HANGMAN – When they won’t participate

English: Hangman - Step 12 Català: Penjat - Pas 12

English: Hangman – Step 12 Català: Penjat – Pas 12 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the more interesting moments in a class is when you ask the students to participate in the discussion by asking them a question and expecting someone in the class to respond with the correct word, name, definition, etc.  As a professor, you “know” that several of the students either know the answer or can make a reasonably good guess at it.  However, the students know this as well.  This leads to the delayed awkward silence in the room.  No one wants to answer and everyone hopes that someone else will take the chance at answering the question.  What is a teacher to do?

If you try to wait out the students, then it becomes a battle of wills and valuable class time is wasted (not to mention it ends up making the teacher look silly).  If you give in and give the answer to the students, then you set a precedent, and they will expect you to do that every time.  So…how do you get the students to participate without wasting too much time?hang1

I learned this tip from a chemistry teacher at another school while I was at a conference.  He played hangman with the class.  He would draw the hangman’s frame on the board and then mark out spaces for the letters in the word/phrase/etc. that he wanted the students to say.  In this format, students had no problems guessing letters.  I suppose there is less fear of being “wrong” when playing a game of hangman and guessing a letter that isn’t in the word.  At any rate, he said it didn’t take too long before there was enough information to get the answer he was looking for.

hang2.2After hearing about this, I’ve tried it in my class on several occasions.  It works wonders!  Students indeed have no problem participating in playing Hangman.  Usually one of two things will happen in my class.  The first thing is that many students will shout out letters at one time, eager to play the game.  However, the most common outcome of this experience is that I usually have a student guess the correct answer just by the blanks on the board….before a letter is even guessed. hang2 My thinking is that these students were “pretty” sure that they knew what the answer was, but didn’t want to be wrong.  Seeing that the blanks agreed with the word they had in their heads was a confirmation to them, and they were willing to participate.

At any rate, this little tip only takes moments and does get the students to actively participate in the class.  Give it a try!



2 comments on “HANGMAN – When they won’t participate

  1. Brian says:

    Fun! B

  2. Pat shared this trick at a PD session some time ago, and I have used it ever since. A&P has so many long, hard-to-remember terms! We have opportunities to play almost daily, and Hangman has become one of the elements of our class culture. Students laugh when I make all the blanks for a real tongue twister, only to have someone come up with the answer just as I finish. I pretend dismay…I’m really glad when one of my bright stars knows the word.

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