Thursday, May 16, 2013

Games with a Purpose

Last week I was teaching the second module of Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) to Troop 1186 in Cedar Hills, Utah. We had talked about the importance of communication in leadership, and had played a couple of games to illustrate some of the concepts.  I glanced down at my watch, and I had about 30 minutes left of the meeting. Just enough time to get through the 'Planning' section of the curriculum, or was it..?

But in the past 5 minutes I had noticed I was losing the attention of the group. I wasn't getting as much eye contact as at the beginning of the training, and there was less interest in participating in the overall discussion.

So, what to do? Push through the training content as I had planned? Or do something else? I quickly made the decision to end the training and play a game to end out the meeting. Now in Troop 1186, as soon as you mention the word 'game' the boys instantly join in yelling 'Zombie!" which is collectively their favorite game.

I don't necessarily have anything against boys playing the same game with some frequency, but the Zombie game is a variant on 'tag-you're-it' and highly favors the fastest and most athletic of the group. But, that wasn't the sort of game I wanted. I wanted a game that would reinforce the communication and leadership concepts we had been discussing. I wracked my brain for a minute or so, which seemed a lot longer as the boys looked at me expectantly. I was drawing a blank.

Eventually I came up with a puzzle type game that is played during the Wood Badge round-robin and involves boys moving from square to square, hopping each other in order to get into a specific formation. They played the game for 15 minutes, we did a brief reflection on what had happened during the game, including what principles of communication and leadership we had seen, and then moved into the closing ceremonies of the meeting. No problem.

But I wasn't exactly happy with myself. At the time I had needed a game, I struggled to come up with one that fit my needs. So, I decided that I'm going to list a series of games and their best uses on a set of index cards. Next time, I'll have just the sort of game I need.

Assuming that you might find yourself in the same situation. Here's a few of the games that I plan to add to my list:

Getting to Know You games:

Communication games:
Simple Patrol vs. Patrol games:

Team Building games (more involved than Simple Patrol games):


  1. That's a good idea. Those of us that aren't as practiced at reflections might also keep a short list of reflection question suggestions on hand as well. I used a reflection after a game for the first time in den meeting last week and was pleased with the results. I am looking forward to trying it out with larger groups this weekend at Day Camp.

    1. I think the simplest reflection technique is the 'Start, Stop, Continue' tool taught at NYLT and Wood Badge. I've seen boys run these reflections very effectively once they get the hang of it.

    2. Yes! These are great tips. Absolutely do not give a test the day before break. That is a mistake I will not repeat! Team building games.