This year, I am so excited to bring back a game I played with my French students years ago: The Amazing Race. If you are looking for a fun activity to consolidate student learning, this is a great way to motivate your pupils in the last few days, easily adaptable to any subject or unit.
The challenge that I had the first year I tried it was determining how to make equitable ‘teams.’ I was concerned that by letting students choose a partner, the group project mentality of “don’t pick _____ so we aren’t last” would come out and two top students would dominate the standings each day. Sometimes putting kids into pairs based on “close or similar” levels can work (e.g., and A and B student, a B and C student) and eliminate the compulsion for extroverted students to dominate an activity or the frustration or a student with differential learning needs who can’t keep up with the partner. In the actual Amazing race seasons, there are tasks with various skills needed so the idea is for students to see that everyone has a strength that can be used at some point in the ‘competition.’
I also try to put in some elements of the show that give the students a chance to show good sportsmanship. One year, a particularly strong team finished in a round with an “express pass” that could be given to another team to get a head start the next day. Instead of choosing another friend pair, these students graciously gave the pass to a classmate that had found the last round challenging because “we know that he tried really hard.” I like to think that this small act of kindness showed him that like in the Olympics, there are moments for competitors to demonstrate that winning with the right attitude can be just as important.
Every year when there are Field Day or other end of the year events, I try to encourage students based on a story I heard a father tell at the memorial service for my friend, who passed away while we were still in high school. The father told a heartwarming anecdote of how his daughter, who had petit mal epilepsy, chose to compete in a foot race and came last due to a lack of physical coordination. Watching tearfully as the medals were handed out, one of the coaches took her aside and explained that instead of coming last, she had really come seventh: because there were many other students who had chosen not to participate. Whatever the reason for sitting out the race, even if they were ahead of her with physical skills, she had demonstrated that by showing up she was willing to do her best for herself intrinsically. Years later, this is the attitude I try to instill in students: if you just show up, sometimes that can be enough to prove that no matter what day you are having, you have done your best. And yes, this is naturally something I think about in my teaching philosophy as well.