So, I hope that the word “cranium” isn’t copyrighted because I’m totally using “English Cranium” as the name of this new English game I made for my students in the last month when I had absolutely no classes to teach. It’s the last few weeks before spring vacation, and the start of the new year, new homeroom, new grade, so I wanted them to have fun with English rather than do another comprehension worksheet that I tend to do.
The categories I decided to do are Spelling, Past Tense, Expressions, and Draw or Gesture, and the board is simple with just 12 spaces.
Since class is less than about an hour, give or take a 10 minute vocabulary test, I figured that students will most likely get only 30-40% of the content correct, so they probably wouldn’t reach the end in a 40-50 minute class. Assuming that they wouldn’t reach the end, I decided to place a point system to determine who wins, where each correct answer is worth 3 points, with the exception of the Spelling Challenge, which awards 1-3 points that correlate with word difficulty (which may or may not be based on how long a word is). Whoever does reach the end first gets 5 points. Also, if a question is answered incorrectly, students have the option to get 2 points if they choose to do an English conversation using conversation cards I picked up from ALT JET Connect.
I got to playtest it today with a low to mid-level class and a mid to high-level class. Playtesting games is always a challenge because the rules need to be clearly explained. In video games, instructions can be given interactively , but with my experience in games with lower budgets, instructions are often front-loaded and hard to remember, and then the player learns the rules by trying to break them, and the software will disallow any rule-breaking consistently.
However, paper-testing can be a bit hairy, and rules can change at any moment, or won’t be consistently enforced.
So here’s a few things I learned from my first couple go-arounds with English Cranium:
– I planned early to have the students assemble into groups of 8 (2+ per members per teams of 4 in each group) and have them sit down before I explained the rules. This worked really well. Unfortunately, I only thought about drawing the way they should assemble their desks to make groups while they moved to their groups, so most were still milling about when I needed them to sit down. I corrected this in the second class by drawing the desk and seating configuration before they got up to move.
– Next, without further explanation of the game, I asked which kids had their birthdays coming up in order to choose the starting team. Understandably, I had kids already asking each other, “What are we doing, what are we doing?” Way to hype things up, but once they got to reading the cards, I heard things like, “This is hard…” ::sad face::
– Then I asked the starting team to pick a card of any color. I was hoping to teach the students the rules as they played the game, but unfortunately, there were 3 different groups, so different cards were pulled. I had to quickly backpedal and explain each card category and how they were played.
I forgot a few other things, such as telling the kids the name of the game, that opposing teams should ask the current team the card questions, and that the conversation cards should be asked among team members. While these problems were solved within the hour, I don’t see the students frequently enough to play this game as often in order to practice and review the content. This will probably be the only time the students will play the game, so I really wanted to make it easy to catch on as much as possible. The hope is that they learned something new, such as an expression, or reviewed something they should know, like spelling a certain word.
Update:I was reminded of Jeopardy, and while this is also a good game to play, I wanted the students to use English with each other moreso than listen to me talk.