Parents: It’s your son’s birthday party. On the invitation, you wrote that the party would go from 12:00-3:00pm. It’s 2:00pm, and you’ve already gone through all the activities you had planned. You told the kids they could just “play” until their parents arrived, and now you have twenty kids running around your house wreaking havoc on your newly polished floors and white walls. EEK.
Teachers: It’s field trip day, and the bus just dropped you off at the museum entrance. For some reason, all the doors are locked and no staff is there to greet you. After waiting ten minutes, you call the main office and are told they’ll be there in twenty minutes. Your students are entertaining themselves– some sitting in small groups chatting, others running around and playing a violent version of tag. Chaperones make a half-hearted attempt to calm some kids down, but let’s be honest– everybody wants to be the cool chaperone, so they won’t go too hard on the kids. Their behavior is already spiraling out of control, and you have another twenty minutes to wait. EEK. What do you do??
Play a game. A simple, quiet, but active and FUN game! Sound too good to be true? Read on and try it, my friend, and be won over.
The Secret Game
I’ve heard this game go by other names that are not really PC, so I made up a new name– “The Leader Game.” I admit it wasn’t a very catchy name, but once my students learned how to play, they couldn’t care less… so “The Leader Game” it was for 8 years. But for you, my dear readers, I thought about it for about 20 more seconds and have now renamed it The Secret Game. That’s much more mysterious and intriguing, don’t you think?
Here’s how to play:
1. Gather the kids in a big circle. When we play this at school, we stand around a tetherball pole. When we’re out and about, we just make a haphazard circle (and I frequently have to say “Evvvverybody take three steps back– one, two, threeee!” to reform the lumpy circle).
2. Explain the game: “In this game, we will have a guesser in the middle and a leader standing with the rest of the class in the circle. Everybody will know who the leader is EXCEPT the guesser. The leader will do various movements– jumping, clapping, dancing, etc.– and the whole class will copy her! The guesser has THREE tries at guessing who the leader is. If the guesser gets it right, he wins! If not, we’ll just tell him who it is and then we’ll pick a new guesser and new leader. Let’s do one round to learn the game.
2. Select a guesser: Tell them, “I need a volunteer to go in the middle. You get to be the guesser! I will choose the quietest hand.” Choose a guesser, who then stands in the middle of the circle and closes/covers their eyes so they can’t see anything while I select a leader.
3. Select a leader: Then say, “Now I need to select a leader. We have to keep the identity of the leader a SECRET from the guesser, so when I point to the group leader, DON’T SAY THEIR NAME!!! I want you all to point with me so you know who it is, but DON’T SAY THEIR NAME!!! Don’t say anything, actually. Okay, now cover your mouth and point with me.” While the guesser has their eyes closed, I point to someone and the whole class points along with me. If it’s our first time playing the game, I always start off with myself as the leader, so I can show them how it’s done.
“Without saying their name, does everybody know who the leader is?” They nod. “Okay, now stop pointing. Remember, it’s a secret! Once we start playing, try not to LOOK at the leader, or else you will give it away. Be stealthy and stare at somebody else to throw off the guesser! Keep it a secret!” The kids excitedly nod.
4. Start the game: While the guesser still has their eyes closed, I say, “Okay leader,” I say, pointing at myself, “you can start your movement now, and the rest of the class will copy you!” Then I start clapping. The rest of the class copies me so there is a lot of clapping, and I say, “Guesser, you can open your eyes!” The guesser looks about and tries to figure out who started the clapping. I quickly change my movement to flapping my arms up and down while jumping. The whole class giggles and quickly copies. I continue changing movements as the guesser guesses.
5. End the game: If they guess correctly within three tries, they win! Yay! Start over, selecting a new guesser and leader. If they don’t guess correctly, then say, “Everybody, whoooo was our leader?” And everyone will point to the leader and call out their name. Then start over, selecting a new guesser and leader. If the guesser is taking too long to guess, I prompt them by saying, “Make your first guess in 3… 2… 1!” then “Make your second guess in 3… 2… 1…” and so on to move the game along.
The first time around, the students often forget and just stare at the leader. Still, it is surprisingly hard to figure it out when you’re in the middle and there are 30 people smiling at and dancing around you. Remind the class as needed to try to stare somewhere else to make it less obvious.
This game can easily be played for twenty minutes or more without the kids getting bored. Students enjoy moving, guessing, and leading. When we’re on a field trip, I often try to secretly get one of the parents involved as a leader and they have fun with it, too! Try this game the next time you have some time to kill and need something controlled, but fun and active!
You can thank me later.