Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Month: January 2018

The Card Game Game Jam

You want your students to learn a concept really well?  The go-to answer is….game jam.

Sure, game jams can start with a basic topic or theme and game creators can take it and run. Nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, amazing games can result.

However, a few more parameters can also create amazing games.

My seniors were getting ready to write rebuttals, which meant we needed to go over how to find problems in others’ arguments, which meant we needed to do some work with fallacies. I wanted students to be familiar with a few common fallacies, and I wanted them to practice analyzing many arguments and figuring out what the fallacy or problem was. Yet, I didn’t want to do a basic Q and A game–I wanted their thinking to be really embedded, and I wanted them to be able to talk about their thinking.

Bring on the game jam. Specifically a Card Game Jam!

First, I gave a 3-minute lecture on fallacies and then in pairs, students sorted images from The Little Book of Arguments with 7 oft-used fallacies.

Once they had a basic knowledge of the fallacies, I split them into teams to create game jams. Beforehand, I made four sets of fallacy type cards and one set of example fallacy cards for each team. I also provided dice, game pieces, notecards, and poster paper.

Teams first went to work designing their game and writing a set of instructions. Then they beta tested their game and adjusted directions as needed. Finally, the groups switched games, though each group left one member behind to teach the incoming group the game.

I imagined a traditional card game like maybe a blend of pitch and Apples to Apples, and yes, one group created a game of Go Fish. But one group created a Candyland inspired game, another designed a similar boardgame, and the last group created a Hedbanz-type game.

Some games were winners. Some, well, not so much. Groups talked about what they would’ve done differently. Some students said they wished I’d labeled the fallacy examples so the answers were clearer (though that was by design–I wanted them to discuss and decide for themselves).

This lesson required some front work. I printed some cards on cardstock, and others I laminated. Finding the fallacies definitely took time. However, this lesson is easily repeatable in future years with no work required.

And based on how easily my seniors are tearing apart arguments now–I think the game jam definitely achieved all I’d hoped for!



Financial Games Your Juniors and Seniors Should Play

I don’t teach financial literacy, but I have been offering two great games as side quests for my juniors and seniors in my ELA classes because they help my students start thinking more about their future finances.

  1. Time for Payback. This is my favorite of the two. Think of it as the Oregon Trail game with the college theme. The goal is to get through college without accumulating too much debt–but beware! Some of my students found that if they focus too much on saving money and working extra hours that they lose the game and “drop out.” This game is robust with lots of choices for students to make and also includes some simple mini-games to mimic the stresses of college, such as registering for classes and balancing your time.

2. Claim Your Future. While not as robust as Payback, this one focuses more on careers and salary. Players still have budget choices, such as housing situations and food budget. While Payback is best for students considering college, Claim Your Future is great for ALL students, including lower-ability students who might be living with their parents for a time after graduation (there is an option for that in the game, too).

Juniors and seniors know about debt and finances. But often, they don’t think about how the choices they’ll be making this spring and summer could be making huge impacts on their future finances.  These games prompt students to think about those choices and decisions now.

5 Ideas to Start the Semester

I’m always faced with a dilemma the first few days of the spring semester. Students are busy rearranging schedules, so I have students switching sections and often at least a few brand new students coming into my class for the first time. (And depending on your school, you may be getting completely brand new students).

I hate to jump into heavy content lessons in these first few days because of the schedule changes, so each January I’m faced with the conundrum of what to do those opening days.

Without further ado, here are five strategies I’ve used over the years.

  1. Breakout/Escape Game. This is my plan for the first day back this semester. My Brit Lit students will be reading Macbeth, so they’ll be playing a modified version of Unlocking Shakespeare. My College Comp students are continuing their persuasive writing, so they’re playing a modified version of this Ethos-Logos-Pathos game. I love creating my own Breakout games, too, but with a plethora of these games available now, it’s also super easy to take another pre-made game and modify it to meet your own needs.

2. Marshmallow Challenge. Another great option, especially a day or two into the semester, for building both relationships among students and for encouraging innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. While this may not be focused on any content area, it’s a great activity to set the tone for your classroom. Plus, it can be adapted to many content areas. For my own area, we reviewed expository paragraph structure by writing reviews about the activity.

3. One Word. You’ve likely seen–maybe even participated–in Jon Gordon’s One Word movement, where you select one word that will be your touchstone for the year. Now take the next step and do it with your students. Find out more about how I did it in this post.

4. Social Collaboration Game. Start the year with a little fun and get your students socializing and critically thinking. One of my students’ favorite games last semester was Two Rooms and a Boom. While you can purchase the published version, you can download the game digitally–it just takes a little more work cutting apart cards. Mafia is another similar game that can be played with large classes. If you have a smaller group, you can check out One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

5. Game Jam. Let your students create a game! All you need for a basic game jam is some materials such as markers, poster board, notecards, dice, baskets, whatever you have around your classroom. I prefer to give the students a few parameters, such as a theme, or a few rules, such as it can’t be a basic Q/A game. Parameters can be extremely helpful for them, especially if it’s the first time they’ve ever created a game; otherwise, they may be overwhelmed by the options. Then, you’ll of course need a second day for the students to play each other’s games! For more information, check out The Game Jam Guide.

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