Whenever your middle school classroom of reluctant English learners seems to be shutting down, trick your kids into learning with a competitive and rousing game of Boggle. Yes, the classic and no-tech game.
Ms. Ikarless assigned me to teach two classes of basic reading to 9th graders. I protested. She assigned me an additional class, threatened me, and scheduled unexpected observations right before holidays.
I had to trick my students into learning or lose my job, so I turned to a trusty friend, Boggle, the greatest of all classroom games and activities.
Establish Clear Objectives
Boggle is best for middle school and remediation, although honors and advanced classes get awfully competitive.
As with all classroom games and activities, it's important to establish clear learning objectives:
- Students will reinforce basic spelling skills.
- Students will use critical thinking skills to create short words.
- Students will form plural words.
- Students will learn hundreds of short words they never knew existed.
- Students will learn homonyms (for example: gnu, hie, hae, ken, gait, lief, etc.).
Whole Class Engagement
Those of you who have played Boggle (one can be found at the local thrift store for a couple bucks) may be wondering how to use it with the whole class. That's easy. Shake up the Boggle container and write the letters in a grid on the board. Here are some simple procedures:
Explain the rules.
- The teacher will shake up the Boggle game and copy the Boggle 4 x 4 grid on the board.
- Game participants have three minutes to create words by connecting letters. Emphasize that in order to form an eligible word, each letter must connect on the grid with the previous letter in the word.
- Copy the following point distributions next to the grid: three letter words and four letter words = 1 point; 5 letter words = 2 points; 6 letter words = 3 points; 7 letter words = 5 points; 8+ letter words = 11 points.
- After the three minutes are up, each participant reads off his or her words. If anyone else in the group has the same word, nobody gets credit for it (this rule should be waved if the entire class is participating).
- Do a practice. After the three minutes are up, write your words on the board. Show students how the words are formed. Give examples of words that are ineligible that students might have created (words whose letters don't all connect).
- Have students pair off and compete against each other. Make it a tournament with winners advancing and losers facing each other.
- Challenge the class championand humiliate him in front of his peers.
Classroom games and activities motivate students. Build more anticipation by making it a semester long competition.
- Create divisions of 6 teams. Group divisions according to skill.
- Make a schedule: Individuals will compete against each other in groups of four. Line it up so that every week at least 2 people from the same division are in the same group. Have at least 2 weeks where all 4 participants in the group are from the same division.
Play the game as normal. In groups of four make sure students review the words they have found and cross out duplicates. You will want to demonstrate the process before beginning. Remind students that those in their group are opponents, not teammates.
- Play as many rounds as time allows.
- Highest total score in each group of four gets 8 points; second gets 6 points; third gets 4 points; fourth gets 2 points; absent students get 0 points.
- Keep the standings posted. At the end of 6 weeks start the playoffs. The top 2 teams in each division make the championship playoffs. Everyone else makes the consolation playoffs.
- Have fun.