Monthly Archives: November 2016

paucī ludī ad discendum

At C.A.N.E. Summer Institute this year, I had the chance to read some of Quintilian’s dē Institutione Oratoria, in which the first century Roman author expounds on a number of issues related to education. Not only was reading Quintilian a HUGE BLAST (thanks to Prof. Brandon Jones), but the author also reinforced an idea I have long since suspected to be true: games are great for learning! If you don’t believe that Quintilian wrote it, here’s proof! Playing games was an effective pedagogical tactic in Roman classrooms, and modern research only confirms its utility. In the spirit of Quintilian, I’ll use this blog post to offer four games that have served me well lately.

  1. PERICULUM: I modified this game from what one teacher calls “Kaboom.” The basics are described here. I like the activity because it reinforces vocabulary, employs intentional student movement, and comes together in no time at all with a few wide crafting popsicle sticks and a sharpie. It’s so simple that I’m sure that it’s been invented by many an ingenious teacher over the years. In my version, I replaced the word “kaboom” with “PERICULUM.” In addition to reinforcing vocabulary, student reactions are pretty hilarious. Also, it’s a nice equalizer for classes with students of different abilities (i.e., all classes); no one is safe from PERICULUM.
  2. Musca ferienda:  This game is commonly referred to by language teachers at my school as “Fly Swatter,” and I have dubbed it musca ferienda for Latin. This is another fun, extremely simple game that can be modified for different content review. Several terms are written on the board, and two students are selected to come up. Students tap the Latin terms as the English ones are called out by the teacher. The first to tap wins. Students can either represent a team or play in a “queen/king of the court” style, where the winner remains at the board until she/he is ousted. I used actual fly swatters for this game until students destroyed them in the course of frequent, enthusiastic swatting. I’ve found that other blunt implements are just as effective for the game.
  3. Kahoot: If you haven’t headed to, now might be the time to try it. You can create a quiz or poll on any topic for your class. The site generates a game pin for students to sign in and they do not need a profile. Students can see their ranking in between questions. The quizzes are always a hoot.
  4. Quizlet Live: If you’ve ever made a set of flashcards on Quizlet, you can conveniently generate a matching game for a class of six or more students. Just click “quizlet live” and the site produces a pin number students use to login from the site  As with Kahoot, students don’t need a personal profile, and it takes them seconds to get into the game. The site randomly assigns teams (or you can select them), and you can change them between rounds. I like quizlet live because the game is configured such that students on a team have individual responsibility but they can must work together as well. The only caveat I will offer with this is that kids can get ‘quizlet overload’ if too many teachers are on board…especially approaching exam period.

I hope you enjoy one or more of these games in the coming year!