Teach Smarter Not Harder ELA Lessons

Teach Smarter Not Harder With This Fun ELA Activity

Are you ready to teach smarter, not harder, and achieve the perfect blend of fun and rigor for your students all while taking back your time outside the classroom? We thought so. We’re excited to share a game-changing idea that will help you fall in love with teaching again!

One of our favorite ways to ensure you cover all of your required standards and not spend hours planning is to utilize the strategy of spiraling skills. We’re excited to not only explain why this is such an important skill but also to share an idea for an engaging activity you can use within your Narrative Writing Units throughout the school year! 

What is a Spiraling Activity?

Spiraling curriculum or activities is most commonly done in math, but we have found that incorporating it into your ELA classroom has infinite benefits for your students and you! It’s the only way to ensure that your students will master a concept and save you valuable time when planning. Just like when playing a sport or learning a new instrument, you can’t simply learn something new and then never practice it again then expect to win the big game or perform a solo! You need to practice your skill multiple times before you master it! The same concept applies to your ELA skills. Your students will always need to practice what you’ve taught them throughout the year in order to actually comprehend and improve their learning. Spiraling a skill will keep the concepts fresh and give students consistent practice! 

One of our favorite ELA review activities.

Our Favorite Spiraling Activity: MASH

Do you remember as a kid playing the game MASH? The game where you would predict your future husband, how many kids would you have, and where you will live? (Unlocking core memories!) Well, our curriculum team thought it would be really fun to use that concept of MASH, the nineties slumber party game, and use it in a narrative writing activity with your students. We’re going to walk you through how you can set this game up on your own and use it tomorrow as a great way to review the skills you’ve covered in class!

This is a great ELA review game.

To get started, you will give your students a “MASH board”, a basic graphic organizer that reads MASH at the top!

Now instead of MASH standing for mansion, apartment, shack, and house, in this version of the game, it will stand for completely different topics. So in this case, for narrative writing, you can have each letter stand for a different setting! For instance, M can be for a magical kingdom, A could be for Another Planet, etc. 

Traditionally, along the sides, you would pick your celebrity crushes for your future husband or your crush in class, but for this version of the game, you will have 4 different Narrative categories. One category might be Dialogue and you’ll list four different pieces of dialogue that may get chosen to be used in a story. In another category you may have conflicts, and in another characters.

Once you have different categories around the board, full of possible options, you’ll have students partner up! They’ll begin by drawing their spiral in the middle of the board until their partner says “STOP”! Just like in the traditional game, they’ll then count the lines their spiral ended up having. This becomes their “magic number”.

Continue the fun by counting around the various options on the board, and every time they get to their “magic number” they cross off that particular category choice. Once there is one option left in that category, students will circle that choice and skip over it when continuing their counting. This process continues until students end up with one option per category!

Now the challenge really begins as students get to set off to create a narrative writing using whatever setting, conflicts, character’s name, etc they end up at the end of their game! This is so fun and silly because you’re left with a whole bunch of truly random settings, conflicts, dialogue, and characters that students need to turn into a cohesive story.

MASH is a great way to review ELA topics.

Here is where the true spiralling begins! As students work on their narratives, you will be reminding your students that they must include all the components of narrative writing that they’ve learned previously. Those are all the concepts that you likely focused on earlier in the year during your deep dive narrative writing unit. Students are now all set to write another narrative, as a spiral review to really practice their skills in a new way. It’s super fun because they’re playing MASH, and you can tell them all about how you played it as a kid; it’s just a really fun, engaging activity. 

Why Play Mash?

This MASH activity is such a great example of how you can actually have fun, and allow students the opportunity to still deepen their learning and work on rigorous content. You can play this game over and over again throughout the school year, and they’ll always have different categories to create their narratives around!

This activity speaks into so much of what we want as teachers, right? More engaged students who are actually excited to walk into your class each day without getting bogged down with all the negativity that often comes with writing an essay.

Play games with your ELA students to review concepts.

When your students are excited to be at school and you are excited to be at school, what happens in the classroom is so much better for everybody!

Using a spiralling activity like this one can help you teach smarter, not harder. Instead of constantly creating new lessons and assessments, you can utilize activities that reinforce key concepts and allow students to continuously build upon their knowledge. As the end of the school year approaches, take the time to reflect on your teaching practices and consider incorporating the strategy of spiraling into your curriculum. By doing so, you can help your students master critical content and concepts while reducing your own workload and stress levels.


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Then, pick the date you’re going to teach it in your classroom, and sit back while you watch as your students show up to your classroom pumped about what the day holds…and gush about your class to their parents on the car ride home!

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