Some Games Played in Class: Oddville and Diceplomacy

As part of one of my courses I have an assessed project where students produce a game to be played in English and that requires spoken communication. However, you can’t really produce a game if you haven’t played many. So, in addition to Saboteur and Deep Sea Adventure earlier in the course, students played Oddville and an adapted form of Diceplomacy (itself an adaptation of Diplomacy).

Oddville was pretty tough in places because it is pretty tough for some first language speakers of English to understand the rules due to about five different game mechanics joined together. However, my students basically got it.

It’s a resource management game, a strategy game and a bit of a bluffing game at times, rolled into one. You build a town, but you need to gather materials and then choose your building and assemble your workers to be there and you also need money. I said it was tough at times and it is because there’s so much to keep in memory. It was pretty communicative because of this. Basically every turn, students needed to check whether they were playing by the rules or not. Mostly everything was fine but the odd few turns with a bit of unorthodox building attempts needed to be kept in check. Still, it was generally simpler than Saboteur.

Diceplomacy was a good bit easier. We played using three teams, who had to declare alliances, war or neutrality. The first team to three wins won in our game and all strategy had to be talked through in English. In addition, if you won a round you could increase your dice value from a six-sided dice (1-6) to a ten-sided dice (0-9), but if you lost a round you decreased your dice to a four sided (1-4) dice. This also kept the game a lot more interesting.

Next up, my students are finalising designs and prototyping games so I should be able to see how they have evaluated the games soon.

Resources for Teaching Children

There are a large number of freelance teachers who won’t teach children at all because it can be more trouble than it’s worth: behaviour problems, parental disengagement, poor institutional support, dreadful training (or rather the lack of it). However, for those of us who are fortunate to find settings in which teaching children is not a painful experience, there is a lot to enjoy: witnessing the development, often at a more rapid pace than adults; engaging questions; and, lest we forget, a source of entertainment.
Here are some resources that may be useful for teachers of children/young learners.
Primary Resources
British Council Young Learners
Don’t forget that it is totally possible to go Dogme/materials light with kids as well, if you have paper, pens and imagination. If the class want to play games, it’s OK – provided they teach you the rules. Giving them ownership can be a bumpy ride – not a lot of kids are used to it so you might need to prime them by having little bits of control increasing incrementally. By the time they get to be responsible for choosing what they learn, it is more interesting (though it can be more challenging to teach).
Higher-ability kids can handle CLIL or project-based learning. Computer programming, geology and probability in games are all fun and useful.
Also, some cool people who teach young learners are:
Rose Bard
Anne Hendler
Tim Hampson