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Competetiveness in classes 
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Post Competetiveness in classes
A few words on introducing many competetive games in your classes. There are some good and bad points about it. Here are some of my thoughts about it:
Good points - creating excitement among students, giving your lessons some extra drama and motivating students to learn more
Bad points- those especially apply to weak students; when they lose too often they seem to be discouraged easily and no longer want to participate.
I'll give you an example of one group i took over after another teacher. After a few lessons I realised they hated some of the games we played (one was a simple memory game, where you need to find a pair among cards turned face down). When I asked them why, some of them said it's because they were always losing ( the previous teacher always asked them to count the pairs they collected and triumphantly announced the winner). I hate this feeling of being unsuccessful among my students so I always try make everyone the winner:). Here are some of the ways I try to make everyone feel successful:
- when i reward the winner with something, everybody gets the same reward; the only privilege of the winner is that he/she gets the reward first (could be a sticker, stamp, anything)
- sometimes the winners are challenged by the losing group afterwards. They usually ask them to make something funny and that's their "revenge" on the winners
- i introduce a lot of group activities, where there is no winner (or everyone is the winner, even better) and which forces them cooperate to achieve the goal
- i give a chance for everybody to finish the game (a board game, card collecting game, etc)

How do you feel about competetiveness in your classes and what are your ways to deal with it?


Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:46 pm
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sometimes, my students turn a non-competitive game into a competitive one. Some groups are really competitive but it helps them to really want to do the games or the exercises or whatever.
What I do is not to give them any importance to the winner and to prepare things that everybody can win. I always try to let different students to win and always act like if winning is of no importance. Of course, students think it is important but as I do not, they do not revenge as at the begining of the course with the winners. Now, they like to win just to win and the ones who lose just ask to play again to see if they can win. The problem is when we have to finish, then I am the mean one because I don't let them win :)


Tue Jun 12, 2007 6:09 am
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Post competition inhibits good learning
There is a lot of research about that says that competition inhibits good learning because the focus is removed from the learning to the need to win. The research says that co-operative learning with a common goal for all students to achieve is the best model for learning. The incentive for the students who would usually win games/activities is to teach/tutor those who would usually lose games and help them to improve for the common good. You know someone has truly learnt something when they can teach it to others. This also can lead to a sense of satisfaction and intrinsic motivation on their behalf.
I was rather skeptical about this when I first read the research as I saw competition as a way to encourage students to do better. However in competitions I was usually one of the successful ones so this was my personal perspective. Many critics argue that competition is a reflection of real life but I see it more as a reflection of modern economies and can think of many examples where it is unhealthy. Is modern society/the world better off or worse off with the increased levels of competition.
It was very difficult for me to truly try to remove competition from my Geography classroom and I try my best to remove it from my English classes here. Still working on it. I do feel that there is less conflict and that overall everyone is learning more.


Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:12 am
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Post 
Quote:
There is a lot of research about that says that competition inhibits good learning because the focus is removed from the learning to the need to win.

Thank you, Simon, for your words. That's what exactly I feel about competition. It's really difficult to get rid of it completely because the faster-better-more approach is omnipresent nowadays but once you success in at least some of the areas the benefits outweigh the effort; as you mentioned, less conflict, more satisfaction and focus on learning.
The best lesson i ever had on how it can really work was in one Montessori kindergarten with mixed aged groups. The older children acted as guides to the younger, turning all the competetive games to cooperative ones, where the focus was on how you do things not when or who is the winner. Brilliant, I think


Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:08 pm
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Hi there,

I like co-operative games and wish we could find more around (maybe on MES-English ?). For instance, instead of having to be the first one in order to win the game, why not try and find games in which all the kids have to cross the finish line in order to win the game. Maybe we could add some rules so kids can help each others and son on...
I know I'm not giving much here, but that's part of what I'm thinking about at the moment when I consider looking at games to use in class.

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Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:51 pm
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Hi,

Long-time reader, but first time poster. I guess that would make me a 'lurker.'

I just wanted to say that I don't have a degree in psychology, all I coming to the table with is my 3+ years experience as an English teacher in Japan. However, even if I did have a psych degree, I don't know if it would be useful in the Japan. Researchers are fascinated by how asian retenation differs from westerners. And, when I say 'asian,' I mean asian by culture, not by blood.

Anyways to the point of this post, for some unbeknownst and probably geekish reason, I find the topic of classroom competition vs. cooperation very intriguing. In my own personal opinion, I view these two ways of teaching as standing opposite each other, with a narrow fence in between. I believe there is a fine line between the two. Finding and walking on top of that fence, I believe, is extremely hard and teachers usually don't read the nonverbal of their students to know which method to employ. I've been struggling with this issue ever since I've started working in Japan.

As much as I've pitted competition against cooperation over the years, you can disagree if you want, but I don't think these two are mutually exclusive. Meaning, I believe they can both exist at the same time through the use of multiple point systems. I think point systems are great because it gives the student a goal. By giving the student a goal, you make English-learning a 'means to an end' versus English-learning the goal, which I believe is part of the problem with Japan's English education system. The point system goal is not to get more points than the other students in the classroom, but rather to complete the point card. This keeps competition strong to do your best at a high while shifting the focus away from competition AGAINST each other.

But, here's the kicker, you can overlay the individual point system with a classroom point system, where all the points of all the teams goes towards the classroom points. The points, then in turn go toward a goal of a predetermined point value, or you could pit classrooms against each other.

I use a point system mostly in elementary school, but can be adapted for JHS. The upper walls of the classrooms don't seem to be used in classrooms, so asking to use this section of each class shouldn't be a problem. There are many different ideas you can use but one method is to turn the walls into a space scene with lots of stars, while creating some bigger stars in stategic positions along the wall as point markers. The goal is to for the class' spaceship to travel through all the star to arrive at a planet the students have pre-created. If they can do this, tell them they can have a party. The part you leave out, is the party basically consists of all the most popular English games you've used in your class -- i.e., review class.

I do believe this method fosters individual competition but retains classroom cooperation, in my experience.


Last edited by patrick on Mon Jun 25, 2007 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jun 18, 2007 12:38 pm
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Post motivation to learn
I guess I see many other issues here as well. One in particular is "What is the students motivation to learn?" Is it intrinsic or extrinsic?
My own personal memories of enjoyable learning (from childhood and more recently) and therefore the activities that I would say have influenced my learning the most haven`t involved competing but have had a real purpose and motivation to me, and have often been co-operative in nature.
I have read research about this over the past few years and have tried to change the way I teach to encourage the growth of intrinsic motivation. I have been teaching Geography for 15 years with a three year stint teaching English in Japan as well, and back again for a couple of years. For me the key to this is providing a clear, and as real as possible, purpose to students learning. I think for us here in Japan where everyone must learn English that is a real challenge and where we need to be creative and invest time.
Of course if your teaching is motivated by results in tests then the type of assessing is a real problem and........ Another whole barrel of worms

For me providing rewards for achievement is a two edged sword. I used to give prizes but found myself in a cycle of needing to provide better ones to keep the interest going, thus making them the focus. I now just give praise and find that that builds enough excitement for my classes.

Hope this encourages some thinking.


Mon Jun 18, 2007 3:51 pm
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I like the idea of rewarding the whole class. Even if an individual is rewarded, the group gets the point and it has a bigger value for everyone.
I wouldn't though put too much emphasis on the reward system. As we all agreed earlier, it might lead to a situation where the focus is on gaining rewards, not actually learning... I much prefer to see my students enjoying the lesson itself. If they only learn to get a prize, it makes me feel like selling knowledge to them, yuk. Well, it's nice to have something as a prize but keep it symbolic and simple. And yes, praising works miracles.


Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:00 pm
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I don't know if I can hop completely on the bandwagon here. I think the true test of whether cooperative learning is better/more effective than competition will come once the pendulum swings the other way and we can test a class that has always been taught via the cooperative method and then are suddenly put in a competitive atmosphere. If we see failure then, then we can say cooperative learning is better.

Along with the good, there's also a lot of negative things that come from forced group interaction. Yes, if all of the students are nice and helpful, it's wonderful. But it can also be a breeding ground for bullying and other problems.

Not to say that I believe the competition is better, but we've only seen the one way effect. Has there been any literature about a montessory student doing poorly in a competitive environment?

I would argue, like Patrick, that they are two different beasts. I think competition in class is good, but just like all things in life, we need balance. A teacher needs to play to all of the strengths in the class and allow everyone a chance to accell. That's not easy to do, but a mixture of different activities is the route I go; competitive, cooperative, fast, accurate, knowledgeable, clever, and many random chance activities things that rely on rock-paper-scissors or luck. Patrick's suggestion of a class point system and everyone's involvement being relevant toward reaching a class goal is a great idea, IMO. In such a system, all the points count!

I'm not sure exactly what a cooperative activity is other than a completed group project. I've done plenty of those and the students enjoy them and get a lot out of them, but the shine does wear off (just like anything.) What are some examples and can you keep it both motivating and be of real recognizable value all the time? There must be times when the students are learning for learning's sake.

It may go against my own personality. I am competitive. Anyway, you all have sparked me to read further into this. I might try to find some literature on it.

As far as prizes and points go, I keep my rewards consistant as far as quality and quanity. I don't give out more for any reason and since I use stickers, charts and certificates, I just stick to those and try to always use similar ones. That keeps the students from demanding more :P

But, as the students get older, the physical rewards become less and less. The focus is turned more toward successful learning and doing through games and other activities. We still play games and there are still winners but at about JHS they don't need those stickers and points anymore.

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Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:34 pm
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Quote:
Not to say that I believe the competition is better, but we've only seen the one way effect. Has there been any literature about a montessory student doing poorly in a competitive environment?

I don't think there is, or at least i don't know any. What i've learnt from my experience is that montessori students (of course not all of them) are very focused on learning itself and they usually do good later at school, even if it's not a montessori one.
Though i have noticed that montessori works best till the age of 5-6. At this point children usually become competetive and it probably has something to do with starting the school and receiving grades.
Like you Mark, I also work on the variety of mixed activities, including the competetive ones, because I like my lessons being dynamic, interesting and using various methods. The reason for this is that students have different ways of learning and some methods successfully used with a certain group might not work with another. The point is that some children are very touchy on loosing. With every activity I do, competetive or not, i try to make them realise it's not about winning and beating others but about completing something and achieving satisfaction in doing things, even if their pace is slower.


Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:08 pm
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Post different children
Two of our children (girls) attended Montessori pre-schools in NZ. The first child enjoyed it a lot but the second didn't and opted to go to a kindergarten. She found the structure of Montessori too restricting for her. Both are quite focused learners and enjoy school.


Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:11 pm
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hansi20 wrote:
Quote:
With every activity I do, competetive or not, i try to make them realise it's not about winning and beating others but about completing something and achieving satisfaction in doing things, even if their pace is slower.


This is one of the most valuable things a teacher can teach.


Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:20 pm
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Post Competition is fine
I believe competition is fine, if they are all winners in some way. For Example, I played that `what time is it mr. wolf?` game i found on this site, and my wolf got 2 points, and the rest got 1 point. If you make it so that its many losers, or that the losers win too, then they wont feel discouraged.


Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:20 am
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Post Re: Competition is fine
SiegristRM wrote:
I believe competition is fine, if they are all winners in some way. For Example, I played that `what time is it mr. wolf?` game i found on this site, and my wolf got 2 points, and the rest got 1 point. If you make it so that its many losers, or that the losers win too, then they wont feel discouraged.


Exactly! As morbid as it sounds, losers are winners too! Siegrist, and a couple others, touch on a great point. Competition can be an effective method to promote classroom participation. But, too much focus on competition can send dangerous negative ripples thoughout the class if too much emphasis is put on it.

This is where I think the classroom strategy, the "all-4-one" strategy, counters the competiveness. Yeah, individual students or teams might have lost, but the entire class still must work together to try and accomplish the bigger goal. Let's say you are playing a game where you split the class up into six teams. The teams finish with:

Team #1 = 4pts.
Team #2 = 1pt.
Team #3 = 3pts.
Team #4 = 5pts.
Team #5 = 3pts.
Team #6 = 1pts.
TOTAL POINTS = 17pts

While Team #4 is that day's winner, the class on a whole receives 17pts to go towards the 'entire school year' goal. And, allowing the teams to add their own team's points to the 'ultimate goal' further reduces the competitive spirit.

That's my 2 cents...

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Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:25 am
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