So when something does actually sink in, it's such a good feeling.
Each year, I teach the kids several math games that they can play individually or in pairs. These games are essentially just skills practice (addition/subtraction/place value/number sense), but skills practice that is far more fun than problems on a worksheet. When I'm working with students who need extra help or pulling small groups, students who finish their independent math assignments can fill any leftover time by playing a math game. To get these game centers working well, the first month or so are spent building the procedures and basic game play rules. I spend a lot of time wandering around, monitoring behavior, and answering questions when they arise with the hopes that after that time the kids will be independent and I can begin working with students who need a bit (or a lot) more time to grasp a concept after it is taught. Not having "stuff" for the early finishers to do is a death sentence to behavior management, so these games are a life saver for me. During that set up month, I hear the the same cheer after winning a game, "Miss Delight! I won Maria (or fill in the losing student's name)!" We have MANY discussions that go a little like this, "You can say you won the game or you beat Maria at the game. If you win Maria, you get to take her home as a prize." And they roll around on the floor giggling at that thought. A day or so later, I will hear the same cheer and this time ask, "You're taking Maria home as prize?" "Nooooooo," they laugh. And the confusion between winning a game and a person continues for quite some time.
Then, just today, two of my fast finishers (we'll call them Danny and Lucas) finished up a dice game. Danny called out, "I won you!" to Lucas. I was working with a small group so decided to ignore it for the time being when I saw the boy sitting next to them lean over and say, "You didn't win Lucas, you aren't taking him home as a prize. You won the game, not Lucas." A smile spread across my face and I made an imaginary "Yes!" fist pump. It's the little things that get you through the days - especially when there are still two days until Thanksgiving break.