Like Games? Be Repurposeful!
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As the holiday season approaches, gifts galore will be regaled on individuals and families – and often, those gifts are games. People love playing games around the dinner table and enjoying a good laugh, friendly competition, and mental and physical challenges – why not extend those experiences into the classroom? It's easy, and done by a lot of teachers. Repurposed games is a great way to increase engagement, promote collaboration, inspired critical thinking in the classroom. Here are a few low-tech or no tech ways to do it!

I was recently introduced to a fun party game called Code Names. In the game, two teams are searching for eight of their own spies, known only to one of their teammates, the Spymaster. The spies each have a code name which is one of 25 words placed face-up in a 5 x 5 grid. Spymasters try to get their teammates to guess the spies by giving one clue word. The challenge for the Spymaster is to come up with creative connections with the code names so that one clue can lead to more than one spy being found. Imagine doing the same thing in a class for review of a unit, a semester, or the entire year in an curricular area. Students would have to make connections, work collaboratively with their teammates, and think about the class content on a different level. For example, the terms could all be about anatomy, the Civil War, or mathematical terms. In a self-contained classroom, the names could be a combination of multiple subjects – and you could even crowd source the students to make their own sets of names. Give it a try – once you play it, you won't want to stop.

How about the game Guess Who? You have probably seen it before – two competitors choose one of 24 faces, and through "yes" or "no" questions and process of elimination, players try to guess her/his opponent. You can do the entire game in a foreign language as a practical speaking activity, or you could change the faces to vocabulary words. Maybe you use images of famous individuals, or terms that deal with scientific or historical topics. You can even do the periodic table as a "Guess Who?" (or "What?") , as long as you change the location of each element! If you don't want to do it with the actual Guess Who board, it's easy to make a template for the characters, terms, or items that can be used by students.  If you laminate the board, kids can create their own and reuse the boards over and over again!. 

One of my favorite repurposed games is an age old favorite - dominoes (not the pizza - the game of bones)!  Create a series of dominoes with terms from a unit of study, cut them out, and have students create a domino chain by making connections between the terms.  There are no two identical chains, as students have the liberty to explain their connections as they match different dominoes.  I have used this as a collaborative assessment and review activity at the end of a Civil War unit, and it works great.  Don't forget the dominoes with a blank space - students can fill in anything that is relevant to the topic of study!


Got five seconds?  That's how long each turn is in Five Second Rule, a fun party game and certainly a blast for kids.  The premise is simple - you draw a card that asks you to say three examples of something in five seconds. For example, the challenge could be "Name three Disney princesses" or "Name three European capitals".  If the person can't name three in five seconds, the challenge moves to the next player - but no term or guess can be repeated.  It's fun, fast, and furious, as the players are all judges on what constitutes three correct responses. How would you do this in class? Easy!  How about "Name three prepositions", "Name three Civil War generals", or "Name three parts of a cell"?  Kids will see patterns and categories. And you can collectively compare and contrast the responses. This can be done as teams, in small groups, or simply as a warm up for class. Great times and creative thinking, all in just five seconds!

Certainly you have some repurposeful ideas of your own, right?  Please share them with everyone on our collaborative document, and tweet some if you can!  Hopefully you will get the chance to play some fun family games over the Winter Break.  If you do, think about how you can bring them into the classroom - and share your ideas!

Thanks for a great 2016! And thanks for being with us for awhile (this message marks our newsletter's 4 year anniversary!) We hope the BG Newsletter offers you some great ideas and platforms to integrate into your classroom.  Let us know what we can do for you via email or twitter.  Have the best of holidays, and Happy New Year in a few days.  Let's make 2017 the best year yet!
Chuck Taft - @chucktaft 
Copyright © 2016 The Bretzmann Group, All rights reserved.

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