Inspiration for games and activities often comes to me in strange ways and locations. One day, as I was walking the dog, I was thinking about the game Blokus. I have no idea why, I just was. Blokus is a fun game and it occurred to me that it might make a good game for the classroom. On it’s own, it gives great practice in spatial relationships and noticing patterns, but I
thought maybe it could be used to practice other skills as well if I employed a little Game Smashing (still not a real term, I know, but I’m trying). The problem was how to go about doing this. Blokus is not horribly expensive, but it is more expensive than I’d want to spend to get a class set, and it is not exactly the tiniest game in my closet. I briefly considered making my own sets but almost immediately rejected this idea for two reasons: first, it would violate copyright and trademark laws; second, cutting out all of those pieces was not something I was willing to do! By the end of the walk, this idea had been pushed to the back of my head to rattle around until I could come up with the answer. It took awhile, but eventually I created Grid Conquest, a game that has been gaining in popularity amongst my students for the last year or two.
The Game Components
One of the things I love about this game is it requires very few pieces and is easy to put together. The required components are a laminated game board (free download via the link below the picture, I recommend cold lamination as it is thicker and doesn’t peel when cut through), a dry erase marker for each student (a different color for each student sharing a single board), and task cards or directions for whatever skill you want to practice.
The Game Play
The objective of the game is to earn the largest amount of points. Students earn points by claiming squares (color them in) on the game board after answering a question or completing a task related to the target skill. The game can be played with two, three, or four students per board, but is best with either two or four. Before beginning, students each choose a starting square and mark it with their color. Some of my students just make an X, others prefer to color it in all the way. Each turn is played as follows:
- The student draws a card from the pile and/or completes the assigned task to practice the target skill.
- If the student successfully completes the task, he/she claims a score on the game board by coloring it in. The claimed square MUST share at least one side with a square he/she has already claimed (for the first turn that would be the start square). The card is then discarded and play continues. If the student was not able to successfully complete the task, the card is discarded and no squares are marked.
- Play continues in this manner, with students taking turns attempting tasks and claiming squares, until a student is no longer able to claim a square (there are no unclaimed squares adjoining his/her current collection). If a student is no longer able to claim any more squares, he/she is out of the game. Once no one else can claim any more squares, or all of the tasks have been completed, the game is over. Students add up their points and the winner is the person with the highest total score.
Another thing that I love about this game is how versatile it is. I’ve created versions of the game to practice the simple present tense, family relationship vocabulary, idioms, and abbreviations and acronyms. If I don’t wish to create a special set, I can assign students to complete task cards, use it with sort card sets for vocabulary/spelling practice, or even ask them to simply give sentences utilizing a particular grammar function.
Not all of my ideas turn out perfectly, and some end up in the “this was better in my head” pile, even after months or years of rattling around in the back of my head, but Grid Conquest is one of the successes. It’s easy to create, versatile, engaging to play, and doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. In short, it checks all of my boxes for a great practice game. Give it a try with one of your classes and let me know how it goes. Happy teaching, everyone!
Need some of those links again? Here you are: