PICTURE THIS. It's the last full day of classes before exams. In most rooms the students are nose-deep in notes and books, studying and cramming for the final. But in my class the students are ... playing board games! If you were to step into the room you would hear, not sighing and moaning, but giggles and guffaws. In one corner of the room the students are actually kneeling on the floor participating in a version of "Twister!" In another corner students are screaming out in joy! "I won!" What is happening here? Has the teacher lost all control? Is rebellion occurring? Is there a need for some form of emergency intervention here? No, the students are actually in the final phase of preparation for their history final exam. I call this project the Cooperative Board Game Project.
About eight days before the final exam, I give my students a study guide and a new assignment: to create their own board game. I form groups of three students each. They have a week or so to prepare their game, the form of which should be based on anything of interest. The key is that the content of their game must include one hundred questions, written on index cards, which are based only on important information that we have covered in class. The questions should be (1) likely to appear on the test, (2) substantial, and (3) accompanied by correct answers that must be found in class notes or in the class textbook.
Questions and answers are weighted much more heavily than any of the other parts of the game.
There is a participation grade for each student, which I average into each student's group grade. This way, instead of getting only one grade and allowing those who don't work very hard to get a good grade, every student in the group gets a grade that reflects his or her particular effort.
Students must create their own board, box, typed instructions, and moving pieces. They must relate the design of the box and board, in some way, to history. They may not use any game piece, artwork, or illustration from other marketed games. (1)
On the day just before final exams, students present their games to the class, and then they set up the games around the room in stations. …