bringing fun to children in need – cont’d

Continuing from a previous post, I received another email from our Peace Corps correspondent in which I learned that she has only three hours for this whole effort. I wrote this:

Not to discourage you, but if you only have one session altogether, there is very little you are going to be able to accomplish. So you need to maybe focus on accomplishing fewer goals, playing fewer games.

I agree that some presentation about the benefits of play would be of value. And agree even more that a brainstorm is the best approach. It brings them much more personally into the discussion. (I was very encouraged to discover that you were thinking like that).

I also agree that  Rock/Paper/Scissors Tag is a very good choice. Having the kids change sides as the game progresses is really all you need to do to encourage teamwork. This can be instituted in almost all the games that you recommend. There’s another game (one that you can play in doors) that is also based on Rock/Scissors/Paper – it’s called Panther Person Porcupine – see this  – you can have the players make up any three animals, giving each a motion and sound. You can also see me in action as I lead the game. These two make for a nice sequence because they are variations of the same basic game. Also, Rock/Scissors/Paper is a great game to teach kids to help them resolve conflicts. After each game, you might want to consider having a conversation about what made the game fun, how people contributed to the fun of it, what social skills kids are practicing during the game, what benefits playing these games have, and what other games could benefit from the principle of changing sides or playing with three teams.

By now, you’ve spent at least an hour.

If you’re still outside this might be a good chance to play something like soccer, only challenging the teachers to adapt the game so that it incorporates the principles of Panther/Person/Porcupine – losing players join winning side, playing with three teams. This would also be a good time to have them make a ball out of plastic bags. They might find this presentation helpful

Exploring indoor games more, they can then try to adapt their soccer game to playing in a classroom or some other environment (like a table top as in bag flicking).

You’ll find a really extensive collection of games here – I would recommend that instead of cookie jar, you try playing Numbers – it’s similar, but it is very flexible and again a game that people can change. When you teach it, make sure that players who make a mistake aren’t punished or made to go out of the game. Just laugh, and start over with the next player. This leads to a good opportunity to point out that there’s very little advantage to having kids not play. Better to change games and adapt them so that there’s always inclusion.

By now, you’ll have used at least two hours of your session, you’ll have given teachers a positive, fun, playful experience, an opportunity to discover how they can change games, how to play more inclusively, how to involve kids in making up their own games.

Now you can go over the teachers’ brainstorm re the benefits of play and have them check off which ones they experienced, and perhaps add to the list.

If you can convince anyone, it would be wonderful if you could arrange a follow-up session, perhaps even videotape some of the teachers playing with their kids and show the tapes during the session – give the teachers a sense of accomplishment, effectiveness, and help them identify which teachers might become champions of more fun.

I know you had a lot of other ideas for games, but the more successful you are, the more game ideas you’ll have coming from the teachers themselves. As long as you’re clear about inclusion and invention, all your goals should be met.

I like to end with a closing game like Clap You or Applausez-Nous

Correspondent: In the game session I also included a section on sportsmanship. I felt it necessary since the teachers here seem to venerate competition above sportsmanship, how do you go about teaching this?

Me: I ask participants to describe how the games we played differed from most games. They should note that losers simply join the winning team, so that no one gets excluded as a result of his or her performance. I also note the leadership style that i use that emphasizes fun above all. My real focus is that kids are having fun together. Sportsmanship only becomes a need or issue when there are negative consequences for having “lost.” in these games, people lose, but they get to keep playing. By changing sides they also experience the emphasis on the fun of playing rather than on winning or losing.

I strongly recommend that you find maybe 6 people and run the whole session yourself at least once before you actually do it with the teachers. This way you can get a sense of the timing and the points you need to make.

I also noticed that you did not ask anyone to teach you any of the games they play. I also strongly recommend that you do that in place of teaching them steal the bacon. As for steal the Bacon, i usually don’t play the game because it’s so strongly controlled by the leader – who is almost always the teacher. Which reminds me of another recommendation, share your leadership as soon as you can. Like when you play panther person porcupine, let someone else be the one that starts each round. Same with rock paper scissors tag. And you join the game then. That way you can sense the experience from inside, and also strengthen your bonds with the people you’re teaching.

People to People is a great game! You might want to let it run longer so that more people get to be the leader and the leader gets to play more. Did you ever try to play it with three people instead of two?

Generally, I think it’s a better pedagogic strategy to get people to tell you what they learned rather than for you to tell them what you hope you taught them.

If you really want to play Steal the Bacon, instead of giving the winning team a point, why don’t you just have the losing player join the winning team. This way you can keep to the theme, and if people comment, you can explain that this is an approach they can use with all games – actually, there are two strategies, one is to play with three teams instead of two, the other to exchange players between teams. The idea being that we set up the conditions for what we call “poor sportsmanship” by the way we as leaders emphasize competition over fun.

If you have any didactic materials, post them somewhere that people can read them if they want. If you can take notes of what the teachers say, add those comments. But you really want the teachers to be the source of information rather than you as experts. It will strengthen the bond between you and the teachers and it will give them the experience of their own expertise.

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