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My husband’s family is extremely competitive, from high school sports records to Wii tournaments to board games. And the board game they get most competitive about: Scattergories. We might have a dozen of us playing at once, and with every round, there’s at least one heated argument about someone’s answer. Should cottage cheese earn double points? Does air count as “Things Found in the Kitchen”?

A few weeks ago, I decided to bring Scattergories into my classroom as an alternative to our traditional Beowulf test. I did modify the rules a bit. Instead of using only one letter, I created a document with each letter of the alphabet. (see below)

Rules of the Game:

1. Write one word associated with the Beowulf text for each letter of the alphabet. I handed the form out the day before, but you could do it the day of and give students 5-10 minutes to complete it. By handing it out the day before, students spent time researching on the internet and scouring the thesaurus.

2. Each player shares the word he/she listed for the letter A.

  • If the word is not used by any other player, the student earns 20 XP (or whatever you want to give them).
  • If the word IS used by another player, both players must cross out the word. It is not worth any points. (This is why students spent time scouring the internet and the thesaurus for words.
  • If a word is questionable in its association with Beowulf, then the group must discuss whether to accept it or not. The writer may, of course, defend his/her word.

3. Repeat the process through the rest of the letters.

Overall, it’s a pretty simple game that creates great discussion and arguments. Although I reserved the right to make an executive decision, I don’t think I used it. Perhaps once. Otherwise, I left the decisions up to the students. Too often, students look to the teacher for the “correct answer,” so during this game, I stayed quiet as much as possible and mainly provided clarification if needed.

Benefits of the Game:

  1. Critical Thinking. Students have to think beyond their original ideas for answers and search for more unique words or examples. This encourages more research or making connections to more unusual words.
  2. Learning New Words: Students who study the thesaurus for this usually pick up a couple new words. Often they’d double check with me that they were truly understanding the word because they didn’t want to risk using it incorrectly and having the group vote against them.
  3. Argumentation. Students have to be able to defend their words to the rest of the group.
  4. Observation Time for Teachers. With the students truly in charge, teachers can take a back seat and jot notes of students’ formative assessment.
  5. Low Prep Time. It doesn’t take much to get students ready for the game. It can even be a last minute activity when internet goes out, a guest speaker doesn’t show, or the lesson just falls through. Hand out paper, have students write the alphabet down the page, and give them a few minutes to fill it out. They could work in pairs as well to make it cooperative.