there to help me keep the potato in motion.   And let me tell you, it is not easy some days.   

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