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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Two Great Party Games for the Classroom

Here are two great party games that never made it to the shelves of Walmart, but that have entertained us for years. I enjoyed them with friends and with students when I ran the game club.

Both can be played with homemade cards, so with some work you could tie them into your content area.

First is Thingamajig.

Because of its elegance, it is by far my favorite of the "guess the word" variety of party games. The boxed version comes with the Thingamajig--a small electronic device that reveals a single word when the button is pressed.

The active player must give a "definition" of that word to the other players. They all write down what they think the word is. If a player guesses right, he or she gets a point. The player who gave the definition gets a point for everyone who scores it, except if everyone guesses it. That's the twist that makes this game so amazing! If everyone guesses it, that player gets 0 points.

I've found this game to be an excellent study in communication. It quickly reveals how good or bad a person is at thinking from the perspective of others. By seeing the word yourself, it feels like every clue you give is too obvious. Then when you hear the answers, it's often clear you overlooked a variety of interpretations. Good stuff for further exploration.

One time I used this game with a small class of around 15 students. We played as a class, so it had an interesting dynamic. There was the possibility of getting a big score, but there were some other issues with playing this way that made it less than ideal. In general I'd recommend it for groups of five or six students.

Full rules for the game (which are still very brief) can be found here. As a bonus, if you have the Thingmajig device or you have your own set of words, here's a list of variations or other games you can play using it.

Next is What Were You Thinking?

I had almost forgotten about this fun game (which was created by the designer of Magic: The Gathering, if that means anything to you), but recently I dug it out to try with my two teenagers at home. They loved it and I was again reminded of the fun we'd had with it in class.

There are several types of questions in this game, but the general idea is that you don't necessarily score for getting right answers. You score if you match answers of other players. So, it's not great for review in class. On some questions, the winning answer might be the most popular wrong one!

For certain topics, especially pop culture or opinions, it works very well. My favorite type of questions are the ones where you are required to list four or five things in a category. For example, we had one that asked us to list celebrities who go by only one name.

After a minute or so, each player reads off his or her list. For each item, the players who had that item (including the reader) raise their hands. Each item is worth the number of hands raised. So every item is worth at least one point since you can count yourself!

This game lends itself to some interesting discussion as you'll often have to decide if two people have the same item, though they worded them differently. The rules indicate that a general answer (like "super hero movies") does not match a specific answer (such as "The Amazing Spider-Man 2").

I don't recall ever using this game with a whole class, but I think it might work with a relatively small one. Small groups of four to six students will have a lot of fun with it. Official rules are here, but I'd suggest ignoring the spinner. Just make interesting questions and write one per note card.

Note that some questions in the boxed version of this game (which is probably hard to find anyway) might not be appropriate for the classroom. Also, there are penalty cards that the lowest score player has to read aloud each round. Some of those refer to drinking.

If you're new to this site and you want some games designed for the whole class to play, here are a few links to start with:



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