Digital Scattergories

A long-time favorite game of my students is Scattergories. We’ve enjoyed it as a warm up, time filler, and just for fun on game days. It’s a great way to get the brain juices flowing and practice vocabulary. The game is easily adaptable for different proficiency levels, making it perfect for an ESL classroom. When playing with beginning level students I extend the time and/or do away with the letter requirement. Having extra time, and being able to start their words with any letter, allows my beginning students to concentrate on vocabulary and nothing else. As the proficiency level of my students increases, I reduce the rule modifications. We shorten the allotted time to write answers (until my advance students are playing with the standard timer). I adjust the required starting letter constraints (from no required letter, to one of two or three letters, to the standard rules). Ultimately my advanced students play by the standard Scattergories rules.

After over a year of being online, we’ve all gotten a lot more creative with playing games. There are online options for playing Scattergories, such as the Swellgarfo Scattergories List Generator, but none of them were as adaptable as I wanted. I knew I could always simply share my own screen with a list of categories while students wrote on paper, but I wasn’t thrilled with that idea either. Many of my students still struggle with utilizing online tools such as forms and collaborative documents/presentations, so I try to give them as much low-risk practice as possible. I considered using some kind of shared document, slide, or whiteboard, but then students could potentially see one another’s answers. I finally settled on using Google Forms for several reasons (given here in no particular order):

  1. Anyone on the internet can complete a Google Form, no Google account is necessary.
  2. I have multiple options for sharing the form. I can email students, post a link on our LMS, put a link in the chat feature, create a QR code for students to scan…
  3. I’m able to control when people can and cannot submit answers using the Accepting Responses button. This means more technological students don’t have an advantage, I can turn off Accepting Responses until I tell students to begin. Then with a single click of the button on my end, students are able to start working on their form. Shortly before time will be called, I warn students that they have 10 seconds left and remind them to hit the submit button. Then, once time is up, I turn off Accepting Responses, and no more responses will be accepted.
  4. Student answers are organized by question and easy to display by sharing my screen. We can go question by question, see who had the same answers for each category, and add up our points. One advantage of this, if you have a group of students very concerned about cheating (not my current situation, but I did spend quite a few years in middle school), is everyone sees everything–no one can claim someone else changed an answer or added a late response.
  5. I can quickly make new forms or reuse the old. To reuse an old form I simply delete the responses and resend it out.
  6. I am fully in control of required (or not) letters, time limit, and even categories. The game is 100% customizable and, since I also control when a form is accepting responses, students can’t start a round early while I am explaining the parameters of the competition.

I happen to own a copy of the now out of print Scattegories Junior, and often use its lists for our games. There are times though that I make my own sets, particularly when we have a theme or unit topic that I want to focus our vocabulary practice on. The button above has a force a copy link for a Scattergories round I created titled At School. When you click the link you’ll be prompted to sign into your Google account (if you’re not already signed in) and asked if you want to make a copy. Click the blue Make a Copy button and it will be added to your Google Drive.

If you decide to try Scattergories in Forms, there is one tip you’ll want to remember: don’t make any of the questions required. Forms are not able to be submitted until all required questions have been answered. You don’t want your students missing out on being able to participate because they couldn’t think of an answer to one or more categories. You also don’t want them having to waste valuable thinking/typing time by placing some type of response in every box. I’m still working the kinks out of this particular digitized activity, but thus far it seems to be working well. Give it a try and let me know how it goes for you! Happy teaching, everyone.