Endless Opportunities From a Simple Game

Teaching on Halloween (or the last weekday before Halloween) is a mess.  The kids are unfocused, they're running around after each other and painting on beards with stage make-up...and they're amped up on sugar.  You can fight it, or you can use it.

I had other plans for Science today.  We were going to discuss current issues that are related to science in some way...but they were just not there on this rainy, Giants-crazed Friday morning.  First, grade some work together and discuss how heat energy is transferred.  Then, time for an energizer game!


Fork-and-Spoon*
What I love about this game is how universally applicable it can be.  It can work for very young children all the way up to adult improvisers.  As teachers, we can use it as an energizer and/or focuser.  But we can also use it to engage learners with content: From understanding characters and relationships in literature, to comprehending scientific concepts, to building connections between historical figures, this simple activity offers students access to academics via spontaneity and drama.

- Assign students to work in pairs.  Today, I had them work with their lab partners in an effort to build those connections.  You could also have them count off.  It's nice to have these initial pairings be random or assigned.
- Ask them to make eye contact with their partners.  Let them know they'll be making decisions without talking; no one will be leading or directing.  They'll just make it happen--together.  They may have an initial idea about how to do what you ask, but their partner might do something that'll cause them to need to revise their plan.  Together, they will show what you ask.

- Start with "fork and spoon".  Move on to any of the following...improvising yourself as you go:
  • good and evil
  • sweet and spicy
  • salt and pepper
  • water and wind
  • dog and cat
  • teacher and student
  • light and dark
- Have each pair partner up with another pair, making groups of four.  These groups can show one or two concepts, including "the four seasons", "the water cycle", "the scientific method", "the arc of plot development", "beginning, middle, and end".
- Move into groups of eight, showing a more complex concept/thing such as "a classroom".
- Have the entire class come together, instantaneously creating something with multiple layers.  Today, we showed "The Golden Gate Bridge".


Try your best to leave time to process with the group, or come back to the processing during the next class.  (I'll be doing the latter, as we went right up to the second lunch began today.  It was just too much fun!)  Ask them what they noticed about how decisions were made--in pairs and in groups of different sizes.  Encourage them to use the interactions in this game as a metaphor for their work in the classroom.  You can also explore the content of what they showed.  I found it intriguing that nearly every "teacher" was pointing a finger at a "student" who was crouched down.  Hmm...


What are some ways you could envision applying this game to your work in the classroom or your group?  Have you explored other simple games and found them to offer opportunities for in-depth exploration?

*Although I've played games similar to this with a variety of names, I first played it with this name with Rich Cox at an Improv for Educators workshop at BATS Improv.

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