Thursday, January 24, 2013


Balloon Categories

This activity requires a bit more prep than most of mine do, but I think it is a great way add some extra fun into an activity...after all balloons make everything fun!


String / Yarn / Ribbon: If you are using the same colored balloons then make sure to use different strings.
Sharpies : Again, this works a LOT better if you have different colors, however it would also work with just one color if needed. One color per group would work best.
Balloons: If you only have one color for ribbons you really need differently colored balloons.
Helium : I suppose this could be done without floating...but the floating really adds something to it.

  1. Blow up the balloons with helium (or without if helium is not available).
  2. On each balloon mark a different category. You want AT LEAST as many balloons as groups you will divide the students into. These can be topic based (Fruits, Vegetables, Animals, School Supplies etc), Alphabet (each balloon gets a letter), Parts of Speech (Verbs, Nouns, Adjectives) or anything. In my case my students are reviewing transition words, so we'll put the different categories: Addition, Cause and Effect, Contrast, Exemplification etc. I would also write a sample sentence e.g. CAUSE AND EFFECT: I like John _______ he is rich.
  3. Tie a ribbon to each balloon. The ribbon should be long enough that if it floats to the ceiling it can still be grabbed by your shortest student (or to add some fun jumping make the ribbons shorter). If you have differed colored balloons then the ribbons don't matter. If you have the same color then use different ribbons. 
  1. Divide the class into groups. I'd suggest partners, but depending on your class size this may not be possible. Ideally you want each group to have a different colored sharpie. 
  2. Explain to the class that you are setting a timer for 30 seconds (I like projecting onto the board). They have 30 seconds to grab a balloon, talk to their partner and write a word that fits the category (or in my case a transition word that fits the category and sentence).
  3. After 30 seconds they grab another balloon (this is why the different colored ribbons or balloons are helpful)  and repeat the process, only this time they have to make sure that they don't repeat a word that a different group has written. 
  4. If they can't think of a new transition word they simply re-release the balloon.
  5. Once all groups have had a chance at each balloon I give a 2 minute free for all where they can grab any balloon and write down more transition words that fit that category and have not already been used.
  6. At the end of the activity gather the balloons and as a class (without saying who wrote what) go over the answers. Does everyone agree that "Honest" starts with an O? Is "In the other hand" a transition word? etc.
  7. While you are reviewing the answers (as a class) tally up the points per group (via the color sharpie) give 5 points per correctly written word. 
Give the winners a prize (or bonus points, or let them pop all the balloons)  and congratulate yourself on a game well done!

As always I encourage variations!
  • No helium? No problem! Filling the room with balloons on the floor is fun too! (Though I do like the jumping and grabbing of ribbons effect the helium gives)
  • You can also alter the game completely and make it a game of "don't touch the floor" where each time they touch a balloon they need to say a word in the category. Sort of a balloon volleyball.
  • Instead of organizing via 30 second spurts you can simply give 5 minutes of free for all. A little more chaos, but if you have a good grip on your class it should be fine.
Any adaptations that you think would work? Have you done something similar with your classes? How was it?

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