Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Make Up Your Own Rules

During a get-to-know-you activity with some kids after school, we played a Cranium-type game. I didn't tell them this, but I'd found it in my classroom towards the end of the year a couple of years ago and my efforts to track down the owner were unsuccessful, so I kept it. The game set was in perfect condition, except, as I discovered when we sat down to play last week, the rules were missing.

"Did you ever play this before?" I asked the kids.

They hadn't.

I looked at the cards and game pieces and board, but I was flummoxed. The games from the Cranium family have a good reputation for being thought-provoking and unusual, which is fine, but quite a drawback when you don't have the rules.

"All right," I said, feeling inspired, "we don't have the rules and I don't know them. So we need to make up our own. Let's everyone look at everything and see if we can come up with a good set."

The kids did and I did, and eventually we came up with a decent set of rules that generated as much, or more, laughter as they did fair game play. So the activity was successful.

It's also, though, a decent metaphor for our career in general. We're playing a game that's supposed to have rules, but we don't know them, or the rules as they're written don't work for our situation. So in our own little game boards--i.e. our classrooms--we forge new rules, through something like mutual consent, and if they generate good game play (i.e. a more-or-less functional class period most of the time) and maybe even some laughter, we figure that they're good rules, whether or not they're the "real" ones.

What rules have you made up in your own classroom? Not the obvious ones like "raise your hands" or "don't chew gum," but the ones that positively subvert the so-called "real" rules.
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