Guest blogger: Barb Schwarz, Benson Secondary School
What is the last card game, board game, or online game that you have played? Games of all kinds are a big industry. We are drawn to manipulate the cards, dice, play money and metal or plastic gadgets that come with them. The idea and fun of engaging in a competition draws some of us in. According to the Boston Globe, plenty of people are still playing board games. In fact, the sale of board games has seen a steady rise in the last few years. The Boston Globe is calling it the Golden Age of table top games. Do you remember the games that you played growing up? Games like Scrabble, Pictionary, Taboo, Candy Land, Battleship, Boggle, Parcheesi, Risk, Life, Clue, Sorry and Monopoly, just to name a few. As teachers we can take a look at what is popping to see if we can find a way to incorporate the ingenuity of the creator into our classrooms. Two that I think are good possibilities are Monopoly and Spot It.
This year Monopoly is 80 years old with 275 million games sold worldwide, with availability in 111 countries and 43 languages. According to Monopoly was Designed to Teach the 99% About Income Inequality at Smithsonian.com, Monopoly was invented by a woman named Lizzie Magie. She invented Monopoly in 1904 and called it the Landlord’s Game, in which the patent eventually sold to Parker Brothers for $500 in 1935. This game could be used to meet U.S. History, Economic, Math, Family and Consumer Science, and Literacy Standards with goals in the rise of business, management of money, vocabulary and communication as seen in some of the lessons found online that you can link to:
If you are still not convinced playing the game of Monopoly can be beneficial in the classroom listen to the interview of Philip Orbanes by Daniel Bortz, “What Money Can Teach You about Smart Investing.” Orbanes is the author of the new book “Monopoly, Money, and You: How to Profit from the Game’s Secret of Success.” He has also spent more than 30 years judging the United States and World Monopoly Championships.
Another game that I modify to meet my own needs is Spot It, made by Blue Orange Games. This is a card game made up of 57 symbols, represented on 55 cards with 8 symbols per card. (Don’t try to figure it out as it will make you go crazy!) In the real game there is only one matching symbol between any two cards in the deck. At the same time, players flip over their cards to spot the one symbol that appears both on the center card and own card. If you are the first player to do so and call it out then you get to take the center card and flip it face-up on top of your flipped card, building a personal pile. Object is to get the most cards.
I use the concept of the cards to create a classroom set of cards from a decade of pop culture. I have lists created of 57 items from each decade, each group getting a smaller list of 16 with the one circled they must include on each card (each group makes four cards, each two have an object that matches). Students create the cards electronically, fill in data on the additional sheet I provided and then we use those cards to share before we attempt to play the game of Spot It. When I build my classroom deck I really don’t get so concerned with the necessity to have matches but rather more concerned with student knowledge about the pop culture of each decade we are building cards for. If we find we have cards that do not match we simply flip them over and continue on. I keep all the cards on 8.5″ x 11” paper and sometime even have a chance to laminate them before we play. If the game doesn’t work in the classroom, there are many different versions of the real game. I can pull them out to take a moment of fun. Here is an example of my list of the 1940s and with it samples of the card they will place their images in and what they will record.
Students can take ownership in the games they make. The process is interactive and social. They can showcase their skills, knowledge and talents by creating them as well as showing their competitive side by playing them.
We have all used some form of game in our classroom. With standards-based education we sometimes forget to take a moment and add to our lessons creating flair to necessary tasks like grammar, vocabulary and review.
In the extension of games, technology has created the opportunity to play table top games on smart devices with free apps. You can find “Dobble” as the European version of “Spot It” on your smart phone. Monopoly has become so big that we have progressed to television game shows of Monopoly, you can play it online, on game channels, on your phone and there are festivals around the world that encourage the playing of the board game versions. Keeping up with the trends and finding a way to make them useful in education is the challenge. At times, technology itself is the challenge.
Some students will have graduated to other forms of gaming through technology like “Words with Friends”, “Call of Duty”, “Candy Crush”, “Angry Birds”, “Grand Theft Auto”, “Mario Bros”, “Madden NFL” or “Minecraft”, (There are various sites online for using “Minecraft” in the classroom for reading, writing and math). Skills acquired by students engaging in games on their own time has been sought out by the military for coding skills or guiding laser beams and missiles to flying drones and manipulating bomb seeking robots. What will be the pop culture in games of the future?
Educationally, there is also something to getting back to the basics and teaching the simplicity of board game. Maybe just getting together and playing the game, whichever one it is, can be a pop culture fad in itself! Maybe one of your students will be the next Lizzie Magie with the inspiration to create something new. Whichever it is, using a board game to spin new ideas from the grassroots of human interaction to creating new and challenging ideas in technology can’t be all bad.
A Project of the Southern Law Center. (2015). The Real Monopoly: America’s Racial Wealth Divide. Retrieved from Teaching Tolerance.
Atwood, J. (2015). Stack Exchange. Retrieved from Mathematics.
Bortz, D. (2013, March 20). What Monopoly Can Teach You About Smart Investing. Retrieved from US News and World Report Money.
Dodson, E. J. (2011, December). How Henry George’s Principles Were Corrupted. Retrieved from Henry George Institute.
Gaming, H. (2015). Monopoly. Retrieved from Hasbro Gaming Monopoly.
Gilsdorf, E. (2014, November 26). Board Games are Back and Boston’s A Player. Retrieved from the Boston Globe.
Murray, J. (2015). Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More. Retrieved from Teachhub.com.
Pilon, M. (2015, January). Monopoly Was Designed to Teach the 99% About Income Inequality. Retrieved from Smithsonian.com.
Selman, D. (2002-2014). Monopoly Matters. Retrieved from Alabama Learning Exchange.
Tribett, G. (2015). Monopoly Lesson Plan. Retrieved from Manchester University.
Word Press. (2015). Click Americana Memories and Memorabilia.