HipBone Games

Bee also asked about my use of HipBone games with my classes. I first heard about HipBone games in 2001. I was teaching in Mexico at the time. A colleague told me about them. I couldn’t quite see what I could do with them, but I loved them!

The next year I went to Louisiana to start a new ESL program at a small college. I had the same 5 students in the same small room for 25 hours a week. We needed stuff to break up the monotony, and I decided HipBone games were going to be part of how I did that.

I started with simple vocabulary games, where students posted words we had been studying and made sentences with them. Of course, they had to incorporate other people’s words into their sentences as the board filled up. I was surprised how well students were able to do this.

We played many other kinds of games, too. We did grammar-based games where students combined sentences or practiced a particular verb tense. I used the games as discussion starters and as prewrite activities and as a story-mapping activity. Students always enjoyed the games, no matter what we did.

I used a game as a vocabulary review activity at a Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project workshop. This activity, which was just supposed to be a demonstration of the potential of the games, ended up being a defining moment in the summer workshop.

I have played a couple games with my adult immigrant students recently. The first one was a vocabulary game that I have written about previously. The last one, though, was more like what I used to consider a “real” HipBone game. I explained that we were going to be talking about our memories, and that one person would have to keep talking about his or her memory until it made someone else go “That reminds me…” I wanted to introduce the past progressive tense to my students, so I started by telling them about what happened to me when I was learning to ride a bike. I told the story in some detail, but I wrote it on the game board as a one sentence entry:

When I was learning to ride I bike, I fell down a lot and cut my knees.

That prompted another bike-riding memory and another. We branched out from bike riding to other memories, but each time I wrote it as a sentence on the game board using past continuous and simple past. At the end of the game, we talked about the grammar of it. The students were intermediate level, and almost all of them had naturally used the past continuous. This was more of a question of drawing their attention to it. And it worked.

I have uploaded a few game boards to flickr, and I will post some of them here.

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