Saturday, June 30, 2007

Games in the classroom

As a reward for good behaviour, Biggie's teachers decided that the class would have a games day to celebrate the end of the term. Initially it was going to be all boardgames, all the time, but lots of the children wanted to bring their own games to school, so 'our' part of the day was cut back to two hours.

After much consideration, I cut the list of games to take back to around 17. Gregor had kindly offered to help out, and he brought a couple as well, although we found there was less time to talk than we had expected.

We started the day by talking about games - what makes a game a game? First response: "It's about having fun with your friends and spending time with them" - how can I top that?!

Next, we talked about rules for games. There was a lot of discussion about cheating and why that's not acceptable. I used as a basis the rules that Giles Pritchard has suggested - although I condensed them to a few major points:

  • Board games are games; the idea of playing them is to have fun in good company.
  • You must listen to the rules explainer.
  • Cheating is admitting defeat and is completely unacceptable. If a person in a game you are playing is caught cheating the game should be ended immediately and a new game begun – with the promise that cheating will not occur.
  • Always treat the game and the game pieces better than you would treat your own game. – After you have finished playing the game there should be no sign that you played it except for a pleasant memory.
  • Setting up and cleaning up are a part of the game, you need to do your share.
  • Be a good loser and an even better winner.
We summed them all up with the Knizia quote, which we put up on the board as a motto for the day:

“When playing a game the goal is to win,
but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”

I had planned for this to lead into a discussion of how games have designers just like books have authors, but the natives were getting a little restless so we jumped straight into theme, as a way to introduce the first batch of games.

I'd prepared a quick table of the games that I'd taken with a quick overview of each for me, Gregor and the teacher.

Here's what I had about the themed games:


Number of Players


Incan Gold

(Alan R Moon and Bruno Faidutti)


EXPLORERS! Explore a ruined temple and collect treasures – but if you go too far you might lose it all!

5 explorations = 1 game. Disasters only count the second time.

For Sale

(Stefan Dorra)


GET RICH! Buy and sell property – the winner is the person with the most money at the end.

Part 1: Auction properties (buy with money)

Part 2: Sell properties (for cheques).

Hey that’s my fish

(G√ľnter Cornett & Alvydas Jakeliunas)


PENGUINS! The players are penguins, trying to catch as many fish as possible.

Strategy is to isolate an area from the other players.

Fearsome Floors

(Friedemann Friese)


MONSTER! Race game – players have 14 turns to escape from the monster.

Part 1: Eliminated pieces are returned to the player. Ends when all but 2 tiles have been turned over

Part 2: Eliminated pieces are eliminated forever.


(Leo Colovini)


PIRATES! Play cards to move forward to the next empty square with a matching symbol

Move backwards to an occupied square to collect 1 or 2 more cards.

Pick Picknic

(Stefan Dorra)


CHICKENS! Players compete to get the most food – but are they a corn-eating chicken or a chicken-eating fox?


(Reiner Knizia)


CHICKENS! But this time it’s worms that they want. Yahtzee-style dice game.

Remember: You MUST have rolled a worm before you can pick up a tile.

Fast rules: Turn over highest tile AND the tile that is returned.

and some others that I took out at that stage:


Number of Players




Memory game testing out-of-sequence memory

Apples to Apples Junior


All players have 5 red cards; take turns to be the judge (flip a green card). Best red card match gets the green card – winner is first to 4.


(Reiner Knizia)


Match the pattern to place tiles & score in 6 different colours

Only your LOWEST score counts!

Use paper scoresheets instead of wooden cubes

The children separated into four groups.
  • Gregor took a group of girls who were desperate to play For Sale. This was a huge hit with the kids - at the end of the session, they begged me to leave it so they could play it again.
  • I took a group of girls and boys who were interested in Fearsome Floors. It was very popular but the kids found it a bit too complicated, especially when I had to move away for a little while
  • The teacher sat down with a group of boys who were very interested in Apples to Apples. This was amazing - they played it for over an hour!
  • Biggie sat on the floor to teach Pickomino - it seemed to go over very well, too, although I didn't hear any chicken noises from the group.
Meanwhile, one boy was roaming the classroom with Incan Gold in hand, not wanting to play anything else, and another girl was wandering around watching but not wanting to join in.

My Fearsome Floors group moved on to Sherlock and Otto, who had been playing Catch the Match quietly by herself, came to join in. She was pretty pleased to finish in second place in the group of five eight to ten year olds. Meanwhile Gregor had enticed the For Sale girls to play Incan Gold (by promising another game of For Sale later on in the day). Surprisingly, this wasn't much of a hit - they were too interested in getting back to For Sale to enjoy Incan Gold.

I'd prepared some journal pages for the students to reflect on the games they played in between new games. These were filled in with differing levels of detail and success, but with some great answers:



What I Liked

Something I Learned

Next time I will

Apples to Apples


That it had a lot of risk

That you can do opposites

Have a lot of fun!

Make ‘n’ Break


It was VERY fun.

It was constructive

Have a lot of fun!

For Sale

It is really fun and I bought a lot of houses


Do better

Incan Gold

It was really fun

Take your chances

Get more jewels



The temptation!

It’s hard!

Play better (hopefully)

Incan Gold

The temptation

That it’s easy to lose

Play with more people and have more fun



The temptation and the worms

How lucky you can be!!

Not so much of risk taker

Apples to apples


It was funny

That you don’t need to be honest

Apples to Apples


It was funny

You don’t need to be honest

Be better



It was a challenge

Be better

Dancing eggs


I liked how it was really hard and a challenge to do the actions. I WON!

Never think that anything’s easy

Do the exact same thing!

Finstere Flure

9 Excellent

It was so scary how the monster walked to try and eat you up!


Try to go first so I don’t get locked in! (by the other players’ pieces)


5 OK

How you had to use your memory


Try to remember much, much more

Fearsome Floors

There was a monster

You don’t always need a dice

Try to win


I WON!!!

You need a REALLY good memory

I’ll win AGAIN.

For Sale

It’s fun and I got to buy good houses

How to sell houses

Not spend too much money

Incan Gold

It was fun

Take your chance

Do something

We came back together as a group to discuss the games we'd played, and what skills we had been using.
  • Memory (heh - I pointed out that Otto had come second)
  • Deciding when to take a risk
  • Spending your money
  • Opposites (this from the Apples to Apples group, who had played some rounds looking for something that was unlike the faced card)
  • Dividing up the treasures
To finish up, I took out some games that used a skill that we hadn't used yet: dexterity. We had two groups playing Tier auf Tier, one playing Make 'n' Break and one playing Dancing Eggs - and a copy of Polarity for everyone to try out.



What I Liked

Something I Learned

Next time I will

Dancing Eggs


Dancing eggs was a really fun game

Animal on animal

Stacking animal

How to stacking animals

Try harder

Tier auf Tier

It’s easy

The rules

Try harder



It was a huge challenge because if the slightest thing was out of place it would fall

I learnt about magnets and balance!

Try and get three!

Overall, the day was a huge success. The teacher liked games, the journal pages, and the way the kids were engaged. Best of all - they're all (teacher and students) keen to do it again :)

To sum up the session:

What I liked
  • Having someone (Gregor) to help demo the games was invaluable.
  • The game journal pages worked well and made a great record of the day (where they were used)
  • Finishing with dexterity games was fantastic, although Dancing Eggs got a bit rowdy
Something I learned
  • Games work best with supervision - especially if they have a mechanic the kids haven't seen before (eg Finstere Flure)
  • It's difficult to involve some kids in the classroom activity, even if they are interested in the material
  • Having games that use a range of different skills works well for the larger groups
Next time I will
  • Try to take fewer games (I say this every time)
  • Introduce the game journal pages at the start of the session rather than as games finish.


Gerald McD said...

Wow, congratulations on another very successful school gaming event. Great job! I'm glad For Sale went over well, since I suggested it to you. It's one of the few games our granddaughter really enjoys playing with the whole family.

Thanks for the excellent report and for including the kids' comments. That was a great idea.

Melissa said...

Gerald, the kids LOVED For Sale. Biggie loved it too, especially as she has beaten us both times we've played :)

I was surprised, as I thought that there are more engaging themes out there.

gregor said...

What I liked

*Enthusiastic 8 year olds with bright beaming faces

Something I learned

*In For Sale1! the pictures of the houses were very important to them, more than the actual numerical value

*Beamy faces can still be manipulative

*Kids will take advantage of the supervision to be lazy (I ended up doing lots of the math for them in Diamant and For Sale!)

Next time I will

*Take a bit more control ("Now we'll play x", rather than being swayed by "please, please, please can we..." (beam)

*Get them to do more of the game mechanics (calculation, etc) themselves.

How did their afternoon session go?

Anonymous said...

Sounds fantastic, glad to hear it went so well!

> Try to take fewer games (I say this every time)

I know how hard it is to limit yourself to bringing a few games no matter where you're going because it's so easy to browse the shelves and be like, oh this one looks good, and this one might come in handy, and this one, and that one, and.... ahhh! Anyway, best of luck limiting your selections, you'll need it, heh. But regardless of that, sounds like a very successful day indeed :)

Smatt said...

Nice reporting, Melissa. I'll keep those games in mind (esp. For Sale!) for some of our game days/game nights here.