I laugh at the term “friendly competition”. Like that really exists. Growing up I was always the struggling student. I was always the one who had a bright yellow slip on her test for parents to sign that indicated a failing grade. Yes, this really happened. Every. Single. Time. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that something clicked. I do not have to be the best at everything, but I will not go down without a fight. It became a game of numbers. Yes, you scored a much higher grade than I did, but what was the percentage of improvement? Which I now look back and laugh at as I hated numbers. Math was Satan’s way of reminding us that he does exist. Again, do not go down without a fight.
When I became a teacher, this odd competitive side did not leave. I wanted to challenge my students in everything. Teaching the concept of peer editing? Challenge the students to bring in their favorite song and have them edit it. Figurative language or poetry? Again, have them bring in a song and have them describe the figurative language being used and what the “poet” was really saying or meaning. Having a food drive? Don’t let the goody-two-shoe 6th graders beat us!
Competition in the classroom can be a good thing, when done correctly. Yes, you may have that student who shuts down when competition rears its head. It is your job to figure out a way to make this competition have less of a competitive feel for that student. After taking a standardized test, my students’ brains were fried and I knew moving on with my lessons would be useless. I decided to challenge them to a “friendly game”. I told them that if they played me and finished a game of Words with Friends or Trivia Crack I would give them a free homework pass. I had about 12 students from that period class take me up on this offer. Every single one of them not only finished a game, but challenged me to another game and yet another. Yes, this took up some of my personal time, but my students would come back with these amazing words in their essays, due to using the word in a round of Words with Friends, or would make these wonderful connections to facts using something they learned from Trivia Crack.