Can We Play a Game Today?

I had a student in my first year of teaching who would ask me this without fail, several times a week.  (This was the same student who, on standardized tests, used to "race" other students to finish as quickly as she could, filling in bubbles without even looking at the questions, so her academic standards could be rightly called into question.)  After politely declining, then ignoring her, I finally came up with a great comeback: "Sure, Grace.  Come up with a game that helps me teach the lesson for the day, and the class is all yours."  The queries stopped shortly thereafter.

Grace's desire for fun extends to all students, though -- including the brightest ones.  If you can think of a way to make it fun, you can guarantee the students will remember more information for longer than if you'd just lectured and given a quiz.

The appeal of games spreads further than the classroom.  Last weekend I threw a baby shower for my goddaughter Juliana, who recently had an adorable little girl.  Juliana is very reserved, especially in large groups (there were about a dozen ladies there), though she sometimes lets me see her more fun-loving side.  I wanted to find a game that was fun (no word searches; no blindfolded diapering) and would let her be the center of attention without putting her on the spot.  Since a few of my cousins and I had played Scattergories at a wedding the week before, the idea was fresh in my mind.  I decided to create categories based on pregnancy and birth: "Items Found in a Diaper Bag," "Unforeseen Expenses," and "Nursery Rhymes."  Then I made another set of categories that had to do with Juliana herself: favorite foods, things she likes to do, places she and her fiance have been together.

I thought it would be fun, but I had no idea how fun.  People loved it.  Scattergories encourages you to manipulate phrases; if the category is "Nursery Rhymes" and the letter is B, you can try to get away with "Bo Peep, Little," or you can get double points for alliteration, like "Bye Baby Bunting" (that came from my mother, who wins just about ever word-related game I've ever seen her play.)  Debates often broke out, but Juliana was the judge, so if we questioned anything she got to decide.  This became especially fun when we got to the rounds about her.  Things she enjoys, E?  Elevator rides, someone guessed.  Juliana wrinkled her nose: "No, I'm afraid of elevators!"

How can I make this into a teaching game?  Maybe review for the final exam?  "Things Lizzie Bennet loves / hates about Mr. Darcy?" "Ways Torvald controls Nora?"  Still working out the kinks, I guess.