Just a Minute!

It’s not every day that a little known BBC game show sweeps a Middle School . . .

“Just a Minute” is a British radio and television game show where players have 60 seconds to speak continuously about a randomly chosen and unrehearsed subject. They can be “challenged” by other players if they break any of the rules of the game, which are as follows:

- No Hesitating
- No Repetition
- No Derivation

So, while thinking about ways to work with the 6s on speaking and listening skills (or ‘oracy’, a word I just discovered, following ‘literacy’), the little known BBC game show leapt to mind. But how to modify for MSers?

I set up these rules for the 6s:

- Players are given a random subject to discuss for 60 seconds.

- Successfully talking for 60 seconds gets you 5 points

- Other plays can challenge you on each rule, and if your challenge is upheld, you gain a point. But you must listen and think carefully, for if you challenge somebody and it is overruled, you lose a point – to prevent students from just listening in order to criticize.

And I modified the grounds for a challenge a bit, since these are MSers, not linguistically fastidious Britons:

- No Hesitating – Short pauses are OK, but stalling for longer periods of time or second-guessing loses one point. Only a handful of ‘um’s, ‘uh’s, ‘yeah’s, ‘like’s, and other stalling words.

- No Repetition – Words and phrases are OK to repeat, but ideas should always be elaborated on, not just restated or repeated.

- No Derivation – Players must stick to the subject, with all tangents and asides connecting back to the subject in a convincing way.

Let the games begin! Here are some of the contestants performances:

Player 1
Random Subject: Evil

Player 2
Random Subject: Movie Posters

Player 3
Random Subject: Famous Painters

Player: Sophia
Random Subject: Naming Babies

And here is my attempt to take on NYC Soccer, Nuerons, and Minecraft for 60 seconds each – the students really enjoyed taking me to task for my hesitations, repetitions, and derivations:

Anyways, once the 8s saw it on the boards, they wanted to play too – and it seemed unfair to deny the 7s the chance – and so by the end of the day, the whole middle school had a new way to practice public speaking and thinking-out-loud and -on-your-feet.

“All the amazingly heavy pink pigs don’t fly very easily.”

Below are the results of our Two-to-Ten Sentence Game (which you can see in action here). What stands out to me is how well students tackled the real “hidden” challenge of the game – adding words and phrases to both sides of the subject and the main verb to create elaborate noun and verb phrases. What was apparent to everyone was how much a sentence can be twisted, turned, and transformed from its root subject-verb pair – the endless possibilities of sentence construction.

alltheamazinginglyheabypinkpigs

“Pigs fly.” -> “All the amazingly heavy pink pigs don’t fly very easily.”

theutterlystinkystupidbrattybeutifulflowers

“Flowers danced.” -> “The utterly stinky, stupid, bratty, beautiful flowers danced clumsily and sloppily.”

stacygobbled

“Stacy gobbled.” -> “Big, fat, yellow, grotesque Stacy gobbled her good food happily!”

sickbananasexplore America's capitol building very recklessly

“Bananas explore.” -> “Sick banas [bananas] explore America’s capitol building very recklessly.”

pinkzebrasflewelegantlybecauseofawierdstinch

“Zebras fly.” -> “Pink zebras flew elegantly because of a weirdly good stinch [stench].”

jeromeeatsbobbarfs

“Jeremy eats.” -> “Jerome Jeremy Smith eats delicious, nutritious flies very happily.”

iflypigsgobble

“Pigs gobble.” -> “The baby cat’s pigs gobble very stinky cabbage pie loudly.”

catsflykites

“Cats fly.” -> “All the cool blue cats fly blue kites very happily.”

Other sentence transformations:

“Water spills.” -> “Muddy, yellow, radioactive, infected, killer, explosive water spills backwards nicely.”
“Tim died.” -? Stinky, weird, fat Tim died tragically because of obesity and Alots.”
“Lemons screamed.” -> “Seven oddly shallow sweet sour lemons screeched calmly.”
“Pigs fly.” -> “The pig’s dumb babies fly very fast around and in America.”
“George smiles.” -> “Mr. Senator George Nevada never smiles very broadly nowadays.”
“Sally looks.” -> “Miss. Strange Stupid Sally Smith looks drastically well, strangely enough.

“All the amazingly heavy pink pigs don’t fly very easily.”

Below are the results of our Two-to-Ten Sentence Game (which you can see in action here). What stands out to me is how well students tackled the real “hidden” challenge of the game – adding words and phrases to both sides of the subject and the main verb to create elaborate noun and verb phrases. What was apparent to everyone was how much a sentence can be twisted, turned, and transformed from its root subject-verb pair – the endless possibilities of sentence construction.

alltheamazinginglyheabypinkpigs

“Pigs fly.” -> “All the amazingly heavy pink pigs don’t fly very easily.”

theutterlystinkystupidbrattybeutifulflowers

“Flowers danced.” -> “The utterly stinky, stupid, bratty, beautiful flowers danced clumsily and sloppily.”

stacygobbled

“Stacy gobbled.” -> “Big, fat, yellow, grotesque Stacy gobbled her good food happily!”

sickbananasexplore America's capitol building very recklessly

“Bananas explore.” -> “Sick banas [bananas] explore America’s capitol building very recklessly.”

pinkzebrasflewelegantlybecauseofawierdstinch

“Zebras fly.” -> “Pink zebras flew elegantly because of a weirdly good stinch [stench].”

jeromeeatsbobbarfs

“Jeremy eats.” -> “Jerome Jeremy Smith eats delicious, nutritious flies very happily.”

iflypigsgobble

“Pigs gobble.” -> “The baby cat’s pigs gobble very stinky cabbage pie loudly.”

catsflykites

“Cats fly.” -> “All the cool blue cats fly blue kites very happily.”

Other sentence transformations:

“Water spills.” -> “Muddy, yellow, radioactive, infected, killer, explosive water spills backwards nicely.”
“Tim died.” -? Stinky, weird, fat Tim died tragically because of obesity and Alots.”
“Lemons screamed.” -> “Seven oddly shallow sweet sour lemons screeched calmly.”
“Pigs fly.” -> “The pig’s dumb babies fly very fast around and in America.”
“George smiles.” -> “Mr. Senator George Nevada never smiles very broadly nowadays.”
“Sally looks.” -> “Miss. Strange Stupid Sally Smith looks drastically well, strangely enough.

Two-to-Ten-Word Sentences

The 6s start build up their sense of the sentence by starting with its two essential ingredients: the subject and the main verb. After practicing how to identify and use one-word subjects and one-word verb phrases, and understanding that each consists of a noun phrase and a verb phrase that can be extended indefinitely, students teamed up and competed to construct, word-by-word, ten different sentences by adding a word to each new sentence:

The results? Some seriously silly but structurally sound sentences!

Review: Anna on Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray

Between-shades-of-gray

The author’s grandmother was a Lithuanian refugee. It makes me wonder how much she took from her grandmother’s life.

Between Shades of Gray uses the perfect amount of detail. It doesn’t drone on in a long paragraph about how the prison camp looks. A lot of dialogue and a lot of violence, but it tells a story that is grittily realistic:

An NKVD officer dragged a barefoot woman in a bloodied hospital gown down the steps. ‘My baby! Please don’t hurt my baby!’ she screamed. Another officer walked out, carrying a swaddled bundle. A doctor came running, grabbing at the officer.
“Please, you cannot take the newborn. It won’t survive!” yelled the doctor. “Sir, I beg you. Please!” The officer turned to the doctor and kicked the heel of his boot into the doctor’s kneecap.

You will grow attached to a lot of the characters, but a lot of them die really quickly. Right when you get to know them well – BAM! – that lady got shot – BAM! – that guy died from scurvy. However, it is effective at providing that feeling when you lose someone. You just have to move on.