I believe in the power of a group to create a change, and in the power of the game. This year I am educating 5th graders for the first time, and I have met the pupils for the first time on September. In order to reach different goals I have placed for us, I am using various strategies, and currently I would like to present the Game of Flags, which is a strategic-physical-social game, from which you can learn a lot on the class/group, and work on various issues with them.
Game of Flags is an intensive game in which two groups play against each other in order to obtain the opponent's group flag.
You divide a court to two parts, one for each group, and place 2 different flags in each of its sides. Every team gathers and decides what will be her strategy, how to get to the opponents' flag, who is in defense and who is in offence, who will protect the flag, who will rescue team-mates etc.
The middle of the playground is marked, and you can captive any of the other group members that enter your side. The "prisoner" must wait where he was caught until he is rescued by someone from his group by a "high-five".
The game is a field for many interactions, and I, as the educator, stands on the side and observe. This is one game in which I only observe the teams, and I don't take an active part in it. Some of the things I take notes of are:
1/ the coherence of the group/class
2/ the way each group plans strategically
3/ the personal character of each pupil
4/ the way the pupils plan, their courage, patience etc. For example: pupil who try to save "captives" even at the risk of being caught themselves; pupils who will always be careful and stay at their group's territory, ambushing an opponent member when they enter this territory; a pupil who was caught but cheats and runs back into the court (and the reaction of their friends) etc.
5/It is supposed to be a fun time of the group/class. Are they having fun? Are there any frictions? Does anyone prefer not to participate?
Through the game I wish to develop : A class's coherence and cooperation; girls and boys cooperation; patience; a joint strategic planning and not just the emergence of the natural "sporty leaders"; personal abilities such as patience, thinking and planning etc.; a reflection ability and feedback – both personal and in the group; elevating class value.
You go out with the class to play the game a few times, when I keep changing the group composition, in order to balance the boys/girls numbers, balance athletic kids with non-athletic ones etc, and also in order to gently break pre-existing sub-groups.
After each game (we play for about 25 minutes) we go back to class and have a discussion which includes their feedback and mine, compliments and points for improvement. It is important to discuss what requires improvement, difficulties and success etc.
Sometimes serious issues are raised, either by the pupils or by me, and it is important to give them a place. For example: flexibility in front of a change; player's unfairness; injustice and other emotions rising from the game.
Evident changes were obvious from each time we played this game, and I tried to have a span of at least 1 week from game to game. It is important to connect the issues discussed in regard to the game to other issues in the class, such as learning, patience, team-work etc.
The game, merely by being a fun challenge shows us different sides of the pupil's personality, some are in coexistence with what we thought about the pupil, and some are surprising to us as their educators.
From my experience, playing with classes; outdoor activities and leadership workshops with different groups influences a lot the coherence of the group.
I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Now, go outside and play!