Friday, July 12, 2013

Playing UpWords with the HS kids

It's been a family favorite since childhood. I was thrilled to see GMarket carried the game, I bought four sets of it and got ready to give the kids...


UpWords went fairly well this week. I'd expected the game to be easier to pick up than Scrabble because it doesn't have any double/triple word or letter scores to worry about: Each letter's worth 2 points or 1, depending on the situation. For simplicity's sake, I told the students to make every letter worth 1 point. I also relaxed the rule on stacking and said stacks could go as high as necessary. Finally, I said dictionaries were okay to use. Normally, dictionaries are only allowed as a last resort, but for ESL purposes, they help students with spelling and sometimes inspire them to try new words. The idea was to get them off and running and introduce the rest of the rules later.

Explaining the game took around 5 minutes. I demonstrated some movies and showed them (via the game's box) how words can be stacked and connected. The kids seemed to understand.

Seemed is the key word because in every class, there was one group that didn't get anything about how to play them game. They acted as though they never heard or saw my instructions. And despite having the instructions for the game in Korean, each arrant group paid them no mind. I stepped in to redirect and reteach as often as possible to no avail as well. After a while, I gave up and let them build letter towers, cover the board in alphabetical order, or make every disconnected word they could think of. I saw that they chose to ignore the rules of the game. I thought about punishing them, but figured it best to let them be. They were occupied and using English. Some battles are better left unfought.*

Oh well. One group out of three or four isn't bad. The rest of the kids caught on and had fun playing UpWords. Many didn't bother keeping score, a fact I found interesting because of how competitive the students can act. The kids knew how to keep score, but they didn't. I'll return to the game in the future, for it's good for building vocabulary. It'll go better next semester.

Update (17 July): Participation hit 100% in the last couple of classes!

*It's the end of the semester and many students have lost the will to do anything other than sleep or moan. Most get going when everyone else gets going though.

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