August Writing Updates!

August Writing Updates!

Hey, I’m getting pretty good at this bi-monthly update. I mean, this one is juuuuust under the wire but, fuck it. We’ll call that progress either for how organized I am or for blogging practices.

But, let’s get on to the updates!

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Last Rites: Starting with original content! If I can stick to my schedule, which I was doing really well with until I up and went to Vietnam, but oh well. Still hoping if I have enough coffee and snacks tomorrow I can finish the middle portion of this. It’s really close to being done. I have most of the major scenes written, not it’s just down to the details.

Next month is slotted for redoing the ending and having the whole thing coherent enough I stop picking at it. So by the end of September I hope to have Last Rites complete so it can sit for a minute.

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Starting in October, I’m getting back into my middle grade story Charlatans. I still love this concept and I’ve reworked the character and her motivations and fixed the storyboarding. The biggest challenge for this story is the word limit which I’m stalwartly ignoring until I have it finished. October I’m looking at getting from the beginning to the mid-point.

If things go smoothly, I might finish it. But all that will depend on my work schedule and whatever else comes up in life. Also, this is the youngest I’ve ever written so making the situations believable as well as reasoning chains and choices are a challenge to me. But I haven’t done much with Charlatans in three or so years and I’ve re-storyboarded the beginning so maybe it will be easier now that I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

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November kicks off NaNoWriMo so I’ll be coming up with another idea to work on during this month as well, which should be fun.

This month is jam packed with writing. If I don’t finish Charlatans I’ll be doing it this month, I also have a fanfic writing schedule and one of those stories should also be completed this month. Honestly, I’m looking at writing 150,000+ words this month if I stay on task and get done what needs to be done.

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December is an Editing month, I’m going back and editing Last Rites and will hopefully like it enough to send off to my betas for critique. This is also the month I’ll be working on my synopsis and query for Last Rites. If I can stay on schedule and get edits done and back my goal is to start querying agents when I get back to the States sometime in April.

January is another editing month. I’m looking at getting Charlatans edited enough I like it to send off to my other betas. And if both stories come back and I get edits and rewrites done during this month, I’ll swap betas and resend.

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February I’m diving headfirst into a story I started for NaNo a couple years ago about Death and his bounty hunters. It doesn’t even have a working title yet, but the story’s climax is right here in China so I figure my last month of teaching here would be a good time to get started on that.

If I like whatever I come up with for NaNo I’ll also be pecking away at that during February as well. But who knows. Last two NaNos I haven’t been really thrilled with the concepts and they’re just sitting in a file.

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And for those of you here about the fanfics!

August I’m looking to get another chapter done, like, this week. I wanted three chapters done this month, but I think two is a good start. Like I said last update, the story is starting to get kinda heavy and I’ve been dragging my feet getting it done. There are eight chapters left with what I currently have outlined so September I’m looking to wrap up Monster.

And then I think I’ll find a fluffy story to write because sometimes I even depress myself with the shit I write.

Has anyone ever written Ratchet/Prowl? I don’t think I’ve seen that. Maybe I’ll write that.

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Anyway! October, I will be devoting time to Breach and hopefully get about 50,000 words written for that which should put us right at a good cliffhanger. I’m hoping to finish Breach in November, but again, that will depend on my work schedule, how far I get in my original writing, and what my NaNo project look like. In my writing hierarchy, fanfic comes second to original content. So it could well be December before I finish it.

I’ve gotten myself out of the quagmire though and I really like how Red Alert’s character works in this one. The ending for this one is probably the most nail biting one I’ve ever written so I’m really excited for you guys to see it.

oOo

If I do finish Breach in November, the next story is coming from the Street True AU and we’re going to learn more about Tracks! Tentative title is Nightmare and, as it’s storyboarded now, it won’t be as long as Master’s Apprentice so I should be able to finish it in a month if my work schedule isn’t weird.

This story should start to answer some questions about how the war started and who/what Helios and the Prowler crew are. Also, it will give more clarity to the first couple of chapters of Master’s Apprentice and Ratchet’s odd reflection on his choices and why he goes to hunt down Blaster. This one is definitely more political than Master’s Apprentice and gets deeper into how the war was fought, how it is fought, and what happens to the soldiers that fight in it. It’s pretty heavy, but Tracks’ story is a keystone storyline.

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And *drum roll* January, I will be starting the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam. Still not sure what the title will be but I am certain there will be plenty of angst and H/C. I have a couple of key scenes written and already love this one more than WtLOR. I’m so excited for you guys to read it. This one is definitely going to be long so I’ll be working on this through February and March.

 

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After February, updates are going to be slow for everything as that’s the end of my contract here in China and I’ll be traveling around both here and a couple other countries as I make my way back to the States. I refuse to do another 18 hour flight so writing time will be limited to…whenever I stop taking pictures and write I suppose.

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Adventures Abroad: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Well, well, well. Long time no see. I think. I don’t know. Time lost all meaning for me about July 16th.

I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam right now at a delightful hostel called the Skygon. I’ve been here just shy of a week and I am having an absolute blast.

Wait, what? Where did Vietnam come from?

Really, it surprised the hell out of me, too.

So August 1st, I finally was done with classes and sacked out on the couch with snacks and a week’s worth of Daily Shows to catch up on and a second viewing of Zootopia in my immediate future. I had zero plans for that day and the next day and the day after that and after that and so on and so forth. The only blip in this sea of nothingness was an expected visit from a friend who’s been living in Cambodia. And that was almost two weeks away. After that though, I was scheduled to go on a trip with the school to Qingdao. Initially, I’d been told my friend could come with me, so I was really excited about the trip. Then they reneged on that and said they couldn’t bring and unknown foreigner on a school trip. All right, I’ll grudgingly give you that. But I was significantly less excited about spending an regimented ‘vacation’ with my school knowing I would be on a shorter leash than I’ve had so far. And that shit has been short. And it would also cut my friend’s visiting time almost in half.

August 2nd rolled around and I had watched The Daily Show and Zootopia and I was looking around for something else to do when my friend posted a picture of himself at a little outdoor café in Ho Chi Minh City. And I don’t know what happened but, much like my decision to come to China, I thought, ‘Hey, flights to Vietnam are pretty cheap, why don’t I just meet up with him there and we can come back to China together.’

So I messaged him and everyone else down here making sure it was okay that I just fucking drop in like a paratrooper in the middle of their lives and it was. So by Wednesday, August 3rd, I had my plane ticket for a departure time on Friday. My school pretty well wigged out when I told them I was leaving for Vietnam in two days but not much they could do about it.

Friday morning, I woke up at 0300 for no goddamn reason and just decided to stay awake. I had a train leaving at 0700 to get to Xi’an which is about a three and half to four hour train ride and then from there I would have to catch the airport shuttle which would take about an hour and then my initial flight from Xi’an to Hong Kong left at 1550. And then from Hong Kong my flight to Ho Chi Minh City didn’t leave until 2200. Pretty straight forward.

Train left the station no problem. But we stopped on the tracks twice. For about twenty minutes each. We didn’t pull into Xi’an until 1215. The airport shuttle bus leaves every half hour. And of course it’s only like a ten minute walk from the station if you know where it is. Thank the gods for Tuk Tuk drivers, man. One of them gave me directions and then rode down the street next to me for two blocks until he pointed out the tiny, out of the way, im-fucking-possible-to-find-on-your-own station. I bought my ticket and slid into one of the last seats at 1232.

The bus didn’t leave until almost 1300.

Traffic was light, well, light for Xi’an, so the bus actually managed to make good time. That and the man drove like he was possessed, which, not complaining. We made it to the airport just shy of 1400 and I realized as I was walking in, I had no idea which airline I was flying on.

See, to get my ticket, I wanted to use my China bank account because my US funds are, LOL. But the only sites I could use for my China account were, of course, in Chinese. So my manager is the one who actually bought my ticket and then she sent me a screenshot of all relevant information, which was in Chinese.

So I asked the two guys at the door who are in charge of checking for bombs in luggage if they could get me to the right check-in counter and they pointed me with confidence to H. I walk up to the lady at H to verify that this is the check-in counter I need. Nope. She points me to G. So I scurry around to G and ask a lady there. She shakes her head and points me back to H. So I go around again to H and find a different airline counter and ask the lady there. Nope. She points me back to G. So I go to the other end of the Gs and finally fucking find my counter.

I get through my check in no problem. But while they give me my boarding pass, they don’t let me leave the counter because they want to verify that I can actually get into Vietnam. See, the way Vietnam visas work is that you have to fill out all the paperwork beforehand and get a letter of entry and then you pick up your visa on arrival. So I used an express service for my visa since I was leaving really short notice and they lumped me in with the nine other people they had on the same flight. The airline people thought this was quite suspicious that I had all these other traveling people on my official paperwork but I was a solo traveler. So I had to wait another half hour while they verified both with Vietnamese Immigration and the company I went with that I could indeed legally enter the country upon arrival.

1445, I finally get through security—where I had to go through “extra security measures”—and settle at a small overpriced café to finally eat something. After that, I boarded the plane.

And then we sat.

There was a storm en route and traffic control had us delayed to avoid it. I had a three and a half hour window between flights in Hong Kong, which I figured would be enough time to get through all the other security that goes with connecting flights. Only bonus for the delay was that I finally got to watch Captain America: Civil War. What a damn good movie.

So we land in Hong Kong and my primary goal is to find my gate and sit in front of it until I get on that goddamn plane because Holy Fuck this fucking day, man. And the lady at the directing others who had only minutes to reach their connecting flights tells me my gate hasn’t been assigned yet.

So, yet again, I sit down for some overpriced airport food. Although, the Starbucks black current slushie was really good. And Hong Kong has some cool ass money. I was going to ask the lady for smaller bills but there was a line behind me and I refuse to be that tourist. Hong Kong airport is pretty cool too. It has charging stations for your phone at pretty much all the gates so I just plugged in to one of those and caught up on my cracked articles.

With no other issues we finally board the plane annnnnnd the entertainment system is down and won’t be working for the duration of the flight.

 

But that’s why we have Ipods.

Finally, finally I arrived in HCMC at damn near 0100 and then I proceeded to sit for an hour while they prepared my visa. So glad I’m backpacking, because if I’d had checked luggage, I’d have left that shit.

I got to Skygon just shy of 0300 and met Jay, my traveling buddy, outside. Skygon is on the 12th floor of a 22 floor building and has incredible views of the city and river. It’s the cleanest hostel I’ve ever been in and the ladies are so nice. Really, if you ever find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, stay at the Skygon.

 

 

Sometimes, the ‘Right Thing’ Hurts

Sometimes, the ‘Right Thing’ Hurts

I’ve been in Vietnam eight days now. On the bottom floor of the building where the hostel is located there’s a tiny supermarket. Like the size of a gas station. They have, what Jay and I declared “The World’s Most Chill Cat” who lives in the supermarket. He’s awesome, he sleeps curled up by the ice cream cooler and doesn’t even crack an eye open when people pet him. One of the guys who runs the place picked him up one day like a sack of potatoes and put him over his shoulder and the cat didn’t twitch a whisker.

He’s freaking awesome.

But I went downstairs this morning to pick up some traveling toiletries and something was wrong. As soon as I stepped off the elevator I could hear this awful sound it was a low gravelly meow, like the sound was being piped through some kind of distortion. And there just past the door to the store was The World’s Most Chill Cat yowling and screaming that awful sound while tucked away in a small grocery basket. There was a small dog nearby so I figured, maybe World’s Most Chill Cat isn’t chill around dogs. And then the dog left. And he was still making that terrible noise. It was a noise of pain and fear. There are sounds you can hear from a block away and you know whatever is making it is in pain and scared and that’s what World’s Most Chill Cat was doing. He was scared and in pain and no one in the store really seemed to mind.

Walking up to the checkout I noticed the fur on his legs and belly was dirty and matted like he’d waded through a puddle. I tried to ask the guy what was wrong, what happened, but his English is limited to numbers and I only know three words in Vietnamese.

I can’t leave an animal in pain. So I crouched down to pet him and try to figure out if this was something I could fix. I thought at first he’d been hit by a moto and maybe had spinal damage. He couldn’t get up. It was like his front and back legs weren’t getting the same signals. He couldn’t coordinate his front legs enough to push himself up and his back legs only seemed to be able to kick. But while I tried to calm him I saw the lacerations on his front legs, the bite marks on his neck. He’d been attacked by something. Something bigger than him, and, by the looks of it, something that managed to bite his head hard enough to cause neurological damage.

I had a cat. His name was Oliver. He was my baby boy. He was terrified of everything, but when I was nearby he walked with a swagger and tried to bully the other cats. He was a dork and not the brightest crayon in the box, but he was my little boy.

I had to put Oliver down a year ago this month. He got sick. I don’t know what happened and I don’t know if I didn’t catch it fast enough to save him or if there was nothing I could have done to help him. All I know is that I noticed my fat cat was losing weight, fast. And when I took him to the vet they told me it was probably diabetes. But the shots didn’t help and the food didn’t help. And a week after that when I came home from work he was so weak he didn’t even protest when I picked him up and jumped in the car with him.

They could have done more tests. They could have given him steroids. But I didn’t have the money. I couldn’t afford to find out what was wrong with my baby boy. And he was weak and he was in pain so I did the best thing I could for him.

And I know he was probably a little scared when they gave him the shot, but he was so frail he couldn’t fight. But he tucked his head under my chin like he always did and I held him until his heart stopped.

I miss my little boy. And maybe it wasn’t for the absolute best, but it was the best I could do for him at the time. And that’s what owning a pet is. It’s doing the best for them, the best you can do, even if it kills a piece of you to do it. If that means giving them to a better home or giving them lasting peace, then that’s what you do.

But these people with The World’s Most Chill Cat, they are not taking care of him. They are not doing what’s best for him. There is no saving The World’s Most Chill Cat. The damage is too severe and human healthcare out here is iffy at best. There is no medicine or surgery out here that can save him. And if I can find the Vietnamese to ask them where to find a veterinarian, I will do right by this cat. I will do the best that I can for him, just like I did for my baby boy.

Teaching Games!

Teaching Games!

Ah, sweet, sweet summer break.

Holy hells, I am exhausted, but my brain refuses to sleep, so I figured I’d check in with all you fine people.

Anyway, I said way back at the beginning of the semester that I’d make a list of the games I used in class to help out any other new teachers in over their heads.

*Waves to new teachers*

Warmers—Games used at the beginning of class to wake the kids up

  1. Blindfold: Super simple. Have one child come up and blindfold them. Then choose another student to come up and say “Hello, who am I?” They have three guesses and then you reveal.
  2. Dancing: You don’t even have to make up a dance. I taught my kids the Time Warp from Rocky Horror Picture Show and they thought it was stupid/hilarious. I also taught them the Soulja Boy Dance and that took two classes. *Dancing also makes a great low key disciplinary measure. For my older kids, I gave them each three warning for speaking Chinese, after that, they had to stand up and do one of the dances.
  3. Poker Face: Pull a chair up to the front of the room and have one student sit. Their goal is to not laugh for one minute. Meanwhile, the other kids can make faces, sounds, tell jokes (in English) or whatever else. I didn’t let my kids touch the person sitting, but that’s totally up to you.
  4. Hot Seat: Again, bring a chair up to the front. This time make certain the student sitting can’t see the board. Then you write a word on the board like ‘Lion’ and the rest of the class must describe the word without saying it. The student has three guesses and then it’s someone else’s turn.
  5. Number/Shape Clusters: Any class you’ve done numbers in you can do this game. Have all the students stand up and then you call out a number between 1-10 (let’s say 3). The first students to make a group of three gets a point. If you’ve done shapes (circle, square, triangle) it’s a great review for that too.
  6. Alphabet Bodies: This can be done with partners or as individuals. Have the students stand up and then either call out a letter or write it on the board. The first person/pair to make the letter with their body(s) wins.
  7. Telephone/Whispers: This is an old standby, but the little kids love it, especially if you race girls vs. boys. If you don’t know, have the students make two lines. Bring the first person up and whisper a word to them and then they run back and whisper the word to the next person. The word travels down the line to the end and then the end person runs up to you and tells you the word. If it’s right, they get a point, if not, they have to redo it.
  8. Clap/Elimination: Really simple, X=Clap. Have the students count one at a time 1, 2, 3, X, 2, 3, X, X, 3, X, X, X. It’s like the B-I-N-G-O song. If the person messes up have them stand up and do a dance or another funny penalty and play again.

Vocabulary/Sentence Games—Games you can use in class for basic vocabulary identification or having students do controlled practice with new sentence structures. *All of these games are played with teams, I used two teams, but if you have big classes, they all work with multiple teams.

  1. Basketball/P.I.G.: Basketball is pretty straightforward. Have a ball and either a hoop or a small bucket for them to shoot into. I made three lines they could shoot from and based on the line they chose that was the difficulty level of the question. So a three point question I would ask them to make a sentence, a one point question they would have to identify a vocabulary card.
    1. P.I.G: This is a really popular game, sometimes called H.O.R.S.E. Split class into two teams and you can use the same line system as above, but this time if the student misses the shot, their team gets a letter. For the older kids I equivocated the number of letters with the line they shot from—three points=three letters. I also used vocabulary words instead of Pig or Horse.
  2. Ball Hop: This is by far the most versatile game I used. Get two balls and draw a line at the back of the classroom. The students hold the balls between their knees and then hop to you. First student to give you a high five wins, the second student must identify a vocabulary card.
    1. Variation: Same game as above, but they hop directly to the vocabulary card you or a student calls out. First one to tag it wins, the other must identify another word and becomes the next student to call out a word.
    2. Cowboy: Draw a line closer to the front of the room. Place flashcards at the back of the room. Students face the front and when you call out a word must race forward and touch the board/wall with their ball and then run to the back of the class and tag the proper vocabulary word.
    3. Hot Potato: No running in this one, but have the students make a circle. Place the flashcards in the center and introduce one or two balls. Have the students start passing the balls clockwise while you countdown from 10, 5, or 3, whatever you want. When you get to zero, say a vocabulary word and the two students with the balls have to jump forward and tag the proper card.
    4. Vertical: Instead of placing the flashcards horizontally in the back of the room, place them vertically and assign them point value—10, 20, 30, 40, 50—and bring up only one student at a time. Like ‘Cowboy’, draw a line close to the front of the room. As soon as you say go, begin counting down from five. The student has to run forward and touch the board before running back and tagging as many cards as they can while saying the words. Person with the most points at the end wins.
    5. Blocks: No ball in this one, but small foam blocks. Have students either balance the blocks on their heads or hands and either high five or tag the vocabulary card directly.
  3. Chopsticks: *If you’re not in a country with chopsticks, I don’t think this will be an effective game, but you might be able to use spoons.* Get two sets of chopsticks and a couple foam blocks. Set the chopsticks on top of the blocks and draw little circles around them so students put them back in the same place. This game is awesome for practicing prepositions—on, in, under, between, in front of, next to—but if you just want them to find the correct word it’s great for that two. So you give them a word and they run up and touch the card with their block while repeating the word and then they have to run back and reset their block and chopsticks. First one to reset wins.
  4. Castles: Get some building blocks and give each team a place at the front of the room to build their castle. I tell my students the castles must be at least three stories, otherwise they’ll try to cheat and make them one level. Once castles are done, have students either sit or line up at the back of the room depending on class size, and ask them questions. If they answer correctly, they get a ball and try to knock over the other team’s castle. You get the best castles and reactions if you don’t tell them at first you’ll be knocking them over.
  5. Musical Chairs: There is actually no music involved here, but I couldn’t think of a better name. Have students make a big circle with their chairs and put one in the middle. The rest of the class asks them a question and the middle student answers. Once they give a preset answer (i.e. “I’m wearing a red hat.) All the students have to get up and change chairs. Whoever doesn’t get a seat is new student in the middle.
  6. Connect 4/Tic Tac Toe: These games are excellent fillers. Connect 4 is just like Tic Tac Toe/Knots and Crosses but they have to match four instead of three. On the board draw sixteen squares and write in their vocabulary along with four or five penalties—again, my favorite one is dancing because the mortification never ends—and have them make sentences with whichever word they want.
  7. Ostrich: Draw a big circle on the floor and select two student. Each one holds a flashcard behind their back. Their goal is to see and say the other person’s card without being seen themselves. Make sure students understand before the game starts that telling their teammate the other person’s card gets them a point penalty. That includes saying it in their native language as well.
  8. Red Light/Green Light: Have one student stand up at the front of the class with two flashcards. One means Go, the other means Stop. Have the other students line up at the back of the class and either walk, hop, or dance when they are allowed to Go. When the card changes to Stop, they have to freeze and say the word. The first person to reach the cardholder becomes the new cardholder.
  9. Maze: This game is for older kids who are working with directional words. On the board draw a small maze with four or five vocabulary words scattered about. Blindfold one student and give them a pen to draw with. The rest of the team must give them directions to the specified vocabulary word.
  10. Pictionary: Another great game for “What is it?” or “What does s/he/it look like?” Have the students come up and draw animals or people on the board. The rest of the class asks them questions about it and the artist answers.
  11. Board Games: Ahhh, these are amazing. This is a catchall for any game you can draw on the floor or on the board. Get a dice and some little blocks as markers for the teams and let the kids play. They have to answer a question before they roll but they really enjoy these. I had one game I called Mountain Climb where I drew a rough mountain on the floor and made several penalties like Rock Fall, Lose Turn or detours that sent them back to start or bonus trails that got them extra points. I did a shipwreck one where they started on a boat and had to swim to shore. If they landed on a shark they lost a life. Then they had the option of being saved by a mermaid and gaining extra points or getting sucked up in a typhoon land losing their points based on what they rolled. On land they could be eaten by cannibals and lose their points and another life or they could climb a mountain and have an eagle steal their points or get lost in the jungle and lose life and points to tigers and monkeys.
  12. Bag Toss/Cornhole: Get a small bean bag and draw a line at the front of the room. Place the flashcards in a large triangle formation with the closest ones being the lowest points and the farthest one the highest. Students have to identify the flashcard before tossing or make a sentence with their intended word.
  13. King and Queen: Get about a dozen previous flashcards to add to their current lesson’s cards. This game only works with two team, any more than that and it will be a mess. Choose one person from each team and have them secretly choose one flashcard at random. These are your Kings/Queens and they sit on their ‘Thrones’ at the front of the room. They’re not allowed to show or tell anyone what card they choose. Once they put the card back shuffle them and spread them out in the back of the room. Choose another person from each team to be the card selector. Their job is to just pick up cards. Once they do, they need to ask the target question: “Is it his_____?” and then the game proceeds like Whispers with each person on the team asking someone the question until you get to the monarch at the front. They say Yes or No. If Yes, that team wins. If No, the card runner selects a new card and the game begins again. Again, make certain you tell them not to cheat in their native language before the game starts and they know everyone has to ask and answer the question. They can’t just say “Lamp” and pass the card down, they have to talk.

 

Phonics Games—Phonics is fucking boring for everyone. But, the kids remember more if you make a game out of it.

  1. Stomp/Clap: Let’s say our two sounds are /b/ and /d/. /b/=Stomp, /d/=Clap. Write a rhythm on the board like B B D B D B B. Have the students practice a couple times and then call on individuals to show off. Don’t forget to have them make the sounds.
  2. Kung Fu: All right, if you have a rowdy class, skip this one. Make it very clear from the beginning if they intentionally hit anyone they don’t get to play. Have them line up facing each other. Let’s keep up with our /b/ and /d/ example: /b/=Right high punch, /d/=Left high punch. Again, make up a quick little pattern: B D B D B D B B and have them say the sounds.
  3. Tongue Twister: My kids loved tongue twisters. “Betty Botter bought a bit of butter” was their favorite. They liked to race each other and race me. If you do this, remember, words aren’t really important, make sure they’re making the right sound. Ones my kids had problems with were /s/ and /sh/ and /r/ and differentiating the vowels.
  4. Chair Race: Place two chairs at the front of the room and mark one /b/ and one /d/. Have two students at the back of the room and then call out a word. Instead of running, have them skip or hop because they will not hesitate to tackle each other to get to the write chair.
    1. Ball Drop: At the front of the room write /b/ and /d/ in separate circles. Just like the vocabulary Ball Hop, have students but a ball between their knees. When you call out a word they have to hop to the right circle and drop the ball.
  5. Which Wall: Assign one side of the room /b/ and the other /d/. Have students stand in a line in the center and when you say a word, they hop to the appropriate side of the room.
  6. Basketball: Have two hoops or baskets, one /d/ and one /b/, choose two students to come up to the free throw line. You say a word and they choose the basket. This game is by far the most popular because you can up the difficulty level by having several point lines or by having them say a word before they shoot.

 

Those are the greatest hits from this semester. After next semester I’ll add whatever else I come up with. Hope this helps, happy teaching!