Friday, 27 April 2012

Playing in Common

There are times, as a teacher, when something happens that makes you feel like dancing around the room, playing rock ballads and accompanying them with exaggerated air-guitar, drinking in the glorious sunshine on even the dullest of days and generally revelling in the glory to be found in the mind-boggling machinery of our enormous universe.

Usually this happens when we feel that through some stroke of good luck, timing and work we have managed to make some scratch of difference to how a student sees or feels about themselves and the potentials.  

Earlier this week I had such a moment - when a group of students from our school; students who have been a part of our games program this year, took arm fulls of games over to the language centre attached to our school campus and taught and played games.

A small thing perhaps: the teaching and playing of games.  To give some scrap of credibility to my general feelings of excitement and elation I should perhaps give some context to these things.  The students from our school were a mixture of ages - from grades three through to five, meaning a mix of ages from 8-11.  The language centre, the Shepparton English Language Centre (SELC), is an educational facility that supports the needs of newly arrived families and refugees, teaching them English, among other skills.  

The group from SELC playing games were a mixture of mainly African, Iraqi, Iranian, and Afghani (the majority were Afghani) students.  They are high school kids and older - from around 16-25 years old.  All of them have newly arrived in Australia, many from extremely violent and horrific circumstances, most have experienced extreme trauma and the very worst our species is capable of.  I am not exaggerating.

The games our students took to play were selected on the basis that they were easy to explain, engaging to play, and language independent.  So we had kids aged 8-11, teaching games to young adults who have never had the chance to ‘play’ in their lives, who do not speak English, and who were taught through signing, gestures, smiles and nods.

It was a huge success.  The SELC students had a blast, and while the ability to communicate through language was absent, there was many a game played, much laughter, and plenty of enjoyment.  It was something nice in and of itself: to have such an eclectic mix of cultures from such traumatic backgrounds able to sit together and lose themselves in fun.  It was also something special for those 8-11 year olds - the real leaders and teachers, the real reason for the success of the afternoon - to have such a demanding and different experience, but one which was also much fun.  They came bustling back into classroom afterwards, full of stories of when Elaf had done this, or when Mohammed had done that, but also talking with each other about how they had managed to get across this meaning, or that rule with nothing more than smiles, nods and gestures.  It was a huge learning experience, and an enjoyable one.

We hope this will become a regular thing - I’d be more than happy to play air-guitar again in future - here’s to many more!

Some of the games played:

Animal upon Animal - HABA
Blokus - Hasbro

Blokus 3D - Hasbro
Chicken Cha Cha Cha - Rio Grande Games
FITS - Ravensburger
Halli Galli - Rio Grande Games
Jenga - Hasbro
Make 'n' Break - Ravensburger
Spooky Stairs - HABA

and probably some I have forgotten!




  1. Awww - you made me tear up.

    Well done!

  2. Thanks Iain! I can blog about it, and go tell everyone - but it's the kids who do the teaching that make the whole thing work - I've been thrilled. One of those 'Very Happy' moments!