My wife and I are pretty hard core boardgamers. We have a large collection, love to play, and have gotten our children pretty hooked in the process. My first couple of years of teaching, accordingly, I spent a pretty large amount of time figuring out how to get some good games into my classroom. After I started TPRS, however, and started to trust the process of just interacting with the kids, most of the games tended to fall by the wayside because I didn’t get the same return off of investment with them.
There are, however, a couple notable exceptions here. The first game I lucked into is a German version of Apples to Apples that was given to me by a friend who works for the company that makes the English version. So I don’t spend all my time running around translating, I created a table that contains all the translations on three pages and now the games can run in my classroom almost independent of me for year end level one students and up. I pull this out maybe once every other month on a Friday when I remember to, and everybody enjoys it.
The game that I get the most burn off of, however, is a game called “Once upon a time” that I absolutely love. In the original version of this game (which you can order), players are dealt a hand with various fairy tale elements–sword, evil queen, betrayal, escape from prison, etc.–that are all on separate cards. Everybody also has different cards on how the story ends and tries to interrupt the group-told story to both get rid of all their cards and end up with their ending prevailing. There are a few game mechanisms to make this happen that work very well for advanced speakers, but are just too much for beginners and most intermediate speakers.
I still liked the basic idea of this, however, and one year instead of making all my students memorize lists of verb forms, I embedded them into this game by making my own cards for them. A sample sheet looks like this:
I basically found pictures to illustrate a given card, and then put the two major past tense forms at the bottom in different colors. I got sort of carried away doing this and have about 88 different verbs I threw in here. Not content with just verbs, however, I decided to make a number of objects (Gegenstand in German) as typified by the cards below.
When I roll this out to classes now, I have them create a progressive story in small groups. Each player has five cards, which they renew each round and when the story gets to them, they need to choose which of the five cards they like best.
Sample stories turn up along the lines of “One day I was going to a museum when an evil robot broke out on the floor. I threw my stinky cheese at him and went to go for a hike in the woods where I met a llama. I tempted him to me by using chocolate candy, and….” You get the idea.
For my upper level classes, I tend to break this out a couple times a quarter to let them just make up silly stories. What I discovered, however, is that these cards also make wonderful writing prompts. I’ll deal everybody six cards and tell them they have to use three of them in a story which they also have to use our target phrases for the day.
Again, I don’t really have a huge use for games in my class now that most of the class is one big game, but I’ve found this useful to mix things up occasionally as well as to sharpen the saw occasionally about how fun it is just to create random stories.
UPDATE: Here are the files
Eines Tages Master cards — The cards featured above
Eines Tages red — The card backs (red) I created. I have a different color for each deck I create so they don’t get mixed up.