Introducing Play to the Composition Classroom

Introducing Play to the Composition Classroom


There are countless ways to incorporate play into the college classroom, but here are two of our favorites.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples, a card game by Mattel Inc., gives players a chance to consider the language they use and provides students with an opportunity to argue a case for why they should win each round. Because the game comes with a large deck, it’s easy to adapt for a classroom composed of small groups playing individual games or for a class-wide competition with small groups competing against each other. This second option adds a third benefit to the game, by allowing students to improve their collaboration skills and techniques as they work together to craft an argument for why the card their group submits each round is the best choice.

If you haven’t played Apples to Apples before, here’s a video explaining how it works:


This debate-battle mash-up is like a traditional debate—but with a twist. In debatle, students choose or are assigned one position in a debate, then have one to two minutes to come up with as many arguments for their position as they can—regardless of how silly those arguments may be. At the end of their thinking period, students will face off in a “battle,” with the two sides taking turns to share their arguments. The debatle ends when one student runs out of arguments or at the end of five minutes. At the end of the debatle, the class decides who will emerge victorious. This exercise can be conducted as a class or in small groups, which may be a better option in a less participatory class or to make shyer students feel more at ease.

Here’s an example of how this might work: The topic for this debatle is whether Bigfoot exists.

Student A: Bigfoot exists, because there is photographic evidence.
Student B: Bigfoot doesn’t exist, because there is no proof those photos are real.
Student A: Bigfoot exists because of toxic waste.
Student B: Bigfoot doesn’t exist, because we would have found him.
Student A: Bigfoot exists, because there wouldn’t be stories about him if he didn’t.

And so on. This game lets students work on argumentation skills, practice thinking on their feet, and develop divergent thinking skills by forcing them to think of creative solutions to the problem in front of them.