Tonight’s #ukedchat focus on the role of play and games in learning was really interesting. Some quite polarised views on the validity of games and playful learning, and perhaps some misconceptions by others about what is meant by play. Anyway, this isn’t to discuss all that. You can read the thread on twitter. My view is that there is a role for games and play in learning, just as there is a role for pretty much anything. My mantra : learning, by any means. Games and play aren’t the destination, and should not be the focus, but they are can be a means to an end. Whether those games be simulations, trading games, xBox, dice, snakes and ladders, whatever – if the focus is on clear learning outcomes, and if expectations are high, then there’s nothing to lose. Well, except the game itself. And that in itself is a learning tool. Learn by failing or fail to learn.
So, here are some games / play type activities I’ve used for GCSE revision. I’ll also happily crack out the playdough, or dice games for learning grids and literacy etc,. but this is revision. In our classes, we teach A*-G in the same group. Quite a challenge. How do you differentiate? Simple: jenga, twister and bunting 😉
This was from the last #tmpompey where I shared the story.
So how does it all work? I have to admit I got the idea from the fabulous work of John Sayers during #TLAB13 (an awesome event in itself, get yourself along to #TLAB14 – sign up here) when he spoke about using jenga at times. And in true professional manner I just took some genius idea that somebody else had, and (to quote Louis Walsh) made it my own.
I used this with my GCSE classes, and with a class I taught at another school whom I had never met before. Trialled it and then bought sets of the stuff off eBay for the department. The basic principle is keyword practice. I used stickers for keywords and stuck them on the ends of the jenga pieces. Since the nature of jenga is to remove pieces and then rebuild the structure you need to think about making the game last – it would be somewhat demoralising and pointless for it to be over in seconds with it collapsing. To help with this, repeat the keywords about 3 or 4 times throughout the box. I use about 15 keywords for each set and just repeat them. Then make sure they are muddled up when the set is built!
The first time I used this game was to revise coastal processes and landforms. We had keywords like ‘stacks’, ‘hydraulic action’, ‘longshore drift’, etc,. There are two ways you could run the game that I’ve tried.
1) Students work in a group (about 4-6 ideally). One student is the quiz master and has the list of keywords. On rotation, a word is called out and a student has to remove one of those keyword pieces and then define the word out loud. Another student has the proper definition and acts as the checker. If the player defines correctly, move on to the next go. If not, they may ask for help or attempt again. Keep going until the structure collapses!
2) Alternatively. Students are still in groups. You are the quizmaster general. Games are being played by the groups concurrently. You read out a definition or description of a word, being as vague or specific as you wish, and students can work on their own or discuss as a group to define and choose the correct word and then remove it.
Either way, it works well if you have simultaneous games going on around the room as you can act as the compere and provide more competition between them – “Team 1 have built to 17 stories high – can you beat them?!” or “Team 3 is struggling to define X, bonus piece if you can define it for them”. I tried this with both year 10 and year 11, and then the following week’s lesson started with a keyword test – with significantly better results! Students said they felt much more confident.
Now I’ll assume we’ve all had a flirtation with Twister at some point? So how can you make this relevant to revision? Simple, link short answer exam questions / case study facts / keywords to the spin of the dial. For those of you who don’t know, Twister is a mat with dots on it of 4 different colours. There is a spinner dial with the command ‘right hand’, ‘left hand’, ‘right foot’, ‘left foot’ and a corresponding colour.
A games-master spins the dial and reads the command to the victim, sorry, player. So, for example, it could be Right Hand on Red. Players then take turns to follow commands and gradually become more and more muddled and twisted until someone drops out. Survival of the fittest.
Again, this is a team game. You can choose to give more or less support depending on your students – differentiate. Students can either figure out answers alone or with help, and you can provide tips or suggestions to help out as needed.
So, in groups of about 4-6 again, you need a games-master in charge of the spinner and a quiz-master to pose the questions and judge answers. The quiz master is given a set of questions, and some possible answers. This could be definitions, factual recall of case study detail, place specific information, processes, etc,. For example, Q1) What term means the proportion of a population working in industries such as mining or farming? A1) Primary employment. The games-master spins the dial, the player moves into position, the quiz-master poses the question, and the player has to answer.
If they answer correctly, move on to the next player’s move. If incorrect, spin and quiz them again or they can ask a friend for a clue. This works simultaneously with ‘Taboo’ really as you don’t want other students giving the answer away by saying the actual words.
I built my questions so that the were a range of either short factual recall style questions, or case study detail questions. You, as the overall Quiz Master (or Mistress) supreme, get to move around each group checking answers are up to scratch and reminding them of how many marks each question would be worth in an exam or what grade they equated to.
Of course, this gets messy. And loud. We took over the dining room during the last lesson of the day and I’m not sure the Head was entirely convinced at first but he did visit them in class the next week and seemed satisfied.
Now, I like games and playing as much as the next girl, but there was a moral to the end of this story too – they had to learn! I took them back to the classroom with 15minutes remaining and they all thought that the working was over…until I presented them with a timed case study exam question. They had 12minutes to complete, and had to include as many of the answers from the game as possible – games building on top of games because now they were kind of playing Bingo (which is also another great tool to include in helping with extended writing and developing literacy, but that is another topic). They moaned and groaned at first, but then produced great quality answers. And it wasn’t just short term either – they still remembered the case study detail the following week. Hoorah!
Ok, maybe not a game as such but still playful learning. I fully expected this to only be popular with some students and was surprised when they all got into it. Must be the vintage / retro era we are in! The basic premise is just to make revision a bit more interesting, and to share.
I did this with my Year 11s when they were starting to get a bit frazzled, and some were in and out doing exams elsewhere. I put a selection of processes, case study names, landforms and topics into a hat (literally) and then students pulled a piece of paper out and were then in charge of producing a piece of revision bunting on that topic. They could use any resource they wished in order to complete the mission (textbook, mobile device, internet, etc,.) – the only rule being that they were now in charge of helping someone else’s revision and so it must be good quality. Corporate responsibility. The one example of a poor piece of work (from a cheeky lad who decided he’d try to be daft) I hyped up as being a fine example of what not to do, and told him I’d be leaving it on the wall all year as a reminder to others to do better. The boy was in my tutor group and I knew him very well so he could take the banter, and proceeded to then produce two quality pieces and proved himself (but I still left the original shameful piece on the wall as a reminder to him to not cut corners!). As I said, I was surprised at how they got into this and the bunting went on display around the room for them to all visit and learn from. Most of them took photos of sections to take home with them. It could be a good little end-of-topic piece to do.
That’ll do for now. As I said, the games and the playing are a means to an end. But a very welcome one and some relief to students who are getting stressed or struggling with concepts. And for those visual and kinaesthetic learners out there! But keep in mind there always needs to be a clear focus, clear outcome, and some sort of follow-up in a more traditional sense. At the end of the day, they still have to sit a written exam!
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” ~ General Colin Powel