Best Junior High game to play with students?
October 14, 2010 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Oh metafilter, what is the best 30 minute game I can play with my students?

To motivate my students, I give them rewards from time to time if everyone works hard and is respectful to one another.

Well, it's that time, and I'm trying to figure out the best game I can play with them. Here are the criteria:

- I do not have a "teacher game" mind, it does not come naturally to me at all
- The game will be played in their second language, so it has to encourage them to speak a fair amount
- They are 14 years old and fairly well behaved
- Their favourite game so far has been a crime game where they make up an alibi and we try and catch them making a mistake when stating when both they and their partner go under questioning separately (if in doubt, I will play this one again as they love it)

I'm able to put about 45 minutes of prep into this beforehand at school for cutting out nametags, or whatever else might be needed for the game you suggest.

Please write out instructions here in point form detail (or as clearly as possible) and please don't assume I know any other games or how it ought to go.

I will be eternally grateful to anyone who answers here.
posted by fantasticninety to Education (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh - I remember one of my favourite games from Grade Eight - it was a story improv game. We would start with a line of about eight people, and when the teacher pointed to you, you needed to continue the story. If you took longer than 10 (or whatever time you would like) seconds to come up with something, you were out, and someone else would come up to take your place. The goal was to be the person who stayed in the game the longest. Also, there was much hilarity with our ridiculous stories that usually wound up involving aliens at some point.
posted by purlgurly at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2010

Ideas: You could hand in random props during the story. Or have someone pull a prop out of a box that would need to be incorporated - in order to keep the ideas going.
posted by purlgurly at 2:10 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Whose Line is it Anyway could provide a trove of word/improv game ideas. Questions Only would be especially fun.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:15 PM on October 14, 2010

(I would definitely suggest checking out the show "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" to get more ideas like mine. Most of their games involve lots of speaking and minimal props. The "Party Quirks" game, where you need to guess what is weird about your guest/who your guest is, would probably be really fun for your class too.)
posted by purlgurly at 2:17 PM on October 14, 2010

How about Twenty Questions? You can have the winner of each round start the next, and easily keep going for half an hour.
posted by anadem at 2:42 PM on October 14, 2010

Telephone, aka Chinese Whispers
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:45 PM on October 14, 2010

How fluent are they in the 2nd language? i taught French when i was in college, and i had the kids take turns acting out fairy tales and nursery rhymes (full of easy words)

I'm also thinking mad-libs would be funny. you'd have to translate the original (blank) story, but they would learn from the noun/adverb/adjective and how to conjugate or make subj/verb agree.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 2:54 PM on October 14, 2010

My favorite group game from school (we played it a lot in drama class in elementary-middle school) is called Psychiatrist. One person in the group is chosen to be the "psychiatrist" and is sent out of the room. All the other people (the "patients") decide on a theme that the psychiatrist must guess when he returns by asking yes or no questions. Examples: each patient answers as if he's the person to his left; each patient answers as if he is the psychiatrist; each patient answers as himself (and so on). The psychiatrist asks questions like "are you crossing your legs?" and "Are you wearing a blue shirt?"

Very fun.
posted by phunniemee at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2010

My classes like a Jeopardy-style game. You draw the game on the front board, with 6 columns across the top for categories and 6 rows - one for the category and 5 for the questions. The questions start at 100 points and go up to 500 - draw those numbers on the board in each square. You also have to prep the questions in advance. If they are learning language, you could use categories like "Conditional Subjunctive" (or whatever they think is hard to conjugate) "Synonyms" "Antonyms" etc. You need 5 questions in each category, ranging from easier to harder. You keep these on a master sheet or notecards at your desk.

The students are in 2 teams. First team picks a category and a point value. You read the question, they answer. If correct, they get those points. If wrong, the other team gets a chance to answer correctly and steal those points, then they get their own question.
posted by CathyG at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2010

When I cannot think of anything to do, gamewise, I let the kids play board games like Trivial Pursuit, Apple to Apples, and Monopoly. It's amazing how few kids play board games anymore. They love it.
posted by dzaz at 4:06 PM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: Warewolf. I played this with a small group on a recent vacation, and the two kids among us were absolutely enthralled by it. Prep would take you all of about 5 minutes, and you could just make yourself the moderator.
posted by Gilbert at 4:16 PM on October 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you don't mind kids writing in the second language instead of talking this will work- if not, ignore this comment.

I play a game I call "Sharks and Flaps" (instead of sharps and flats) with my music students on days after concerts when I'm fried, which it is very possible to rename and adapt to any subject:

Divide class into teams (I like as many as possible- 4-6, but I have big classes). Teams stand in a line facing the whiteboard (but pretty far away) with a chair at the front of the line. 1st person in line sits in the chair. I ask a question (any subject-related question will do- I try to go for a good blend of silly and meaningful). The chair-sitter runs to the board, uncaps a marker, writes the answer correctly, CAPS THE MARKER, and runs back and sits in the chair. The students in line can help if the runner doesn't know the answer.

First person back in the chair who had a correct answer earns the same number of points for their team as there are teams. Second place gets that number minus one, third place that number minus two and so forth- that way, there's an incentive for even slow people/teams to get the answer right. Then the person behind them takes their place in the chair, new question.

If a student gets back to the seat but didn't cap the marker they have to run back and do it (which slows their time down), which is an amusing wrinkle. If they got the wrong answer, I tell them as soon as they sit and they get help from their team and go back and answer correctly for whatever number of points are left.

I have procured cheap bike horns for the kids to honk when they sit back in the seat to officially mark their return and make it so I don't have to watch quite as closely (EVERYTHING is 10x more fun with a bike horn, if you are 14), but it does make things noisier/rowdier/sillier.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:44 PM on October 14, 2010

If you have access to a whiteboard, you could play your own version of Pictionary. Sure, the person drawing the picture can't talk, but the rest of their team can!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:48 PM on October 14, 2010

Taboo is pretty good for this. You don't even need the board game version: you can make your own cards and keep score on the whiteboard.
posted by lollusc at 6:19 PM on October 14, 2010

Buzz (aka Bizz Buzz aka Fizz Buzz) is great for numbers.
My Grandmother's Trunk is a good one for vocabulary. It is a cumulative game - starting with "In my Grandmother's trunk, I found an..." and the first thing starts with the letter 'a' (say, Apple). The next player says In my Grandmother's trunk, I found an apple and a bee." Each student continues adding one more word with a letter. Miss one or stumble and you're out (if you want, you can restart from 'a').
posted by plinth at 6:24 PM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Ok, all of the suggestions were awesome. I'm going to try Werewolf tomorrow just because I think it'll force them to talk tonnes during the game which they might like.

I'll try other games at other intervals.

Metafilter, thank you. I hope this link will be useful for other teachers in the future. Thank you so much!
posted by fantasticninety at 6:53 PM on October 14, 2010

Good resource: games for actors and non-actors, by augusto boal.
posted by mai at 8:04 PM on October 14, 2010

I like Mafia, which is like Werewolves except you have x amount of mafia members instead of werewolves, x amount of cops who serve the same purpose as the seer in the werewolves game, and the addition of x amount of nurses- they must agree on one person to "save" based on who they think the mafia might kill next. It is infinitely more fun if you have something like 3 mafia, 2 cops, 2 nurses, and some number of townspeople- if you are the moderator, watching the nurses argue over who to save is usually the funniest thing ever, and if there is only one nurse, 9 times out of 10 they will save themselves.
posted by kro at 10:14 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was stuck with an elective English class of Junior High kids last year and they absolutely went crazy for charades. They got really competitive, especially when I divided them into boys and girls for teams.
posted by you zombitch at 10:26 PM on October 14, 2010

Oh man, this was my summer, I had 27 kids from Korea to entertain for a few hours every night.

If your goal is language then Mafia is a winner, there are a MILLION different variations I will not list them here (just google them) and you can make it work for you. My advice for Mafia is that you make it a story as you play "well Jonny your big mouth got you noticed and the mafia Don did not like that Eh Eh?!"

I am guessing this is a new group to you (name tags) I like to play 10 fingers (aka Never Have I ever, Ive never, and a whole bunch more) Have the kids start with all ten fingers out and then go in a circle saying things that they have not done. eg. Never Have I ever been to Canada. If I have been to Canada then you put a finger down. This game NEEDS a moderator to keep it light: "Never Have I Ever given another boy a blow job" is not something you want to have happen.

Apples to Apples works great for groups up to 6 or 7 and you can use one set for a class (just divide the deck in two and swap half way) and mix in vocab words for added excitement and learning.

25 words or less works great as well, if you have vocab words use them instead: two teams, like charades but with words. each person is bids the number of words needed to have his or her team guess a list of 5 words. timer starts and then you have to get them all or the other team gets a point.

Apples to Apples can be dangerous if you get the adult version; trying to explain what cocaine and Richard Simmons to an 10 year old girl was awkward.

All of that aside the best game in the world is Dr and Spy dodgeball with Rino Skin Dodgeballs. Two teams each team gets a doctor and a spy. The spy can cross the center line and the doctor can heal people who are hit. if you are hit you must sit down where you were hit. If the doctor gets hit he is down until the game ends. I have played this game with thousands of children and it is a staple of every camp I run.
posted by Felex at 11:45 PM on October 14, 2010

Snaps is fun, especially if the speaker pretends, in an over-the-top, goofy way, that they are projecting a message, and the receiver pretends that they are mind-reading.
posted by umbĂș at 7:41 AM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: Over the coming months I will try some of the other games mentioned here.

Werewolf rocked although it requires an attentive moderator. Give them too much flexibility and they'll take out petty rivalries on each other within the context of the game; give them too little and they won't get involved enough to care who wins.

It definitely had them super engaged though. Thanks again to everyone. This is metafilter at its best.
posted by fantasticninety at 5:02 PM on October 15, 2010

I always play a modified version of Scattergories. Place about 10 different categories on the board (eg girls names, items in a kitchen, colours, plant names) and about 5 (common) letters of the alphabet across the top. It would be a fantastic way to reinforce vocabulary learnt with a foreign language (especially if you'd just been working on a unit that focused on a particular topic, such as the environment).

Works across all ages I teach (13-18), especially if you get the kids to pair up, name their teams and take down scores at set time limits (eg. 5 minutes per letter). It stops kids from getting frustrated and giving up.

Interesting random categories suggested by people can be found here, but you can easily search for more suggestions (or even get your kids to suggest one category per lesson?)
posted by chronic sublime at 11:23 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite game in language class as a kid was 'What is this?'. If you want to increase talking, you could do it so that the kids were the ones describing unknown words in the language.

Basically it is sort of like Taboo with running. Divide the class into two teams. One person from each team comes up. The word is named (testing vocabulary) and then the two compete to touch the object first. If the word isn't known, the person choosing words describes it in the 2nd language until at least one of the teams figures out what it is.
posted by eleanna at 8:47 PM on October 16, 2010

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