I plaed a game of Scattergories with my kids the other day. If you’re not familiar with Fresca’s favorite party game, players have a list of categories like “fruits”, “countries” or “movie stars” and you have to think of something for each category that begins with a choosen letter. You’re trying to think of something that no one else wll pick, so instead of saying “D is for dog”, you should think D is for dinosaur or dingbat.
I came up with some broad categories like Foods, Countries or Cities, Something in your bedroom and Something Hot. After about twenty minutes of explanation, which was not so much explaining the rules but explaining that no, I’m not going to lecture while thay take an eyes-open nap, we started to play.
My Korean students play a game on break that’s a bit like the free-association game my sister and I played on car trips. One person says a word like “banana” and everyone else must quickly say one word relating to bananas. But the object is to get the same answer as everyone else — if everyone says “yellow” and you say “monkey”, you lose. The loser gets laughed at if I’m in the room and – I think – pinched if I’m not.
So it was a bit difficult to explain that for Scattergories, the ovject is to think of a word no one else has. Actually, in my class the object was to think up as many words as possible that no one else had. They stared at me, unwilling to play, because I’d destroyed the principles of groupthink AND challenged their classroom role as comatose listeners.
But some of them got into it. For every girl silently critiquing my outfit and twisting her hair, there was one who shyly asked “England. Egypt. Is Equator a country? Because I think I saw it on a map.” For each boy disassembling his pen and watching the clock, there was one showing surprising vocabulary skills and shouting “Anaconda! Anteater!”
Some of them began to understand my broader categories. Kim made quite a good case for Egypt being hot and Hannah for Boys being animals. But it was when Stephen said “Magic cards” would be found in his bedroom that I realized what an influence I have on these kids.