Friday, November 21, 2008

Coordinate Plane Battleship Game: 2008 Edition

I was taught from my first days as a teacher that no matter how good a lesson is, there's always an improvement to be made. Everything is a work in progress, and nothing will ever truly be finished. So it should come as no surprise that I redesigned a successful lesson for the third time last week. That lesson was Sink the Sir, a Battleship-style game used to teach students the coordinate plane.

The previous version was designed to be me vs. them, with each of us taking turns firing at each others' ships. Their graphic organizer had a single coordinate plane with a domain and range from -5 to 5. This was their board, to keep track of their ships and shots fired at them. The enemy's board (mine) was displayed on the whiteboard, to make it easy to follow and to provide a clear model for everyone. Besides marking "hits" and "misses" via ordered pairs, they labeled parts (x and y-axis, quadrants, origin) that I used to give them hints as to where they might find my ships. Afterward, students did some simple problems for independent practice.

This year, with my "if it ain't broke, fix it anyway" mindset intact, I tweaked the game to address two problems, one of which was apparently only in my imagination. Sink the Sir was immediately rechristened Sink Mr. D (my current students don't call me "Sir" as my south Texas students did). First, the coordinate plane was too big, and the game dragged on too long without any hits. I followed my own advice and changed the domain and range to -4 to 4.

Secondly, I added a second plane to their graphic organizers, designed for keeping track of hits and misses against my fleet. In the end I had to draw my plane on the board just as I had last year, which made the changes moot. When I was reflecting on the game before last week, I wanted to recreate the experience of the real game more closely. I had thoughts of manila folders with two pages of coordinate planes facing each other on the inside, and then some sort of contraption to hold them open without making them visible to me. In the end I decided only to tweak the organizer, which while still ill-advised, was far better than what I had been thinking.

In this case, my old lesson was actually better, and I wholeheartedly recommend that version (with the smaller coordinate plane as discussed above). So as to not completely dismiss my hard work this time around, I recommend the 2008 edition as a good way to do student vs. student games (you could use manila folders as separators).

Sink The Sir (2007 version)
Sink Mr. D (2008 version)