Sunday, August 5, 2012

Free online version of What's It to Ya? - A critical thinking and writing lesson


There is great value in the workplace and in our society in general to be able to express and discuss one's values in a clear, logical manner.  It is also important to be able to communicate effectively with others with whom we differ in opinions.  What's It to Ya? (and the newer version, Oh, Really!) is a game I created that provides a fun, non-threatening way for students to practice this deep level of critical thinking and discussion.

There are card versions of the game available as well as several free activities that I made based on the game.  This lesson plan below uses a free computer version of the game as an introduction to the thinking, writing and discussion that can emerge while playing.

Lesson Overview

Using the online version of What's It to Ya?, students will rank random items in order of importance and try to guess each other's rankings.  In playing the game and writing about the activity they will consider their own values and opinions as well as explore those of their classmates.  For information on further thoughts and additional activities based on this game, see this mini-series of posts.

Learning to play

The game is located at http://bit.ly/whatsittoyagame.  Try a sample game by entering two player names just to see how it works.  The directions are explained as the game progresses.

You can teach students how to play by demonstrating a two-player game at the front of the class.  Alternatively students can just get in groups as described below and play a couple practice games before they play the one that they will write about.

The activity

Have students sit in groups of three or four.  If they have laptops or netbooks, they will pass them around the group as they play the game.  If they are seated at computers, they will move from one computer to another as they take their turns.

Each student will go to http://bit.ly/whatsittoyagame. The game will load on that page.

Each student should enter his or her first name (or initials) as the Boss for the game that he or she is starting.  Then the student will enter the other group members' names as the additional players.  It helps if they list the students in clockwise order around the group, but it's not required as long as they include all other group members.

From there, the students can play the game.  It will direct them as to who the active player is (the Boss always goes first) and at that time the computer can be passed to that student or the student can sit at the computer.

Keep in mind that in a group of four students, for example, each student will be involved in four games.  Each student will be the Boss in one of those games. 

Important rules and steps:

  • Students should not discuss the items or their rankings as they play.  
  • Students may not observe another student's computer when items are being ranked.  This is especially important when the Bosses rank the items.
  • When the game is over the Results page will appear.  Do not click Next on that page until a screen capture has been made.  See below.
  • When the game ends, all students can look at the results and discuss who won.  Eventually the student who was the Boss for that game (computer) needs to be at that computer for the written part of the activity.

The writing assignment

Display these steps for the assignment or print this pdf version.

1)  Grab a screen capture of the Results page for the game in which you were the Boss.

On a Windows system you can do this by simply pressing the Print Screen key (usually located in the upper right of the keyboard).  On a Mac, press  Command-Control-Shift-3. That puts a copy of the screen in the clipboard.

2)  Paste the screen capture into the document file you're writing your assignment in.  Use ctrl-v on a Windows system or command-v on a Mac to paste the image of your screen.  You can change the size or crop it to make it easier to see the results of the game.

(If you forget to take a screen capture before you click the Next button your group will have to play the game again.  Please capture and paste that screen as soon as possible after the game ends so you don't lose the information!

3)  Now write a few paragraphs about the game you played.  In those paragraphs, address the questions below.  Your writing should flow like a written summary, not a list of answers.  You can address these in any order you like as long as all answers are apparent in your writing.


  • List the items you had to rank in your game in the order you chose to rank them.  Briefly explain why you chose the order that you did.
  • Were some items harder to rank than others?  Explain.
  • Look at the rankings that the other students in your group chose.  Pick the student's ranking that had the highest score (as long as it wasn't a perfect match worth 10 points).  Explain how that student's ranking differed from yours.
  • Imagine you had to convince that person that your ranking was correct or most accurate.  What would you say to change his or her mind?  What do you think that student would say to make you think his or her ranking was best?  
  • If any rankings in your group stand out as particularly surprising, describe them.
  • As you were playing or after reflecting on the game, what are two things you learned or hadn't thought of before?

See this blog post which contains several free classroom activities and insights based on the What's It to Ya? (Oh, Really!) game.  Depending on your subject or the purpose of the lesson you might use those thoughts to change the list of questions above to meet your needs.

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