As a student, those words sent shivers down my spine. As a teacher, those words absolutely terrify me. But the reason I'm terrified of the first day of school as a teacher might not be what you expect.
On the first day of school, I want to welcome my students. And get to know them. And build a sense of community. And let them know what to expect from my class. And I have to do all of this in between accomplishing all of the things I'm required to do like fire drills, tornado drills, distribute planners, etc.
This year, I attempted to accomplish as many as my goals for the first day of school by playing a tabletop game called Witness. In essence, this game requires players in groups of four to communicate and collaborate by piecing together clues to solve a mystery.
I've wanted to integrate tabletop games into my classroom the past couple of years, but quite honestly, that's pretty much as far as I went. Thanks to my sophomore collaboration team, my theoretical want became reality. Of course, this took a good ole game night to learn HOW to play the game and a materials session to put together WHAT we needed for students to play in class. (Thanks for Joshua Trevino for putting together to awesome graphic on slide #5!)
Anybody who has ever tried to use tabletop games in class knows that the most important part is the debriefing. Here are the debriefing questions I used with my students:
- What did you like / dislike about the game?
- How would the game have been different if you weren’t allowed time to write/jot down notes individually? How would the game have been different if you couldn’t talk to your group at the end?
- I picked this game because I think it gave you a preview of what it takes to succeed in sophomore English and after. What skills did you use in this game that you think you will use to be successful in this class? In life?
Here's one of my first hour student's initial responses to the debriefing:My students' next step is to take their notes from the debriefing session and expand in the form of a blog post. Here are the instructions:
- Write an at least three-paragraph blog post for a student who was absent the first day of sophomore English:
- Describe the game and how it worked to the best of your memory. Remember your audience is a student who was absent, so use detail!
- Describe your reaction (and any others' reactions) to playing the game. Include what you personally liked and/or disliked and why.
- Reflect on the educational value of the game. Include what playing the game showed you about how people work together, how different people think/process information, and/or what skills the game required that will help you in this class and/or life.
A few of my students did a great job in their reflection on the game: Damien thoroughly explained the game and what skills he thought it required; Victoria nailed how the game introduced key skills in my class; Kaia did a great job of writing to the audience identified in the prompt; and Hank compared this game to the old classic Telephone game.