October 1, 2011

What Happens in Game Club

It all started when one of my students approached me on the first day of school about coming on Fridays to play Axis and Allies, as the teacher who hosted it for them last year is no longer at our school. I stay late on Fridays anyway, so I agreed.

Within a few days, I read about Mrs. Bluebird's Board Game Club and then thought of my own failed Scrabble Club from last year. I had a few students who showed up, but it conflicted with Leadership and Debate, which are more serious clubs, so my poor club fizzled away.

I spoke with Mrs. E.--we do everything together--and decided that it might be fun to just do a basic game club. I mean, if I there were going to be 3-4 boys playing a game, why not invite more to people come play games? No harm in trying, and Friday is a great day since there are few clubs and spending an hour playing games sounded like a great way to end the week. Kind of like a kid happy hour!

I had six Scrabble boards. The Leadership adviser had a box of miscellaneous games, such as mancala, checkers, and chess. My social studies colleague had more inexpensive checker/chess boards with pieces, and a 7th grade math teacher had three Clue games (still in plastic!) that some anonymous person dropped off in his room a few years back.

And so Game Club was born.

When Mrs. E. and I were talking about it at lunch, one of our colleagues said that it sounded like a great idea. We could feature a different game each week and teach them how to play it. As brilliant as that idea was, it wasn't what I had in mind, and that wasn't what the kids had in mind, either! On the first day we had 35 students show up, and it was sheer madness! We also had several teachers stop by to play for a little while. It was all I could do to get the students to sign in before they were grabbing games and rushing to tables to sit and play.

The first week was overwhelming because I did not know there would be so many kids crammed into my classroom, and there were some students (who happened to be mine) messing around and going in and out. Most of those students have not come back after I railed them about goofing off in the hallways, where they cannot be after school. "You're either in or you're out!" At our school, students are either in a club or outside the gate. The campus isn't open for wandering. The air conditioning was a little wonky and I wondered if I could require deodorant for kids coming to the club, but we survived. Mrs. E. and I played a few games, too. She learned how to play cribbage from another teacher.

After a few weeks, we have our groove going. The kids rush in, grab boards, and start playing. They clean up after themselves after each game, and some of them even double check to make sure all the pieces are back in boxes. We remind the rest of them. (That does not mean I don't have three Scrabble tiles and a miniature lead pipe that go in one of the games...) We allow snacks but warn them that if they leave their trash behind, that will be the end of that. Students need to stay the whole time and not a minute longer, especially if they are riding the late bus, but we also have learned that a good third of the students can only stay 30 minutes because they have to pick up their siblings from the elementary school across the street.

Mrs. E. and I cannot figure out if the kids know each other, or if they are just mixing it up with whoever wants to play. (We decided it would be lame of us to ask.) Sometimes we sit and play, but usually if someone wants a partner, we try to find someone else to play with them. We spend a lot of time making sure nobody is left out. The kids are really good to each other, and if someone wants to get up from the Clue game, which requires more attention span than most of them have, to play Uno with a lonely kid, nobody cares. I compelled three of my 8th grade boys to let an younger, awkward girl to be the banker in their Monopoly because that's all she wanted to do, and they didn't even blink an eye. Love those kids!

We've contemplated moving our club to the library where there are more tables (space, oxygen, air conditioning), and if we get over 40, which I think we hit yesterday, we might just need to do that, but for now, Mrs. E. and I are just giddy that we have such a large group of students from all grades who just want to hang out after school and be kids.

Oh, and you know what's crazy? The boy who wanted to come play Axis and Allies decided to go Tennis Club on Fridays instead!

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