When teaching Language Arts a number of years ago, one of the choices I often gave students was to create a board game as a means to visually demonstrate their understanding of characters and events in a novel. I remember the rich learning and enjoyment experienced not only by the student who created the game, but by the students who participated in playing with the game once it was completed. Although I observed and assessed these projects, I was never involved in the process of building a game- until this year. I have had the pleasure of working with teachers and groups of students, creating board games based on regions of Alberta (grade 4) and now regions of Canada (grade 5).
Starting with setting criteria for powerful questions, students then proceed to create questions based on grade level appropriate information. Each student chooses a specific aspect of the region they will focus on. Initially students try to seek my approval for the questions they create, but once they realize that I will always refer them to the criteria to determine whether a question “makes the cut” or not, they will invariably self assess based on the criteria and feedback from their peers. Working as a group, students then determine what type of game format they want to use. They brainstorm possible ways to make it visually appealing, and ensure the game is challenging yet achievable for those playing. It’s amazing to watch students dig into the information so that they can find creative ways to provide participants with potential learning opportunities while playing.
The first game created was a Chutes and Ladders style game that was based on the Rocky Mountain Region. The group that created the game was tasked with the responsibility of establishing the rules for the game and explaining those to the rest of the students. They renamed the game “Waterfalls, Chairlifts and Trails” and used shiny paper, stickers, and other embellishments to make it visually appealing and align with the characteristics of the region. Needless to say, the rest of the students thoroughly enjoyed playing the game and provided effective feedback to the students who created it. I’m now working with two other groups of very excited students who are in the process of creating games based on different regions.
If you are interested in finding out more about this project idea, don’t hesitate to ask.