Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Games as "Communication Skills"

One of my favorite activities for English classes is the game Catch Phrase. I usually put it on the schedule under the name "Communication Skills" early in the year, and it becomes a favorite and much requested activity in class. If you are unfamiliar with Catch Phrase, it is basically a mix of "Password" and "Hot Potato." It's a perfect game for twenty minutes on a Friday after a week of essays and tests.

In introducing the game, I point out to my students their often weak attempts at communicating very basic ideas - in other words, they don't have the language to convey what they mean. For example, how often do kids began a statement by saying "You know, it's the thing ... the story about the guy ... you know ... what I mean is ... the thing is ...." They have become a rather dis-articulate group of people. And games like Catch Phrase offer many teachable moments.

In order to play the game, I organize the desks in a circle, and the teams consist of every other person. So, one player has the game piece, and when the word is solved, he hands it to his left or right, as those students are on the other team. I still have the old-school, non-computerized version - which I much prefer - and thus I also appoint one student to man the buzzer and another to move the pieces on the game board.

This game is an excellent resource - and teachers will often borrow it for the end of a class period.

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