Playing Baseball in the Classroom -
A Flexible, Adaptable Game to Motivate Your Students
by David Slutz
You already know how effective games can be in the classroom. Games are popular with students because they break up the normal routine and give everyone a chance to have some fun. You will generally find that they all pay attention when you've got a little healthy competition going on.
I'd like to tell you about a game which I've found to be exciting for the students and also very successful in accomplishing my goals as a teacher. I'm talking about the game of baseball adapted to the classroom. It has the advantage of being something familiar so it's easy for them to learn the rules. At the same time you will find that it can be adjusted to your needs so as to fit different situations. If you teach a content-based subject, such as English, Science, or Social Studies, playing this kind of baseball may be a fine way to review and even teach your material as well as produce real enthusiasm in your students.
Here's how it works. You draw a diagram of a baseball diamond on the board and beside that you write the names of two teams so you can keep score. You also make a chart to indicate how many outs have been made and what inning it is. Then you divide your class into two teams, perhaps having them sit on opposite sides of the classroom.
I usually determine which team starts first by flipping a coin. Then you, as the pitcher, ask the first student a question about your subject. If he or she takes a long time answering then you begin counting strikes, perhaps allowing ten seconds between each one, until the player strikes out, and then you mark one "out" on the board. A player is also out if he or she answers incorrectly. On the other hand, if the answer is correct, that player goes to first base and you make a mark on your baseball diamond on the board. You then ask the second player a question, and if the answer is right, he or she goes to first base and pushes the first player to second base. Each question advances the players around the diamond by one base until the bases are loaded. If the next student answers correctly, then he or she pushes everyone else around the bases until the player on third base comes home and then that team has one run. You continue playing until that team has three outs, at which time the other team is up to bat.
If you prefer to control the noise level in your classroom, you could make a rule that says that nobody may talk or make any noise that might distract the player who is batting. If any player on his or her team makes noise, then the consequence would be for that player to be out. On the other hand, if someone from the other team was making noise, then the player who was batting at that moment would automatically get on base. Enforcing these rules will keep everyone silent and listening carefully.
You will see that the whole class concentrates on the questions as they are asked and genuine suspense develops as each player tries to answer and get on base. If you play this game regularly you will find that your students begin studying more so as to know the answers. Students who perform well are cheered admired. Thus positive peer pressure is at work and formerly indifferent students begin to wake up and apply themselves so as to make a good showing in the competition.
These are the basic rules of play, but you can make interesting variations if you wish. For example, you could ask each student what kind of question (or pitch) he or she would like. You could have four levels of questions prepared in that case. There could be easy first base questions, harder second base questions, very hard third base questions, and special home run questions. That way each student could participate at his or her own level, and the game becomes more interesting. An outstanding student could produce as many as four runs in a grand slam by answering a home run question when the bases are loaded!
Yet another possible variation would be to combine subject areas into one game. If you teach more than one subject, you could ask each student which subject he or she prefers, and then which level of question to ask. That is a good way to integrate areas such as English and Science.
After you have played this game for some time, you might ask the students themselves to prepare questions that would be collected to make a question bank. Any question contributed would include the answer and indicate its level of difficulty. This is a very good exercise in English because they practice writing interrogative sentences. It is also a fine way for them to study a chapter of a lesson because they look at the material in a different way. Instead of just trying to memorize content, they are trying to formulate questions based on the information in the book.
You would be surprised to see how fast an hour in the classroom goes by when you are playing this game and how interesting it is for the students. Why not try it and see for yourself?