A Project For Gerunds

The Olympics are a time for individuals and nations to display their great talents through athletic events. But what if there was a … um … less athletic version. Probably a less talented version, as well. For this project, students get to create and participate in a silly version of the Olympics. And since we’re covering all sorts of activities, this is a great opportunity for students to practice Gerunds.

The Prompts

Put your students into groups of two or three. Give each group a set of notecards, then ask each group to write down: 3 everyday activities; 2 things their friends, classmates, siblings, or pets do that make them laugh; and 1 thing they’ve always wanted to try (that should be true of at least one person in the group, but not necessarily the group as a whole).

Next, tell them that they’re going to use the cards from another group to design a few Olympic games. But before anyone exchanges cards, each group can write down three more prompts - anything they want. This is their chance to make things difficult or just absurd for their classmates. When everyone has finished, have the students pass their cards to the next group (clockwise around the room, perhaps).

Before you try this project with your class, you may want to check out this video on how to teach gerunds as though adding the -ing suffix to a verb turns it into a noun.

The Details

Students should now have nine prompts made by another group. Each group should choose 4 of those prompts to use. They then need to come up with the details for each of these events, and write them down on a sheet of paper.

  • History: Where and when did it begin? Does it have any cultural significance?

  • Rules: What do you do in this event? Is it about speed, accuracy, style, or something else? Is it an individual activity or a team sport? What is the point system? If there are judges, what criteria do they use?

  • Goals: How do participants train for the event? What is the current record?

Example: Shoe-tying began in Italy in the late eighteenth century and was borne out of fashion trends at the time. Women and men alike put a great deal of effort into styling their shoelaces. Those who were consistently elegant in their shoe-tying display would go up the social ladder, while anyone who regularly had sloppy shoelaces was often cast out. Today, athletes from around the world (or classroom) engage in shoe-tying, demonstrating great artistry in the laces display. Three judges award up to ten points for creativity, for finesse, and for stability. To date, only three individuals have ever received a perfect ten out of ten.

The Games

Collect the papers from each group, then select at least one event from each. Make a sign-up sheet with all of the events you have selected, but don’t write down anything except the name of the event; don’t revel any details of the events, including the rules or who designed it (exception: if it’s a team sport, let them know how many people are required for a team). Each student should then sign up for two events, and they cannot be the events they prompted or designed.

Then the games begin! Go through one event at a time, calling up the participants, then finally explaining the rules. If judges are needed, the students who designed the event can be judges, or you can select others. The rest of the students can be spectators, cheering on their friends. The participants should then act out the activity. If possible, actually do the activity (like the shoe-tying example), but if the activity could be dangerous, requires special equipment, or has other complications, the students should mime the activity.

Feel free to take pictures, hand out awards, or whatever else you’d think is fun!

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For more on Gerunds, check out our Verbals Series. Gerunds look like verbs but act like nouns. They are usually activities, not actions. The trick is to think of the -ing ending like another suffix that alters the word’s part of speech. Watch our short video to learn more. You can even go beyond the video with printouts, slideshows, and grammar guides, all designed to help teachers better reach their students!