Working on Spielbound Teacher Guides

Dr. Mark Mills drawing diagrams on a blackboard during testimony before the Congressional Joint Atomic Energy Committee hearings on atomic radioactive fallout, 1957. Hopefully integrating games into your curriculum isn't quite this complicated.

Hello readers of Spielbound.org! The summer may be in full swing but that doesn’t mean that work stops for teachers. We’re participating in summer programs, working on strategic planning, and writing next year’s lessons! At Spielbound my goal for the summer is to start some serious work on getting some teacher guides going to help classroom teachers get the basic information they need to consider using existing games as part of their curriculum.

As I started this process, my biggest goal was to incorporate the realities of classroom teaching into a resource that would help an educator take the first steps into using games. I’ve spoken on this blog before about how logistics can be a challenge in the classroom. We have standards that we must meet. This doesn’t prevent us from innovating curriculum, but it means that we have to be very efficient in squeezing as much time as possible out of our available class time. For games, that means that any teacher guide that we produce at Spielbound needs to communicate how much time it could take students to have a great experience with a game. But that’s just a beginning.

My latest classroom board game project - Part 2

In my , I set the groundwork for Periodic Table Rummy, a simple card game to help students understand the periodicity of the periodic table of the elements. I decided to use as my “standard” deck of cards for the game. The game plays like rummy, with some additions of my own to keep the focus on categorization.

Helium as seen in Theo Gray’s The Photographic Card Deck of the Elements. The top picture is top of the card, and the bottom picture is the "face" side of the card.

Here are the basic rules:

  1. Shuffle the deck (picture side up) of 118 elements and deal 10 cards to each player.
  2. Place the deck picture side up in the center of the playing field. Turn the first card over to form a discard pile.
  3. Play begins to the left of the dealer. On a player’s turn, they have two choices: pick up a card from the discard pile or pick up a card from the top of the deck. A player always draws a card to start their turn. They will then discard a card from their hand. If they draw from the discard pile, they must discard a different card.
  4. After their normal draw and discard, a player may lay down 5–9 cards in front of them that meet one of two criteria:
    a) Cards in the same group of the periodic table that all have matching card background colors.
    b) Cards with consecutive atomic numbers.
    Cards show the location of the element on the periodic table.
  5. After laying down a set of cards, a player must:
    a) Read the entry for the “fact sheet” of the group of the elements being laid down, or the periodicity “fact sheet” if laying down consecutive numbers and
    b) A fun or interesting fact of one element laid down.
    If a player fails to read the information and the other players catch them, they must shuffle all their cards back into the deck and draw ten new cards!
  6. After playing 5-9 cards and successfully reading them, a player redraws from the deck to make a hand of 10.

My latest classroom board game project - Part 1

A traditional Battleship game.

Whilst perusing social media a few months ago, I came across a person who had taken the game Battleship and grafted a periodic table of the elements across it. The rationale behind this move was that by calling out elements on the periodic table as you play the game, students would learn the periodic table. The person who designed this game was well meaning, but clearly not a science educator.

I am. I teach my students about the history, meaning, and uses of the periodic table. The periodic table is not just a collection of chemical symbols and numbers. There is a reason why it isn’t just one long list. The periodic table of the elements is arranged so as to show off the periodicity or trends within groups of elements. Different elements, based upon their electronegativity, electron orbitals, and ionization energy, behave similarly when they have these things in common.


Looking for a New Year’s Resolution?

Design your own game!

Hello teachers! With a New Year come new opportunities. Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Even if you don’t, the turn of the calendar is a great time for professional educators to think about tools that they could use to enhance their student’s classroom experiences. Let’s start second semester off with a positive and engaging tone!

A critical focus of Spielbound for 2016 is to continue to support teachers in finding ways to use play, games, and strategic thinking in their classrooms. As a teacher myself, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be a challenge. But it is a surmountable challenge when you have Spielbound and other great teachers backing us up.

I often find myself considering enhancements to my classroom and hesitating. When that happens, I challenge myself to identify the barriers to my thinking that are stopping me from accomplishing what I originally had in mind. If you are considering “gamifying” parts of your student’s classroom experiences, but you are a little hesitant as to how to go about doing that, the first question may be to ask where you see the roadblocks. This is a healthy exercise. Teachers usually hesitate because they have high expectations for themselves and want to do the absolute best to bring their students great experiences.


Gameplay in the Classroom

Prototype Meters for gameplay in the classroom.

Happy Summer, readers of Spielbound.org!

I hope that all of the teachers in the audience are recharging their batteries for next school year. But, if we're honest, many teachers are spending at least part of their summer making enhancements to their curricula. I'm no exception.

This summer I'm spending several weeks designing, writing, and building a game for my classroom. Why do this from scratch? I have several reasons that I want to share.

The beauty of incorporating gameplay into a classroom is that there is no one "right" way to do it, so long as a teacher has an educative rationale. Maybe you'll use a game purchased at a discount through Spielbound to help students keep their math proficiency sharp. Maybe you need a historical game to really help students do some deep thinking about the expansion of railroads during the Industrial Revolution or help them think about city planning. If a pre-existing game fits your objectives, go for it! Unfortunately, there aren't always games that fit all objectives and this is where I am taking matters into my own hands. This helps me target the exact ideas that I need to make good use of my curricular time, and also gives me the freedom to write the game with the needs of my own students in mind.

I have a few objectives in my science classroom that I'm trying to help students meet and exceed. The topic is global climate change, a set of required Nebraska State Standards for my science class. Students need to understand the wide body of evidence and ethical dilemmas surrounding the study of this scientific fact. I also want to use this as an opportunity to practice rich thinking in cooperation with their peers. Students can use those interactions to develop breadth and depth in their construction of understanding. Those are big goals, to be sure, but calculated risks are what drive really rich learning. I've already put about ten days in. So where did I start?

Getting started with games in the classroom

Happy New Year Friends of Spielbound!

I'm excited for what 2015 holds for Spielbound and I hope that you've been enjoying the engagement that our game library provides.  I've been personally enjoying the relaxed environment at the cafe and library.

One of the central goals of Spielbound is to help teachers find ways to enhance student learning and engagement with board games.  In order to do that we want to find ways to help teachers see pathways for using games in schools.  So how can we help with the professional development of teachers whose schedules are already packed?  Go to the movies, of course!

On March 9th at 7 PM Spielbound and Filmstreams invite you to a special, one-time screening of the documentary World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements.  The event is open to all, but area educators and their families are especially encouraged to attend.  The film highlights the efforts of rural Virginia teacher John Hunter to use the non-violence principles of Mahatma Ghandi to help his students understand peaceful discourse.  His World Peace Game helps students to see the value of collaboration and communication in resolving conflicts.  This inspiring story will be followed by a Question and Answer session with a special panel.

Greetings from our new Teacher Outreach Coordinator!

Michael Fryda
Thanks for finding your way to Spielbound!

My name is Michael Fryda and I am the Teacher Outreach Coordinator for the organization. I'll be maintaining this blog to help you, the reader, understand what Spielbound has to offer you. I am also the contact for teachers in the Metro area who are interested in finding ways to bring board games into their curricula and after school clubs.

Why me? I'm a twelve-year veteran high school teacher and an adjunct professor of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. I teach science at Westside High School in Omaha and I've been involved in creating staff development programs and mentoring first year teachers my entire career.

I've also been sponsoring an after school game club at Westside High School since 2003. A colleague splits the duties with me. Between the two us, we reach over 100 students every Tuesday. When I started the club, I set a series of educative goals for our students. We knew a decade ago, just as we do now that games have strong capacity for teaching critical thinking, strategic thinking, and cost-benefit analysis. All of these thinking modalities are taught in school curricula. We also wanted to be sure that students had a safe, inclusive environment to be at after school. Finally, we wanted to model a positive sporting spirit with our students.