Ryan Full
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I had posted a thread a few weeks back asking for recommendations for my junior high/middle school game club and got many many interesting recommendations that did help out and play well in my game club.

My after school game club has been pretty successful. So successful in fact that next year I am going to be teaching a year long course on Higher Order Thinking Skills that will consist solely of games, puzzles, and game design.

This is where I need help now. I’m looking at having to develop an entire year long curriculum, methods to evaluate students, link in games that touch upon various disciplines (math, science, history, language arts, etc.), as well as create the lesson plans and rubrics to utilize them in the classroom.

Due to all this I have several questions:

1. Games you would recommend and what subject or skill do you think they teach? This could be something like Chrononauts to have discussions about history, or something like Power Grid to have them do mental math.
2. Has anyone done any sort of class during the school day like this?
3. Does anyone know of a forum or listserv that gathers together teachers who are implementing games in the classroom where ideas, materials, and resources are swapped?
4. Any other advice anyone could offer?

thanks,
-Ryan
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For what it's worth, I did a geeklist that took a kind of building-blocks approach to gateway games. Here's the link: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/10231. In my experience, primarily teaching games to elementary school aged kids (and a few older relatives), it really helps to introduce new gaming concepts in relatively pure forms. The list proceeds from that logic and highlights games that are both fun in and of themselves, but that also let you explore/focus on a particular mechanic.
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That is a good idea. I hope to discuss themes, practice writing reviews (focusing on analysis and critical writing), and eventually do some exercises where they are creating a game when given certain items or creating variations on games (alternate rule sets to an existing game or expansions to an existing game).

Part of my issue will be having enough copies of a game for everyone to play at the same time. I think due to not having enough I will have to do rotating stations with similar games. For instance take a week to work with the bidding mechanics and have 4-5 bidding game stations they rotate through. That is why getting recommendations with their focus will help me out. I may end up creating an Excel file with all the games I own and buy for the class that will categorize them by mechanic, theme, skills, players, etc. (very similar to how the Geek categorizes them).

-Ryan
 
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Ryan,

Here's a few ideas off the top of my head..

For a textbook (mainly for you - its likely too advanced for Junior High students), try "Rules of Play" by K. Salen and E. Zimmerman (MIT Press). It is aimed squarely at academic study of game design. There is a companion book "The Game Design Reader" also available.

As for games, how you choose to classify them will drive your selection and the intended purpose. Your note seems to indicate that you are looking at games as reflections/tools of standard subjects (Math, Science, History, Sociology). This will work, but you may find that games along pure subject lines are hard to find (though they do exist). Since most games seem to cross several subjects, you may find it easier to select games if you adjust your taxonomy to something like play styles and/or mechanics and determine the subjects that apply.

For example, consider "auction games". Looking at the different styles of auctions, you can pick a game with a specific auction style (Merchants of Amsterdam and Dutch auctions) and apply applicable subjects (History : Dutch Traders, Math: Game Theory of Dutch Auctions, etc). An alternate example might be "games that use numeric series" (e.g. Amun-Re)

For highlighting science, you'll likely want to focus on mechanics like deductive and inductive reasoning (e.g. Zendo) or chemical formulae (e.g. Theophrastus).

For sociology, the one game I'd recommend looking at is What's It To Ya?. This would be a great choice for examining games and personal values. An uncommon subject in game design for sure and a good game to boot.

I wish someone had offered up a class like your proposal when I was in school! Good luck with your course. Sorry for the long post.
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Ryan Full
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Your long post is exactly what I was looking for! I'm not looking for pure core subject area things. I'm just looking for games that will have elements of those subject areas so I can add some cross-curricular reinforcement of the skills they will need for success in other subject areas.

I know when I was in school I did very well but I was frequently bored and didn't see the point of some material. If I can have them access the same skillset in a game that they can then apply to improve their chances of success in other academic areas I think my job will be done.

My assigned duty in the class is to work on improving higher order thinking skills (most likely I will be basing that tasks on Bloom's Taxonomy)and I am otherwise being given carte blanche to develop the entire curriculum.

Those books you mentioned, are they college textbooks? I will have to try to hunt them down for some summer reading.
 
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Being a bibliophile myself I could not help but to help you find the books. Here are some links for them:

Rules of Play
http://www.allbookstores.com/book/compare/0262240459

The Game Design Reader
http://www.allbookstores.com/book/compare/0262195364

These are a list of the various places to buy said books...

-DK

I like research.

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Quite a challenge!

The theory of games is considered, in general, much too advanced for students at this level. For some general reading on game theory, try starting here;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory

Re-interpreting this for younger people would be a very ground breaking, challenging, and impressive accomplishment! I'll wager someone has taken a crack at writing such a book, but I don't know of one myself

So, your class schedule would be in units;

1) Introducing games - Explain the basics of the course; that games are a good tool for studying problems. Show them situations in the real world where people use games to study problems.

2) What's in a game? - Cover the basic issues of game theory in a light and simple way. For example, explain how complexity affects planning (Chess, "I think you think I think"), hidden versus known information (Poker), etc. Ideas for lessons - show why Tic Tac Toe is trivial, introduce the Prisoner's Dilemma, show what happens when different players are playing for different goals.

3) Games in Politics - I think you'll be best off here making your own game, splitting the class into two groups representing political factions or parties with yourself taking the role of the people they serve. Winning the game is done by keeping the people happy. Another variation can have the class split into different nations where they must work out peace and prosperity - look into the National Security Decision Making Game for some insight into portraying politics as a game.

4) Games in Economics - Nothing says economics to kids like money. Games where money is used very centrally are very helpful. Indeed, Monopoly was originally conceived as a teaching tool. Perhaps basic money games like Power Grid might be a solid choice here. Ideally, you'd like a system where you can tweak the rules and play again to show how economic games are used to explore theories... Monopoly may be best.

5) Games as Simulations - Ideally, the point here is to show how games can be used to simulate real world situations and that playing through them can help you understand different dynamics. A historical wargame would be the ultimate direct example. What a great choice Twilight Struggle would make, but it seems a bit serious.

6) Making a game - Explain the basic mechanics of trading, auctions, betting, drafting, and attacking. Turn the kids loose in small groups with a theme and some supplies (index cards, dice, and poker chips are plenty) and see what they come up with. Remember, game design is very challenging! So, this is more of exploratory and learning play than an opportunity to grade and rate.


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An author at Harvard (?) Mckenzie Wark recently published a book titled Gam3r 7h3ory. From a discussion he had on a podcast, the book approaches the rapid rise of the popularity of video games and has asked the question, what is the difference between reality and gamespace. Defining the boundaries between life (where you don't get to save or be resurrected) and playing a game has become increasingly blurred.
Here's the site: http://www.futureofthebook.org/gamertheory/

P.s. I hope that your class will involve a token economy and a trading aspect. Enjoy!
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Hi Ryan,

of the top of my head I'd say use kakuro (the adding version of sudoku) which is available as either puzzles or games.

Once you've got the basics down you can learn to add/divide/take averages at speed without a calculator.
 
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mdornbrook wrote:
An author at Harvard (?) Mckenzie Wark recently published a book titled Gam3r 7h3ory. From a discussion he had on a podcast, the book approaches the rapid rise of the popularity of video games and has asked the question, what is the difference between reality and gamespace. Defining the boundaries between life (where you don't get to save or be resurrected) and playing a game has become increasingly blurred.
Here's the site: http://www.futureofthebook.org/gamertheory/

P.s. I hope that your class will involve a token economy and a trading aspect. Enjoy!


Wow, this sounds incredibly fascinating. I will have to look into this... although I have a feeling I need to go to the community college and take some additional math classes before much of the games theory would make sense to me.

What I would love to see in a future iteration of the class (the year after next my school will shift from a junior high to a middle school and then my class will probably become an 8th grade class) would be to practice some sort of meta-gaming. Have an economic component where something is "purchased" with the equivalent of geek gold. Perhaps they will purchase the ability to go first for one full day or play their particular preferred house rule in a game and they would earn this item to purchase with through wins, mentoring, or some other sort of device. A meta-game layered over top of everything really fascinates me. I just have to get that "everything" sorted out first. :lol:

-Ryan
 
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miyu wrote:
Your long post is exactly what I was looking for!


No problem. This is a topic that I am very interested in and I'm glad to have the chance for some input.

miyu wrote:
I know when I was in school I did very well but I was frequently bored and didn't see the point of some material. If I can have them access the same skillset in a game that they can then apply to improve their chances of success in other academic areas I think my job will be done.


Spot on for me too. If knowledge is represented as a graph, traditional education focuses on the nodes and expects the students to explore the connections. I prefer to focus on the connections and let the student explore the nodes (which are well documented in textbooks and other sources).

miyu wrote:
My assigned duty in the class is to work on improving higher order thinking skills (most likely I will be basing that tasks on Bloom's Taxonomy)


Will you be using the Knowledge-based goals, Skills-based goals, or Affective goals as your base? I assume knowledge-based goals would be the most likely. If so, how do you plan to integrate dexterity games into the mix? (Maybe through applied physics? i.e. gravity?)

miyu wrote:
Those books you mentioned, are they college textbooks?


They are definitely geared toward that audience. The reference material in the reader is definitely at a college level. Huizinga's work on Play is mostly doctoral level material. They are probably available online through Amazon or borders or Barnes & Noble.

I'd be happy to chat more about this with you if you'd like to or to review any proposed curriculum.
 
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Games Quarterly http://www.gamesquarterly.net/ has a section for teachers in each issue, plus a special issue for teachers. It usually consists of a big chart of games that address a particular cognitive task rated by various criteria.

Games Quarterly also comes with a game expansion for Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne in each issue. Other than that there's not much to recommend it. It's mostly written by the game companies themselves and can be regarded as one big advertisement.
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mdornbrook wrote:
P.s. I hope that your class will involve a token economy and a trading aspect. Enjoy!
This reminds me of a game/lesson that we had in 6th grade (1982) - a "Micro-Economy" where the students each "owned" a segment of the economy. (construction firms, banking, etc)
The "game" lasted many weeks long and was a good learning tool.
Anyone know of this game or games similar to it?
I'd think something like this would be tailor made for a class like in the OP

BTW - I'd think a Werewolf game would be a must in that class.
 
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DKahnt wrote:
Being a bibliophile myself I could not help but to help you find the books. Here are some links for them:

Rules of Play
http://www.allbookstores.com/book/compare/0262240459

The Game Design Reader
http://www.allbookstores.com/book/compare/0262195364

These are a list of the various places to buy said books...

-DK

I like research.



I own Rules of Play and plan on buying The Game Design Reader. They are excellent books.
 
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Very noble task you have undertaken. I see there are many good responses to your query vis a vis games but I would like to add an element that addresses your goal to teach Higher Order Thinking.

I would recommend getting some books by Edward De Bono. He is widely acknowledged as a leading figure in thinking about thinking. There are many books, but a great intro book of his is called "Simplicity".

True to is name it is an easy read and is a beacon of common sense. Some of his theories and methods are gateways into better ways to think. I highly recommend brushing up on some of Edward De Bono's works as background for your course. He even discusses some simple games he has created. Might give you some gems to build on in your course.

Best of luck in your pursuits...
 
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I have several posts to respond to so I may make a few posts in a row here. First I want to thank everyone for the discussion and really appreciate the chance to bounce these ideas off others who will most likely have more insight into the goals and tasks than I will at first glance through.

Audacon wrote:

Spot on for me too. If knowledge is represented as a graph, traditional education focuses on the nodes and expects the students to explore the connections. I prefer to focus on the connections and let the student explore the nodes (which are well documented in textbooks and other sources).

Will you be using the Knowledge-based goals, Skills-based goals, or Affective goals as your base? I assume knowledge-based goals would be the most likely. If so, how do you plan to integrate dexterity games into the mix? (Maybe through applied physics? i.e. gravity?)

I'd be happy to chat more about this with you if you'd like to or to review any proposed curriculum.


I'm the exact same way, the connections between things many times interest me more than the individual facts themselves. That is what drew me into studying language and mythology and drove me away from math in school. Now that I see that the study of math does focus on those connections I'm going to have to start taking some classes again. *laugh*

For some of the dexterity games I'm thinking they will address spatial skills or even geometry to some extent. A game like Pitchcar could lead to discussions on friction (so yes, applied physics) as well as geometry (through looking at angles of ricochet). One of the stacking games (I remember one that had wooden pieces like a goblet, an egg, and other odd shapes) will play up spatial strengths and challenge those who can't envision a structure before placing a piece. It could also potentially lead to some interesting discussions about engineering or construction.

I will buy those textbooks this summer... Actually I will probably order them after I finish my grad degree (will finish up my MAT at the end of April). I did break down and order the Gamer Theory book as well as the Theory of Fun of Game Design.

Please keep up the discussion. Being a bit of a game nerd I'm fascinated by the why of games even moreso than the actual playing (probably the reason Go has sunk it's claws into me)and I see this almost holistic approach to learning through play as being an extremely effective tool to address some of the students traditional teaching methods leave behind.

Who knows, maybe all of us together here could develop some nice curriculum that could be tested out in a few classrooms and posted for all to share.

I'm hoping to eventually find a place where I can post and share my lesson plans and any created materials. That way if anyone else has the opportunity to start something similar they will at least have some ideas with which to kick off the program or write up a killer proposal.

-Ryan
 
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ced1106 wrote:
And remember as a final project for the kids to do a comparison between two "almost similar" games. I'm sure curious what they'd say about Beowulf vs. another auction game!


aka. Washu! ^O^


I think a final project will to be do some sort of game design, playtesting, and redesign. I may then try to publish the rules on a school webpage (or if it is an Icehouse game see if Looney Labs would put the rules up) and then try to coerce some gamers on these boards to just try it out a time or to and give them a little note in response. The kids would love to think someone out there in the world is trying their creation!

For comparing similar games I will probably set up stations. Begin with standard American roll and move mechanic games and have 3 or 4 set up in stations. They play a different station each day and take notes. Then at some point they would be given a guided analysis sheet to guide them through identifying the mechanics, element of luck, repercussions decision making, opportunity to make decisions etc. Then touch some Language Arts skills and write a review of some of the games. I may even see if the journalism teacher would like the best review for the school newspaper or the newsletter that goes home to parents. Here I'm hoping to hit that Bloom's Analysis and Synthesis levels.


Someone else mentioned de Bono, I'm familiar with his "hats" way of approaching things... is that the same de Bono? I have never read anything else by him other than his hats.
 
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Hi Ryan - it is the same De Bono, you should also check out Gardener's Intelligences - someting i think you would find useful and something that could provide a neat metalanguage to help describe games and thier applications/niches/uses/etc.

I'm pretty sure I sent you the document I wrote up for schools in my area on games - that has a section that relates games to skills/skill areas. If it's for a junior high any of the games I recommended for the 'upper or senior' school should apply well. if not - geekmail me and I'll send them to you.

As for running a curriculum about games - I suggest breaking it into components (hehehehe) like cosine suggested - of course you may change the component foci to whatever best suits your objective. i would start with a clear objective for the entire unit - is to to provide something extra/interesting/engaging for 'gifted' or under challenged kids? Is it to extend kids - and if so in what areas? and so on. I think this will inform the layout and prupose of the rest of the curriculum. Personally I would use De bono's hats/ideas as a method of analysis, but I would also use Gardener's intelligences as a metalanguage for the areas/skills that the games tap/extend. i would also use Bloom's Taxonomy as you suggested above.

Boardgamenews has a feature called the 'Teacher's Corner' - to which things are added. that might be worth checking out:

http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/C57/

Keep an eye on there - i know some of my stuff will be posted there soon - and I'll continue to try and add things that I have done that relate to how i use games etc - or that i think would be of use to teachers (and that Eric approves!!! hehehehe).

Cheers!

and Good luck!!

Giles.
 
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Stations are a brilliant way to handle things. The problem then becomes keeping them on task - kids in groups, especially in a gaming environment, tend to socialize and get off task rather easily.

I would set it up like a loosely structured science lab. Have each kid pick a role - ie, one person is a "recorder," who is responsible for jotting notes about how the flow of the game went, a "leader," who is responsible for keeping everything moving steadily, etc. You could have each person jot down what they think of the game at first glance, what their plan of attack is, and then after the game, write about how it went and their end conclusions about the game.

This, along with writing a rulebook for a game, would work on technical writing skills.

I'd also have an activity at some point later in the semester where you give a list of catagories of player traits ("Analysis Paralysis", etc, there's a really nice geeklist on this) and have them classify themselves, as well as techniques on pleasant gaming with each trait, and how to win a game when playing with the other traits.
 
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CasualSax wrote:
Stations are a brilliant way to handle things. The problem then becomes keeping them on task - kids in groups, especially in a gaming environment, tend to socialize and get off task rather easily.

I would set it up like a loosely structured science lab. Have each kid pick a role - ie, one person is a "recorder," who is responsible for jotting notes about how the flow of the game went, a "leader," who is responsible for keeping everything moving steadily, etc. You could have each person jot down what they think of the game at first glance, what their plan of attack is, and then after the game, write about how it went and their end conclusions about the game.

This, along with writing a rulebook for a game, would work on technical writing skills.

I'd also have an activity at some point later in the semester where you give a list of catagories of player traits ("Analysis Paralysis", etc, there's a really nice geeklist on this) and have them classify themselves, as well as techniques on pleasant gaming with each trait, and how to win a game when playing with the other traits.


Assigning roles is indeed crucial any time I have ever done group work.

I think I would also like to do some small 3-5 day mini-units where they have to design a game with specific limitations. Like design some sidewalk games using chalk and a couple other items. Or create a game where once the rules are explained the player doesn't need to be able to read at all. It seems like limitations like that to focus on certain thought processes would be an interesting challenge.
 
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Quote:
I think I would also like to do some small 3-5 day mini-units where they have to design a game with specific limitations.


One thing I've found with my own projects is that the more restrictions I place on myself, (ie, the game has to be about cricket, it has to be for 2-4 players, it has to feature a draft mechanic), the easier it is for me to come up with a concept design. I assume the same would hold true for students - less time spent in the initial "I want to make a game about ___."
 
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Further thinking on this, you may want to consider getting some treehouse pieces and piecepack pieces. I have ordered mine but have not received them yet. My understanding is that these are very modular games and over 100 user poublished games and game variations have been published for each. It may indeed tie in with your curriculum. Do a search for looneylabs as they make the treehouse pieces and created the original "IceHouse" series of games.

Once again, good luck with this project, I am interested to follow your progress...
...Matt
 
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Bixby wrote:
Further thinking on this, you may want to consider getting some treehouse pieces and piecepack pieces. I have ordered mine but have not received them yet. My understanding is that these are very modular games and over 100 user poublished games and game variations have been published for each. It may indeed tie in with your curriculum. Do a search for looneylabs as they make the treehouse pieces and created the original "IceHouse" series of games.

Once again, good luck with this project, I am interested to follow your progress...
...Matt


Well i'm a Teacher Rabbit for Looney Labs (I've used Fluxx, Fluxx en español, and began Nanofictionary in my classroom) and have about 9 Treehouse Stashes, Martian Coasters, and a copy of Zendo that I used with my boardgame club after school. The LL stuff is actually what inspired me to write up the proposal for this class.

Piecepack though was completely new to me and I just found it on the Geek and downloaded the pdf's right before I left school for Spring Break. I hope to spend some time this week looking up ways to use them and possibly start getting some wooden pieces so I can fabricate my own set.

Here is actually my club's web page for my school that contains the list of games the club has. We haven't played many of them though because a good number are from my personal collection and it is only the first year of the club existing.

https://www.edline.net/pages/Jackson_JHS/Activities/Board_Ga...

-Ryan
 
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CasualSax wrote:
One thing I've found with my own projects is that the more restrictions I place on myself, (ie, the game has to be about cricket, it has to be for 2-4 players, it has to feature a draft mechanic), the easier it is for me to come up with a concept design. I assume the same would hold true for students - less time spent in the initial "I want to make a game about ___."


I completely agree. The other reason I will most likely do the limiting bit is because I have to keep in mind for every project that it is a class and as such must have some form of assessment. If I set specific goals and restrictions then I can easily create rubrics to grade the projects.
 
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Hi, Ryan,
Edward DeBono has two other games on the market: the L-Game and Three-Spot, made by Rex Games, in a double-sided plastic case under the name, "Two Smart Games". They are abstract strategy and logic on the smallest imaginable gameboards. See them here: http://www.gamepuzzles.com/abstrct4.htm#L3.
 
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