Fraction Action!

The Basics:

Have four players stand in front of the audience.  Explain that each of them can represent one of three numbers for each round of the game:  1 (one),  1/2 (one-half) or 0 (zero).  To be a "1" the player simply stands straight and tall.  To be "1/2" the player gets on their knees, and to represent "0" they need to lie flat on the floor.  The leader will then call out a number between zero and four (half's included) and the group will have three seconds (or so) to form themselves, without speaking, into something that adds up to the number called.  For example, if the number called is "4" then all four group members need to stand as 1's, because that is the only way that a 4 can be made.  However, if a two is called the group will have to read each other and form into one of the many ways that a two can be made.  Perhaps they will all go down on their knees, or two players will stand and two will lie flat, or maybe two players will be on their knees, one player will stand and the last player will need to lie flat.  No planning or discussion should happen here.  They just need to start an action and then respond and correct the total as quickly as they can to get to the correct sum!  Remember, the student who stood straight is not wrong if the other three thought to get on their knees, it is the team's responsibility to adjust to each other!

To add more difficulty, you could incorporate 1/4 and 3/4 into the game.  Maybe by having students form into a ball for a quarter, and holding their hands up while on their knees for 3/4.  It makes it more fun to ask the players how to include quarters into the game and have them come up with this idea or a better one.

In the Moment:

This is a fun, active and effective way to review fractions within a classroom.  It also allows a group to act as a team, be aware of each other and change their response based off of 'listening' to each other.

Viola Spolin, one of the founders of improv theater, spoke a great deal about the concept of “following the follower.” An idea that in certain situations it is best for everyone to be so in tune with each other that no one is really the leader, because everyone is. This game done well is a great example of this idea. Everyone needs to observe and respond to each other to such an extent that they will all lead and follow at the same time. No one in the group can say “I am going to take the lead for this game” and no one can say “I am just going to do what I am told.” If they do they come across as stubborn or lost, and the game is likely to fail.

To get the most out of this game the leader really needs to focus on the team work aspect of it!  This is a game about making everyone else look good!  It is never a player's job to expect that other players will know what they are trying to have everyone do.  It is a player's job to be sensitive and watchful and always be ready to adjust to what the rest of the team does.  When all four players become followers, magic happens. So if a player says something like "NO!  We are supposed to all be on our knees!" the leader can remind that player that it is his job to adjust!  'If Susie decides to stand, its your job to think quickly and to adjust so that the group had the correct sum!  What could YOU have done to make it correct?'  or, "Don't tell her she was wrong, make it so she is correct!  It is always your job to make the people around you look good!"   Ironically, even though no one is allowed to talk, this is listening practice!

Corriculum Connections:

MATH:  Obviously, this is a wonderful way for an elementary classroom to review basic fractions.  It is fun, interactive, kinesthetic, and a wonderfully creative way to use "manipulatives.” It checks off so many boxes!

COMMUNITY BUILDING:  For older kids it is still a great way to practice cooperation and listening skills.  Being able to adjust to the needs of the team when needed is a very important skill to have!