Another approach to the use of play
in the development of thinking, imagination and capacity for communication
(based on collections of verbal development games)

B. Zeltserman, N. Rogaleva

Dear reader!

This presentation is based on three collections of developing games – “Learn! Create! Develop!”, Parts 1, 2 and 3 – which give detailed descriptions of 45 games, with verbatim reports of the lessons at which they were played and commentaries of the games' authors and organizers (in complete accordance with the query: “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?” that puzzled Alice in Lewis Carroll's famous story).The first collection gives the basic propositions on which play activity is founded and a classification of the games, and discusses the organizational forms of the work (including a circumstantial review of group activity). The second speaks of the principal difficulties the teacher faces when drawing up developmental programs using play, when determining the sequence of games, arranging the discussion on, and the analysis of, the play results. In the third collection attention is mainly focused on the technique of planning a play lesson. It is presumed that having perused all three collections, the teacher will not only set him/herself concrete developmental goals and understand the ways and means of achieving them, but will also organize the work at lessons in accordance with these goals.

The Psychological-Educational Workshop we are proposing is an attempt to give a brief, concise outline of all these collections. To participate in our workshop you will need a pencil and a sheet of paper.

The workshop includes 13 meetings, and each of them is not merely linked with all the rest by a single goal (to help teachers master such a means of development as is play), but can be conceived as a separate subject for discussion (on the way to build up a developmental program for the students of a particular group, on the methods of a teacher's work during the lesson, on organizational forms, etc.). At each of these meetings we, the authors, will try to tell everything about the games that can be of direct help to the teacher who has set him/herself the goal of DEVELOPING PERSONALITIES. However, thorough mastery of the technique of playing games can be achieved only in practical activity: in the course of actually playing out and analyzing the games, in planning play lessons, in meditating on what a child's development is based on and what are the optimum conditions for it.

This work can be started right in class, but we believe that the Teacher must first put him/herself in a student's place – must play out, live through, think over and actually feel everything the student will think and feel. Then the Teacher will be able to understand not only the student but also what games we are offering, what they consist of and what their developing effect is. It is our opinion that a workshop is the particular form that is best suited to achieve this aim.

Games... We invite our reader to play them, and while doing so, to analyze the elements of the game and his/her own play actions from the point of view of:

  • theoretician interested in what happens to the player's personality in the course of the game (how and why changes occur in his/her abilities);
  • methodologist interested most of all in what the optimum technique of playing the game should be;
  • player who is directly involved in all the play actions, faces difficulties, takes to heart his/her own activity and place in the group of players;

and so on.

Problems... We suggest you do not put off their solution. Every solved problem will, on the one hand, become a step towards understanding the game and, on the other, help the reader follow the course the authors' ideas take, appreciate the stresses they place.

We realize that to ensure effective work feedback is a must, so we're offering our own versions of answers to some of the problems. (Naturally, they are not the sole correct ones, but they may open up one more angle of thought.)

Questions... We hope that in answering our questions our readers will not only determine how well they have mastered the material proposed, but will recognize the necessity of analyzing their own teaching activity (and perhaps changing something in it).

And thus, welcome to the workshop!

“Make believe Dream and Reality meet and get to talking...”

The Psychological-Educational Workshop

(13 meetings for those who want to learn to play in order to develop)

The first meeting (a lengthy one), at which the authors try to tell the associates in the workshop why they chose games as a means of developing a Personality, and what kind of games there are.

“We regard a student (child or adult) as a Developing Personality,” as “an integral and independent subject reproducing social relations” and thereby “involving him/herself in the process of creating new social and cultural forms of public life” (Davydov V.V., Theory of Developmental Education, Moscow, 1996, p.45). Simultaneous with this, and dependent on it, is the development of speech and thinking, creative development. And should we attempt to pinpoint the main element in the process of interaction between student and teacher, a process we will try to put into practice, we would say that it is the teacher's constant and insistent aim at Development. As a means to achieve this aim we have chosen PLAY.

Play possesses a number of features highly important to us.

“Play is:

  • a child's specific attitude towards the world around;
  • a child's specific activity which changes and develops as his/her subjective activity;
  • the socially preset type of activity (or attitude towards the world) imposed on the child and imbibed by him/her;
  • activity in the course of which the child imbibes the most diverse matters and his/her psyche develops...” (Shchedrovitsky G.P., Methodological Observations on the Pedagogical Study of Play/ Selected Works, Moscow, 1995, p.687).
  • We believe that once originating at a child's preschool age, play activity never discontinues, and that a grown-up needs to play no less (and at times more) than a child. Play may accompany a person, parallel to all the other activities that inevitably crop up, throughout his/her entire lifetime and serve as an instrument for development. There is an assumption that when playing, “a grown-up 'tries out', 'experiences' possibilities that he/she has not made use of, has already missed” (Anikeyeva N.P., Education Through Play, Moscow, Prosveshcheniye, 1987, p.12).

That is why we did our best to offer the associates in the workshop games that can in future evolve into a whole system, be interlinked, supplement each other, serve as a basis for each other. And we trust that a creatively thinking adult will be able to add his/her own versions to them in accordance to his/her own teaching goals...

Here is the first game – task in our workshop.

Task 1

Try and determine what aims the following game pursues. Write them down.

1. “The Dragon” game

Directions: First listen to the story of the Dragon...

In a certain land, in a certain kingdom there once lived a Dragon. He was a very nasty, captious beast and disliked everyone and everything. In the morning he would wake up irascible, all day would be in a bad temper and would go to bed utterly out of humor. One glum rainy day the Dragon suddenly felt very lonely and fell to thinking:

“Why is it no one wants to be friends with me?”
He ruminated on this for four long minutes but could not find an answer. So he decided to consult the wise Owl.
The Owl explained to the Dragon that with a nature like his it was hard to expect friendship.
“Then what shall I do?” the Dragon asked woefully.
“You must drink the magic beverage,” said the Owl.
“What sort of beverage is that?” asked the Dragon in surprise.
“It's a beverage brewed of freshly made-up fairy tales. These tales consist of all the kindness, fantasy, wisdom people possess. If you drink it, you'll acquire all these qualities and everyone will treat you with love and respect. You'll have many friends and never be lonely again.”
“But who will make up so many new fairy tales, who will want to help me?” exclaimed the Dragon excitedly.
Are you willing to help the Dragon? Unfortunately, it is not so easy to prepare the beverage he needs – it being a mixture of fairy tales brewed in three different flasks:

a) in the first flask – fairy tales made up using the beginning given below;
b) in the second – fairy tales made up from the middle;
c) in the third – from the end...
a) Let's make an attempt to fill the first flask.
– Listen to the beginning of the fairy tale and try to continue it...

A Dandelion grew on the Sunny Lawn and was just like a little sun. No one could help noticing the striking resemblance.

“See how similar to the sun our Dandelion looks! See how brightly golden, how merry she is!”

Every morning the sun would rise over the Sunny Lawn and the Dandelion would open her radiant eyes to its first rays. One day the Dandelion thought: “I look just like the sun. Maybe I actually am the real sun?” She liked this idea so much that she said right out loud: “The sun needn't rise over the Sunny Lawn anymore, I shall light up and warm it myself!”

The Dandelion grew so stuck up that she began to assure everyone around that it was she who woke up the sun and it was she who lit up and warmed the Lawn. With every passing day she became more and more arrogant, more and more boastful...

b) Now I will tell you the middle of a fairy tale, and you will have to think up its beginning and end. Here goes!..

... And he set out on his search. His way was long and hard, his steed tired, his clothes wore out, his skin toughened. He forgot the feasts he had had in his palace, the elegant garments he had worn, the restful hours he had spent in his gardens, among the fountains, exquisite flowers and sweet-smelling trees.

At long last he reached the Land of the Sorrowful Fairy. The Fairy's castle stood in the midst of a dead, stony desert with only the wind sweeping over the empty spaces. He entered the castle. The Fairy was awaiting him in the Hall of Grief...

“Wherefore do you visit me?” she asked...

c) And now try and make up a tale with this end:

Finally apples appeared on the tree. So rosy and fragrant were they that everyone around marveled. The Apple Tree calmed down, and the old Raven who'd become a friend oftentimes flew up to it and regaled on the ripe fruit.

How many of the objectives of this game did you manage to pinpoint, Teacher? Which ones? Now check yourself!


To develop imagination, to form the ability to analyze the information contained in the text and make use of it to build up one's plot and artistic style.

Determining the objective of the game is the first and most important step in organizing the play lesson. Let's talk about the objectives of games in greater detail. We have tentatively divided all games into four sets depending on the objective we regard as the main one while playing. Each set, besides, has its own classification as well. Such a division permits us to give a more exact idea of the system of games we employ.

1. Games aimed at developing intelligence.

  • for developing cognitive operations (analysis, synthesis, classification, etc.);
  • for shaping mental actions (planning, control, reflection);
  • for developing the ability to bring notions into operation (shape ideas, comparisons, determine the relation between notions, define notions).

2. Games aimed at developing the capacity for communication.

  • for assimilating means of communication (means of expressing one's thoughts, means of achieving mutual understanding);
  • for removing egocentrism;
  • for acquiring the ability to act and think from different standpoints (positions);
  • creative games (based on understanding one's partner or organizing work in groups).

3. Games aimed at developing imagination.

4. Games aimed at developing literary skills.

  • for assimilating artistic means;
  • for analyzing the author's text;
  • for creating one's own text.

All the games (and this is of major importance) have common grounds and a common technique, which we shall attempt to describe briefly in this paper.

Now let's go back to our “Dragon” game. Which set of games do you think it belongs to?

That, of course, depends on the objective you, Teacher, regard as the basic one. So you see that our classification is indeed tentative, yet it makes you reflect on what objective the play material is most directly aimed at (considering the problem-tasks offered in the game) and this objective you must especially stress at the play lesson. We ourselves believe it belongs to the literary set of games.

The second meeting, at which the authors introduce a game for developing intelligence and tell what stands behind the simple problem-task.

Task 2.

Try and play this game and answer the question: What are its objectives?

2. “The Link” game


First version: I shall name two objects. Your task is to find something which at one and the same time possesses some feature of one of these two objects and some feature of the other. This something will be a sort of bond or link between the two objects I named.

For example – an automobile and a shovel. The link between them can be an excavator, since it's undoubtedly an automobile but, like a shovel, is designed for digging.

1. A boot and an umbrella
2. A shoe and a cord
3. A ship and an ice-axe
4. A typewriter and a calculator

Second version: Name three such objects, and each of them must possess some features in common with the other two.

Write down the objectives you have pinpointed. Compare them...

Objectives: To develop the ability to analyze and synthesize, to elicit the features of objects and compare them, to develop imagination.

It might at first glance seem that these tasks will not be difficult for the children. But do not hurry, Teacher, watch your students carefully – what features do they make use of to compare objects? Color, shape, size... Features that can be immediately seen, that do not require analysis, do not require an understanding of the object's essence. As soon as you ask them to elicit the essential features (features without which this particular object just cannot exist), you may encounter dead silence in the classroom. Such questions as: “What is an object?” or “What is a feature?” will make even the “intellectual stars” in your grade sit lost in thought. But do not be afraid, Teacher, to put your students face to face with difficulties! What can be better for a child's development than a question to which he/she does not know the answer? Does not as yet know the answer... It is precisely in this situation that thought originates: the quest for various versions of an answer, the substantiation and checking of hypotheses, the discovery of something new...

The third meeting, at which the authors offer advice on how to turn a game aimed at developing intelligence into one developing imagination.

At this point we would like to note that if the “strictly logical” game-task has reached the limit and no other logically correct answer can be found, you can always suggest that the child use his/her imagination, and continue the game as one developing just that.

Try playing this game “logically” and “imaginatively”.

3. “The Reason” game

Objectives: To form the ability to establish cause-and-effect relations and reflect them through syntactic constructions, to expand one's range of thought, to develop imagination and speech.

Directions: I shall describe a situation (an event, a happening), and you will have to explain the reason why it took place.

1. The children divided into teams...
2. The boy came home wet to the skin...
3. The tree stood completely leafless...
4. The puddles were covered with ice...
5. Steam shot out of the teapot's spout...
6. The sky took on a greenish color...
7. I grew strong (clever)...
8. Out of the pot dashed a cat...
9. The floor was bestrewn with candy wrappers...
10. She threw a glance at the vegetable bed and was horrified, while he was delighted...

We believe that imagination develops in the course of many games (from different sets) – both because of the special versions that are directed precisely at developing imagination, and because of the game-task itself, provided it simply cannot be fulfilled without imagination (advancing a hypothesis, creating a literary image.

We would like not only the Organizer of games but also the players to distinguish games aimed at thinking from games aimed at imagination. If they do that will mean that the players won' t try just to devise an answer to problems on thought but will attempt to find good grounds for it, to prove its truth on the basis of facts. And only the words: “Now use your fantasy!” will be a signal to the player to feel free of the necessity to find a logically correct answer.

The fourth meeting, at which games are played to develop the capacity to communicate.

4. “The Chain” game

Objective: To develop imagination, to develop the ability to put oneself in another's place, to develop speech.


First version: Recollect (or listen to) the story about:

1. The Speckled Hen
2. The Turnip
3. The Bun

(Translator's footnote: The author is referring to fairy tales well known to any and every Russian child at an early age.)

Try and retell it not in behalf of the author but in behalf of one of the personages. For instance, “The Bun” in behalf of:

  • each of the personages;
  • the fox's snout;
  • the path along which the Bun rolled;
  • the stove on which the Bun was fried.

Second version: I shall describe a situation (tell a story), and you try and retell it in behalf of those objects and phenomena that are mentioned in the situation (story).

1. The sun rises. A cock crows. A sunflower lifts up its head.

2. Evening. A streetlight is burning brightly. Snow is falling and the yard-keeper is clearing it away.

3. A forest, A rabbit is sitting under a fir tree. A red tail flashes by in the distance.

4. Music is heard. A little boy is playing the piano. Outside the window there's a fierce snowstorm. The old maple tree is bending all ways and creaking loudly.

Task 3

What do you think, Teacher, which version of the game is more difficult? Now, don't hurry to read our answer, first think hard and only then read it.

Much more difficult is the second version – the first one implies a developing plot, the second draws a picture. The plot should be retold with account for the specific features of the storyteller, while the picture must be turned into a story. This task presupposes that the child will be obliged to retain in his/her memory the entire picture, in which several actions often take place at one and the same time. He/she will have to:

  • pick out one personage;
  • determine what action it is performing;
  • determine its connection with the other objects and actions and try to conjecture its attitude toward everything going on.

In behalf of what other personages would it be interesting to tell the tale of the Bun?

The most interesting of all would be the story told in behalf of ...

The list of personages might seem endless, but that is by no means so. After all, every fresh one makes sense only if its story is in some way substantially different from that of the others, if it gives some special view of the event described. (For example, the point of view of a Blade of Grass cannot be all that different from a Flower's , can it?)

This game will help you determine which of your students is more gifted. What will indicate that, you ask? Notice which personage he/she chooses to talk in behalf of (irrespective of whether this particular personage takes part in the story or not), how profoundly he/she “feels” for another, what means of speech he/she uses...

5. “The Meeting” game

Objective: To develop imagination, to develop speech, to form the ability to conduct a dialogue with account for the peculiarities of one's interlocutor.


First version: Make believe that two people (objects) meet and get to talking. What would they talk about? Let's try and act out such a meeting. And so – imagine a meeting between:

a Stone and a Seashell, a Droplet and a River, Lazybones and Workaholic, a Kind and a Wicked Magician, a Feather and a Little Girl, a Cockerel and the Sun, a Rainbow and Rain, a Vase and the Sea, a Clock and a Palm Tree, Bumms and Shorkh, a Needle and a Painting.

Second version: Ask everyone to choose a partner, then each couple to think up a conversation and act it out. No one, however, should name the characters they are playing – those watching must guess them.

Task 4.

Try and answer the following questions:
How do the two versions of the game differ from each other?
In what sequence should they be offered to the children?

We would like to draw your special attention to games aimed at removing egocentrism and assimilating the ability to think and act from different standpoints (positions). That is but natural as different people perceive one and the same situation differently depending on their individual peculiarities and positions.

The fifth meeting, at which the associates in the workshop play a game aimed at developing literary skills.

6. “The Encyclopedia” game

Objective: To develop imagination, to form the ability to compose a text, a description.


First version: You know that scientists frequently go on expeditions, discover new species of plants and animals, new kinds of rocks and stones, study and describe them. These descriptions are later included in special books called encyclopedias, so that everyone may find out about their discoveries. Make believe you are one of these scientist-researchers. Write an article for an encyclopedia describing the appearance, area of habitation, the specifics of the nutrition and behavior of: long-necked Leafeater, brown Branch-Hanger, winter Snowfern, poisonous Sweetfruit, southern Fatheel, multifinger Lankyhand.

Second version: Describe an as yet unknown locality with its plants, animals and thinking beings.

And so, Teacher, we have completed the first series of meetings in our workshop.

“But the workshop associates have not as much as formed a clear notion of either the games themselves or of how to play them!” a strict Logician will exclaim. “The teachers have merely attempted to play out some of the games from the various sets!”

But that was exactly what we were aiming at! At the sixth meeting, which ushers in a new series of our studies you will find out why you had to start off with playing in the first place.

The sixth meeting, at which we discuss what should be done before starting to play and introduce certain rules for preparing to play games.

We dare to hope that when beginning a game, its Organizer realizes full well what happens in the course of the game with the personalities of the players, their capacities, intelligence, imagination. Without such a realization he/she should not as much as attempt to start playing. I would be very useful if the Organizer first played out all the games, because as a result of such a “run through” he/she will be able to understand, to actually feel what the players will undergo:

  • what actions they will have to take;
  • what psychic processes will be involved;
  • what their emotional state will be.

The Organizer will be able to answer these questions only after thoroughly analyzing all his/her own actions, thoughts, sensations.

We would like to introduce certain Rules for the Organizer preparing to play games.

Rule No. 1: Before playing a game with a partner play it out yourself.

When preparing to play a game the Organizer should determine:

  • what ought to already be shaped in the players at the start of the game;
  • what will continue to take shape;
  • what will just begin to take shape in the process of playing.

All this is extremely important for correctly planning the sequence of the games.

Rule No. 2: Before starting to play with a partner, make sure that he/she is capable of playing that particular game.

Thus, to invite first-graders to play a game aimed at defining notions before they have learnt to separate an object's essential and unessential features would, of course, be premature. They just won't be able to define a notion, since to do it they have to name its essential features. The little tots will make mistakes and finally lose all interest in the game.

Rule No. 3: If the level of development of some process or action does not permit a player to play a game, think out what actions you might take to help him/her gradually reach the necessary level.

Thus, in “The Meeting” game the players at first have to do with a couple of characters who effortlessly find something to talk about. That permits them not to waste time searching for what their heroes can do together, all they have to do is stick to their chosen roles. When they learn to easily “hold on “, one more activity is added – to think up some actions common to their characters. In the meantime the latter grow ever more “estranged”. Besides, the Organizer would do well to consider what he/she could do to enhance the further development of what has already taken shape in the players. After all, in preparing to play the Organizer more often than not has to do with a continuation of the process of development and shaping than with some “new growth”.

Rule No. 4: The sequence in which games are introduced must be thought out separately for each group of players, since all children have different levels of development.

The seventh meeting, at which we will discuss “our” objectives and “their” objectives, and introduce several more Rules for the play Organizer.

Indeed, what do we have in mind when speaking of objectives – the player's objective, the objective of the game or our own objective? Most certainly our own, i.e., what we intend to use the particular game for. That doesn't at all mean that the player will make use of it for the same objective. Moreover, in each game each one will pursue His /Her Own Objective.

The fact that a player has His /Her Own Objective will turn the game into an activity, will make the player its subject, will oblige him/her to seek the means of achieving this objective him/herself, to control and evaluate His /Her Actions and Result. You will, undoubtedly, surmise that every player will reword for him/herself the objective formulated by you – set His /Her Own Objective and start His /Her Own Game.

It is very important to take into account those of the child's desires that will make him/her start His /Her Own Game and take the actions the game calls for. Therefore, Teacher, we offer you several additional Rules for the play Organizer.

Rule No. 5: Give the child a chance to sense his/her own significance.

A child longs to be a hero, to be noble and brave, kind and strong, just and wise.

Rule No. 6: Give the child a chance to sense that he/she is successful, appreciate his/her efforts.

A child longs to have his/her efforts noticed and appreciated by a grown-up who means a lot to him/her or by the other children. Therefore, never forget to commend the players. First of all, merely for joining in the game, not being too scared or too shy Commend them even if the game itself turns out badly. When a child observes the rules, copes with the task, give praise even if the result is ineffective, unimaginative. Only at a later stage in the play can the result be appraised objectively, only when the player really feels an urge to take part in it, overcomes the fear of losing. But we know, don't we, that that it is less important to appraise a child than to teach each one to appraise him/herself. And we must, of course, provide them with every possibility to develop self-appraisal.

Those of you who have read Antoine Saint-Exupery's wonderful “Little Prince” remember, most likely, what the King said when offering the Little Prince the post of Minister of Justice. The Little Prince told him that on his asteroid there just was no one to sit in judgment on, and the King pronounced, full of majesty: “Then you must judge yourself. And that, my boy, is much more difficult than everything else. It's much harder to judge oneself than to judge others. If you'll be able to correctly judge yourself, you are truly wise.” Nothing need be added to that...

Rule No. 7: Give the children a chance to sense that you trust every one of them, find a way to lend your support to each, to involve him/her in playing.

A child requires support, wants to feel that he/she is not lonely, that if necessary, help will always be given. We did our best to show every single one that we will give any support that might be needed.

Rule No. 8: Try to work in the zone of a child's proximal development.

We are inclined to call this method “above-level assignments”. That means we set children tasks that were, to our view, slightly harder than they could cope with. Then we started helping each one – slowly, gradually, bit by bit. Gave a little help – then waited: would he/she manage? No go. Gave a bit more help and waited awhile again. Nothing doing. Prompted the kid once more and sensed the gap between what he/she knew and didn't know growing narrower and narrower. Finally the little one managed to jump it independently. This is not just a method of work – it's diagnostics, it's what shows us the zone of the child's proximal development, tells us what he/she cannot yet do today but will be able to do tomorrow. Those who are seriously engaged in children's development should not work as much in the zone of their actual development as in that of their proximal development.

And what rules do you follow, Teacher?

The eighth meeting, at which we try to bring home to the workshop associates that they must motivate the students and set forth their directions correctly.

How can the interest in playing, the desire to play be awakened in the children? It is to do that that we stipulate the “zero” stage of the play – its motivation. This stage isn't as yet the game itself, it's a sort of overture to it, something like tuning up for it, involving oneself – but not in the game, only in the state of playing. Maybe interest can be aroused by a riddle? A fairy-tale plot? A promise of discovery? What is the best means of motivation? For every group of players, even for each player it must be different.

Task 5

Try and find a motivation to involve your students in one of the games proposed.

Unfortunately, teachers often think that a child must and, therefore, will. That is one of the educators’' illusions. If a child does not want to do what you, Teacher, ask him to, half of your efforts will be in vain. Much more “useful” for his development is work done willingly, even if he will want to do it out of love for you or a longing to impress Mary, the star student, or simply because he grew interested himself. Actually the first stage of a game starts the moment the desire to play it appears.

Now we've come to the wording of the play task and of the rules of the game – the directions. The wording of the directions must meet the following requirements:

1. The directions should be worded so that the players will understand them clearly and definitely;
2. The directions should be sufficiently brief and precise, so that the players will remember them and refer to them while fulfilling the play task (to check whether or not they are doing the right thing);
3. The directions should accord with the objective of the game. Therefore, the Organizer will have to alter the directives we suggested one way or another (clarify them, make additions, etc.), depending on the objective he or she chose as the major one in a particular game.

If the Organizer's major objective is the development of mind, he/she will have to word the directions so that the players understand that they will, first and foremost, be invited to analyze, find links, generalize, draw conclusions.

If the major objective is the development of imagination, the players should be able to figure out from the directions that they will have to rack their brains and think things up.

Should the Organizer decide to make use of the game for developing speech, the directions should contain a clause about the composition of a coherent literary text.

Just one remark concerning the wording of a play task: there are some games in which the Organizer is more or less free to word the directions as he /she sees fit (i.e., in his /her own words), while in others he/she had better stick to the pattern proposed in the description of the game. The first type of directions we would call “free”, the second – “rigid”. What may be the result of a deviation from the precise wording of “rigid” directions and an incorrect rewording of the “free” ones? At best, you will simply play the wrong game, not the one you had planned to play but another one – the game you suddenly find yourself playing.

Task 6

Try and word the directions to “The Meeting” game in two versions – one if you want the game to help develop a capacity for empathy, and in the other to teach the players how to compose (and write down) dialogues.

Frequently the Organizer would do well to assure him/herself that the directions are understood correctly – as the Organizer did in the game described below.

7. The “Who Am I?” game

Objective: To develop imagination, to form the ability to share another's point of view and the ability to analyze a text.

Aids: Cards with the names of literary heroes.

Directions: What do you think one or another literary (fairy tale) hero could tell about himself? Try and put yourself in his place. On the table are cards bearing the names (or the portraits) of these heroes. Your task is to choose one card and, in behalf of the hero, to speak of yourself. Don’t name yourself – the other players will try and guess whom you are representing.

First version: The children are offered characters taken from well-known children's fairy tales or poems: Carlson, Humpty Dumpty, Nils Holgerson, Little Prince, Alice, the Milestone on the Crossroads

Second version: The children are offered names (or portraits) of characters not connected with any popular children's book and asked to speak of themselves in behalf of one of them. In this case there is no need to guess the character: Merry Clown, Great Bread-Eater, Cr-runchy, Sh-sh-sh, Magic Glasses, Computer Virus, Sad Listener to Old Stories, Window on Europe, Writer's Desk

From a verbatim report of the lesson:

Organizer: I shall read out to you the directions for two versions of the game task. Then we'll have a discussion and see how well you understood both of them and how they differ. If we still have time, you will start carrying the tasks out. After that we'll discuss the results.

The Organizer's commentary: My main objective at this lesson was the development of the students' thinking. Therefore, while giving the lesson I concentrated not so much on the actual game itself (writing the text) as on analyzing the terms of the game, on getting the children to independently distinguish and understand the first and second versions. The game was only a means of achieving my objective, not a goal in itself.

Organizer: Let's take the first version of the game task. Recollect some literary hero or think up a hero yourself. Imagine what your hero could say about him/herself and write it down. Did you get me? And now the second version. Once again recollect some literary hero or think one up. You must speak of yourself in behalf of this hero without naming yourself, so that the other players try to guess who you are talking about.

Mikhail E.: You speak of yourself in behalf of the hero, which means that your hero seems to be speaking about you, about me. Isn't that so?
Organizer: You turn into your hero and speak in his or her behalf about yourself as though speaking about him/her.
Susan V.: So which is the first version and which the second?
Commentary: The discussion revealed that not all the players understood the game task at once. They started rewording it, which led to each player playing his/her own game, and the results simply could not be compared.
Organizer: Now we've come to the point when we must try and sort out the first and the second versions, and the difference between them. You tell me, Boris, what do you have to do in the first version?
Boris G.: We've got to think up some hero or recollect a literary one and write a story about him.
Susan V.: No, the way I understood it, we've got to choose a hero and write about something that could have happened to him.
Serge R.: Seems to me, in the first version I've got to sort of transform myself into some hero and think up something fantastic about him. But that won't be a real story. And in the second version I have to transform, too, but tell a true story about myself.

Mikhail E.: Most likely, in the first version we have to do with events, in the second with an autobiography.

Task 7

Try and determine the reasons for the students' “misunderstanding”.

This is what the game Organizer thinks:

The Organizer's commentary: I see several reasons for so lengthy a discussion on the understanding of the directions:

1. Not all the children were willing to analyze the terms of the task before carrying it out;
2. The text of the directions was much too profuse and complicated, so not all the children could memorize it;
3. Not all the children took into account the ideas expressed by the other players carrying out the task, they failed to follow the general discussion, being too concentrated on their own reasoning.

We shall not continue the verbatim report, as even this excerpt is sufficient illustration of the difficulties connected with the directions.

The ninth meeting, at which the play actions (discussion, group work) are considered.

After the directions are worded and understood the players start carrying out the play task.

This calls for the Organizer's special attention, as each player may carry the task out:

  • individually,
  • within a group,
  • in the course of the general discussion.

The Organizer, naturally, must be expert in all these forms of work. He/she must, in particular, know:

  • what form of work to choose for which games;
  • how to divide the players into groups when arranging for group work;
  • how to organize a discussion.


When starting a discussion the Organizer may come up against a number of difficulties. For instance:

Difficulty No. 1 – the necessity to achieve correct results in his/ her subject, which means that the Organizer will have to:

1. “Here and now” assess the actions suggested by the players, though having a ready plan of his/her own actions for fulfilling the task.
2. Amend the plan of his/her own actions in the course of the game and in accordance with the players' suggestions, and help them correct their actions (creating a situation in which the players have an opportunity to see for themselves whether the actions they suggested are correct or not).
3. In order to carry out the above two clauses – be highly proficient in his/her subject.

Difficulty No. 2 – the necessity to organize the players' work in accordance with the discussion standards, which means that the Organizer will have to:

1. be a model of these standards him/herself, i.e., when taking part in the discussion not only to strictly observe them but also to deliberately draw the players' attention to them.

2. arrange his /her work so as:

  • not to oblige the players to follow the road he/she chose to fulfill the task;
  • not to allow the players to ramble among the multitude of their unfounded suggestions and deviate from fulfilling the game task;
  • to draw the players' attention to each other's remarks, prompt them to express their opinion of these remarks (assess whether they are right or wrong, clarify or make additions to them, etc.), and help them formulate their own statements on the basis of everything said.

3. Organize the players' interaction in such a way as to retain within a group:

  • an atmosphere of emotional content, of amiability;
  • an interest in the subject of the discussion;
  • the players' activeness;
  • their desire to fulfill the game task, to find solutions.

Difficulty No. 3 is connected with the necessity of working “here and now”, which obliges the Organizer to constantly stay within a strict time framework. He/she must:

1. swiftly assess the players' remarks and find arguments to either confirm or disprove them;
2. swiftly assess the organizational situation in the group ( whether what is going on is really a discussion) and rectify it to conform with his/her notions of what a genuine discussion should be like;
3. instantly react to any change in the emotional climate within the group of players, take appropriate actions to resolve conflicts, ensure support or alleviate tension.

We would like to remind our reader that the game Organizer is not somebody standing above the players, but is a part of the “mechanism” functioning to achieve the necessary result. He/she must coordinate the work of the other “component parts” that provide for the “mechanism’s” efficiency.

Group work

Group work is necessary only when a player finds it too hard to cope with the game task him/herself. That is exactly why we have chosen for this form of work games presupposing either building up notions and finding ways and means, or the need of various points of view on one and the same object.

Task 8

Decide whether or not it is expedient to apply group work in this particular game and say why.

8. “The Limericks” game.

Objective: To develop imagination, to develop speech, to form the ability to analyze a literary composition, to form the ability to act according to rules.

Directions: There was once a well-known English poet, Edward Lear, who was extremely good at writing limericks. We suggest you now make up several of your own. To give you an idea of what limericks are here are two of Lear's :

There was a Young Lady whose eyes
Were unique as to color and size.
When she opened them wide, people all turned aside,
And started away in surprise.
There was an Old Man in a tree
Who was horribly bored by a Bee.
When they said, “Does it buzz?” he replied, “Yes, it does!”

It's a regular brute of a Bee!”

1. To make the result of group work effective not only must the Organizer be skilled at forming groups (choosing the required method of group formation), but the players within a group must also be able to interact with each other. This ability can't be shaped in the course of one game, at times it takes weeks, months, even years.

2. It is not only the work of the group members that affects the result, quite a lot depends on the group leader as well.

Methods of group formation

We believe that at this point it is worthwhile to go into details, since the success of your work in general to a great extent depends on how correctly, how well you manage to form the groups for group work.

“Free-will” groups – the players choose those they want to work with of their own free will. Such groups are not as simple as it might seem, since the choice may be based on different reasons:

  • some choose those they like most, their pals,
  • others – those who may bring in the best results,
  • still others – those with whom one feels a leader,
  • the fourth – those ready to shoulder leadership and responsibility.

The assignment to form “free-will” groups may be given in two versions:

a) Split into groups of (five, seven, etc.) each.
b) Split into (five, seven, etc.) equal groups.

Groups formed by a “leader” – may differ depending on who the “leader” is. “Leaders” are either appointed by the Organizer from among the players in accordance with his/her objectives or elected by the players (who choose the one they respect and trust). Such groups are diverse, but more “uniform” than the “free- will” ones, as the “leader” usually follows a definite principle in choosing the members of his/her group.

When the game Organizer appoints the “leaders”, the latter are invited to come up to the front of the class; there they draw lots to determine their turn to choose those they want to have in their groups.

When the players elect the “leaders”, the Organizer says, “To play the game you must split into groups. Let's elect the leaders who will form these groups. Who do you want to be leaders?”

“Incidental” groups – a characteristic of such a group is that quite often it brings together children who under no other circumstances would be willing to work with one another (are not friends, never choose each other, are sometimes even at loggerheads).

Work in these groups develops in the players an ability to adapt to various conditions of activity, to different people – something that is bound to come in useful in their future life. Sometimes a player is obliged to perform functions quite unusual for him/her – to lead and direct, organize the others, advance hypotheses, etc.(i.e., things that in a “free-will” group someone else would do willingly).

An “incidental” group may be formed:

  • of children sitting next to each other, in one row, at neighboring desks;
  • by asking some child to turn his back, then name the group to be joined by any player the Organizer points out, etc.

Groups formed by the Organizer – are those the Organizer forms in accordance with the objectives he/she sets in this particular game, and it is the composition of the group that helps to achieve these objectives. Brought together in this group are “leaders” or star students either in order to produce ace results (in competitions, matches, etc.) or to exclude them from the general activity, thus giving the rest a chance to work independently.

Rules for group work

1. Every member of a group advances his/her hypothesis, version, solution.
2. The other group members must react to the above statement and be ready to produce arguments in support of their agreement or disagreement.
3. Versions may be discussed either as soon as they are advanced or “stored up” and discussed after most of them have been stated. In the latter case every idea must be recorded so that not a single one is lost.
4. All the ideas must be advanced and discussed strictly in turn, the group members must not speak out all at once or interrupt each other.
5. After discussing all the ideas the group must come to a unanimous decision which will be the group decision. When making it known the group must explain the reason for its choice.
6. If any member disagrees with the group decision the group must announce it. In some cases the disagreeing member may be given a chance to state his/her reasons for disagreement. Any group that fails to come to a unanimous decision must explain why that is so.
7. What is to be done if there prove to be several decisions in one group? That completely depends on the objective you, Teacher, set yourself and the group. If you want to teach the children to come to an agreement, all the group members will without fail have to come up with a unanimous decision. But if it is the decision itself that is more important for you, then you may permit a group to advance several versions.
8. Frequently the group elects a group organizer whose functions are:

  • to make sure that the rules for group work are observed;
  • to fix the order and sequence of statements and see to it that they are observed;
  • to assign one of the members to speak for the group.

We do not claim to have given a full description of the methods of group work, all we've permitted ourselves to do is to remind you of those rules for, and specifics of, the organization of group work, without which it will be really difficult for you to make use of this form of work at your lessons.

The tenth meeting, at which we will speak of analyzing the result received.

You might believe, Teacher, that as soon as a result is achieved the game may be considered over.

In our opinion, however, that is the moment when the most important and complicated work only begins. If up till now the players had been engaged in play activity, at this moment they go into emotional activity proper – they learn to play so as to ensure that their actions always bring in a sufficiently good result. To achieve this they will have to find a common for all of them way of reaching this result (solving a problem involving abstract thought, composing a text of definite content or with preset characteristics). And so, we pass on to the next stage of our play – to analyzing the result received.

If you had a task in your game, then in the result you, first and foremost, analyze whether or not the players had carried out that particular task. If a player had fulfilled some other one, you should reflect on how precisely you had worded the directions, whether you could really be sure that all the children understood what you wanted of them.

An appraisal of the result that nominally corresponds to the requirements of the game task depends on the objective you as the Organizer set. If that objective was writing a text, you, together with the players, should start analyzing its content. Attention may be focused on:

  • the subject matter;
  • the principal idea of the composition;
  • the artistic means and methods used;
  • the personages described;
  • the plot, etc.

Besides that, you may consider the quality of the text: how interesting, original, amusing, tragic, humorous it is. It is precisely at this point that certain difficulties face the Organizer. Oftentimes when the players say, “The story is interesting” or “The fairy tale is funny”, they cannot explain what they mean, what the sense of the words “interesting” or “funny” is. That makes a joint appraisal by the players of their work practically impossible, since each one has his/her own understanding. What is the Organizer to do in such a case? We see only one way out – to jointly get at the meaning of words, to work out a concurrent understanding.

Rule No. 9: When appraising the result of the game the Organizer must attain the players' concurring understanding of the sense of one or another criterion.

We wrote the results (solutions, texts) produced by the players on the black-board so that at any moment of the analysis they could refer to them. The analysis of the result started off with the simple question: “Which result (solution, text) do you like most - and why?” In their attempt to argument their choice the players inevitably found some criteria for its appraisal. After that they usually could already definitely say what the requirements are for producing a correct solution or a well-written text.

Task 9

Try and analyze the results received in the game “Who Am I?” by those players who for a long time could not sort out what they had to do in the first version of the game and what in the second.

I am a computer virus of the new generation: a self-teaching virus with a complete database for breaking in and destroying the particular computer. Well, I enter the computer via Internet and stop at the password. It is not the common six-digit password: it is a twelve-digit one, and it can recognize viruses. Can smell us out! What should I do? For four hours I think of a way to break it, then wait for twelve hours as the machine is switched off, and at long last it takes me five hours with intervals to break into the computer.

I did break in, but the computer started an AIDTEST. I dug into its operation system, yet the computer felt that something was wrong and started backcopying. It did it, cleansed the whole operation system and relaxed. I waited till the computer was switched off, and changed all the files on the hard disc, to the very last bit. Except my own...

They switched on the computer, and its hard disc was out of order. So they took the disc out of the computer and replaced it with a new one. And there I was – lost for life in a damaged hard disc.
(Alexander B., 7th grade)

More often than not I live in a pencil box but sometimes right on the desk or in a desk drawer. When someone picks me up he usually starts writing, though at times he begins sucking or nibbling me. If I'm in a bad mood I cry, and ink drips out of me. Then woe to the boy who owns me - his hands turn blue, and should he at that moment be nibbling at me, his tongue, teeth and lips all lose their natural color.
(Eugene P., 7th grade)

Commentary: Both these texts conform to the game requirements. The directions are carried out (see those given above, in the description of the game). Alexander made good use of linguistic means to create “an atmosphere of the computer world”, full of passwords, programs and, naturally...viruses. Eugene tried to intrigue his readers, first naming those distinctive features of his “hero” that are inherent to many objects. Then, introducing ever new features, he limited the number of possible objects to one...

The eleventh meeting, at which the authors suggest that the workshop associates discuss the analysis of the work methods.

After an analysis of the results we recommend passing on to analyzing the methods of work (see the description of games) which led to one or another result.

9. “The Trips” game

Objective: To develop imagination, to develop speech, to form the ability to compose a description.

Directions: We are setting off on a trip to an extraordinary place. It’s extraordinary because in it things quite ordinary for you blend together, forming queer combinations and acquiring new properties.

First version: What do you think these objects are and what are their specific features?

For junior schoolchildren:

1. Bananapple, oniotatoe
2. Elephahorn, kangaebra
3. Cupbed, houstown

From a verbatim report of the lesson. Analysis of the work method.

Organizer: Now, children, I shall tell you how such words are made up. What do you think?
Lily M.: You take the roots of two words and join them by prepositions.
Natasha V.: For instance, “erascil”. You mean “eras” is a root and “cil” is a root, too?
Lily M.: No, “cil” is the ending of the word “pencil”. And you don't have to join them all the time by prepositions, you can do without them.
Natasha V.: You say roots with or without prepositions. But what about “erascil”? There's neither prepositions nor roots in it.
Organizer: Specify what a word must contain.
Lily M.: Any part of a word can be taken.
Organizer: Any? Can we take a prefix?
Lily M.: Except a prefix.
Organizer: That means we can take the ending.
Anton B.: No, I don't agree. An ending is no good.
Organizer: So we can't take an ending, we can't take a prefix, can we take a suffix?
Students in chorus: No!
Organizer: Then in your case, can we take a combining form?
Students: No, no!
Alice K.: I disagreed from the very beginning, when we just started to talk about the elements of words. We just take a particle of a word, not a root or something.
Organizer: Can we then leave any beginning of a word? Who can tell me which beginnings and which ends can we leave?
Anton B.: I know! We've got to leave that element which other words do no contain.

And you, Teacher, do you have your own method of creating such “miraculous” words?
The methods of the players' work can be analyzed in different ways. For instance:

The Organizer draws the players' attention to the best result and asks how it was achieved. The player (or group) whose result it is tells how he (they) worked: what actions he took, what he mainly attended to, etc.

In a general discussion the students ascertain which in particular actions led to the good result, what their sequence was, how they differed from those taken by the other players. At the same time the method of solving the problem or writing the text may be put down on the blackboard. The Organizer then suggests that it be discussed – so as to make sure that it is sufficiently complete, that no link in it is missing. The players state their opinion of the method, specify each of its links, add their own proposals. When they arrive at the conclusion that it is precise and complete enough, the Organizer, after praising them for the work they did, may suggest that they check whether or not this method can be employed to solve problems, write texts or organize activities (should the method be connected with communication). If you have really managed to interest the players in the game, they will gladly respond to your suggestion and continue playing, but now on the basis of the method they found.

You will once more have to analyze the result and compare it with the first time. If this result... Oh, but you know well enough, don't you, what should take place after the new result is analyzed...

There is another way the Organizer may act:

You draw attention to the requirements set by the players for solving a problem, writing a text or organizing activities and suggest that they give thought to what is to be done to make the result achieved correspond to their requirements. Analyzing the requirements, the players try to foresee what particular actions will lead to such a result. When all opinions are made known, when the way to reach the desired result is found, you invite the players to check it. What is needed to do that? Simply to join the game and play it again, trying to make use of the discovered method. Most likely, you have already guessed what should be done with the new result – right, it should be analyzed and a conclusion drawn on the method's efficiency.

The twelfth meeting, at which the associates in the workshop will receive answers to the questions: “Does the game end when the method of playing it is found?” and “What is meant by reflection of play”?

No, we couldn't really consider the game completed if we didn't ask the players some very important questions, questions that are of great interest to us.

What was the player engaged in?
What did he like? Why?
What didn't he like? Why?
What proved easy for him?
What seemed especially difficult?
Did he learn anything new?
What would he like to learn at the next lesson?

Analyzing the answers to these questions, the Organizer can get an idea of how the player took in the lesson, what he understood, what not, what objective he was actually pursuing, what game he was playing, what task fulfilling.

Reflection can appear only if a player constantly asks himself such questions as: what am I doing, why am I doing it, how will my action affect the solution of the problem, what must I do to do it correctly? Thus, having played the game, we got a certain developmental boost, and after analyzing the result and the method of work, we can pass on to the next, a higher level, add something to what has already been done, and finally conduct a conclusive reflection. Then have we a right to presume that we will be able to advance – if only a little bit. Should we be asked what is more important, more valuable – the game itself or the work following it, we would be obliged to admit that as to us, we value most of all the activity that comes after the game.

Task 10

Think up some metacognitive questions to “The Encyclopedia” game.

The thirteenth (and last) meeting, at which we speak about organization.

Playing games is an occupation that does not take place all by itself. More often than not it either takes up a part of a lesson or the entire lesson, independently fulfilling the curricula tasks.

If a game occupies only part of the lesson, the Organizer should carefully think out which particular part it should take up, what other games it can be combined with.

Every game played at a lesson must, on the one hand, be based on the preceding one and call for the use of methods found in its course and, on the other, serve as a basis for the subsequent game. Thus, we can offer a group a series of games, gradually passing on from the simplest to more complex, compound, intricate ones.

The game Organizer will likewise have to think out how to seat the players in the room. The best arrangement, naturally, is to have all of them see each other's faces and follow each other's reactions. They can be seated around a table or simply on chairs placed in a circle or semicircle. Or else they can sit on a rug in any pose suitable to each one.

Knowing that children's attention tends to stray, we would suggest that you put everything you say down on the blackboard – in the form of drawings for the little kiddies and in diagrams for the elder ones. You can invite the children to model their work as well, so that at any moment they will be able to go back to what they had been doing, to check whether or not they had acted correctly, to generalize, appraise their actions, analyze the methods they had employed with a view to discovering a universal one.

Thus, listening to a fairy tale, the children can schematically project the plot on their sheets of paper and while retelling it, can base their story on their own sketches.

Instead of a conclusion:

And so we have completed our studies in the workshop. Yet we hope that your earnest work directed at the students' development will go on and on...


Translated by Bella Zuckerman

Home | E-mail