Thursday, July 21, 2011

Split Decision Classroom Game for ActivInspire

This fun game about creating tough choices can be downloaded from here.

Three students will compete to create tricky decisions for the class to vote on. Each round a topic will be selected and they will pose two options to the class. For example, if the topic is Food a student might write, "Eat a whole onion or eat nothing for two days." The class will vote on which they'd choose and the student who wrote the decision will score depending on how evenly the results are divided.

See notes at the end about how this game came about.

How to Play
Pick three creative students to be the contestants. If you're playing the game in one sitting, they probably should sit at the frong of the class. Each of them needs a piece of paper and a pencil. You can go to page 3 of the flipchart and record the players' names on the Score page at this time.

The rest of the class will vote, so hand out the Expressions or Votes to them.

The game is played in three rounds.

Round Overview:
1) Draw a random prompt for the round. On the Decision screen (slide 2) you'll see 10 red dots at the bottom. Draw one or have a student draw one. Move the word to the black rectangle in the lower left so all students can see it. That's the topic for the round.

2) The three contestants now write a Decision based on that topic. Here are some details:
  • The Decision consists of two options and they have to make up the options.
  • The goal is to make the two options equally appealing in some way so that the class vote will be evenly split between the two.
  • Enforce a time limit if you think it will be necessary. Any student not done at that time must quickly write something
  • Two bad choices can be more fun and challenging, so you might want to require these kinds of Decisions. Alternatively, you can keep it open ended and let the contestants decide how they want to approach the topic.
  • When they finish, the students must pass their papers to the teacher. Before presenting them, read the submissions and be sure they're acceptable. Any student who wrote something clearly off topic or otherwise inappropriate should either quickly fix it (if that's reasonable) or have the Decision disqualified. In that case, he or she will score a 50 point penalty. (Points are not good in this game.)
3) Now mix the Decisions so the class does not know who wrote each one and perform the following steps for each:
  • Read the two options from a contestant. It is important that from this point on the class does not discuss the options. Some reaction will be inevitable, but comments and conversation need to be limited.
  • Write them on the board with one option in the A box and one in the B box. If they are long, wordy options, you might want to just summarize them when putting them in the boxes.
  • Start the vote and and have students select one. In every case, the students must pick one even if they'd like neither. Encourage them to choose the best or the one that's least bad. If a few students take too long to vote you might choose to stop the vote early for the sake of time.
  • After the vote, view the results and score the Decision for the contestant accordingly. The score is the positive difference between the percents (rounded to a whole number) of students choosing A and B*. So, for example, if 37% chose A and 63% chose B, you'd take 63 - 37 to get a score of 26 points for the contestant. Always subtract the higher minus the lower so the scores are positive. Remember that a 50-50 split is the ideal, which means the student would score 0 points. So low scores are best.
  • Record the score on the paper next to that Decision. Repeat step 3 for the other two Decisions.

4) Go to the Score page and write in the Scores. After round 2 and 3, total up the scores so far.

For round 2 and 3, return the papers to the contestants and repeat the above steps.

The game ends after round 3. The player with the lowest score wins. If there's a tie you can choose to have a tie breaking round between the tied players or you can just allow multiple winners.

Some example Decisions
  • Meet Shakespeare or Meet Edgar Allan Poe?
  • Get a great job with low pay or Get a dull job with good pay?
  • Write an 8-page report for Science class or Read a 200-page novel for English?
  • Camp alone at the South Pole or Camp alone in the middle of the Sahara Desert?
  • Witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence or Hear the Gettysburg Address?
This game was born out of an activity that I did with a group of students in a Mythology class. We were making a different game that posed two choices and I noticed how challenging yet fun it could be to create balanced options. When thinking about activities that used the Expressions or Votes, a class vote seemed like it could be a great way to test the students' creativity.

*Years ago I read over the rules to a game called Ostrakon. I have never played it, but I know the goal is to pose a balanced philosophical question to the other players. As I said, I came up with my game from a different direction, but I don't know how much Ostrakon influenced my thoughts. So I want to mention that game since people who enjoy Split Decision might want to check it out.

Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for Split Decision!

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