games in educationThe Living School

Unplug & Play! A Living School book review

Paula Estes and her intrepid students at The Living School play a lot of games—and learn a lot while playing them. In fact, games are an intrinsic part of their curriculum. So of course they jumped at the chance to review a new book of games for Alt Ed Austin’s readers. Here are their educated opinions.

About a month ago, the students at The Living School set out to explore the book Unplug & Play! 50 Games That Don’t Need Charging, by Brad Berger. Each week we chose a few games to play, discussed our experiences, and worked to get an overall feel for this new book of games. We hope our review is helpful.

The fifty games in this book are grouped into six categories, allowing every student to find games that really spoke to them. While one set of games may require focus and memory recall, another may challenge your word building or problem solving skills. Some of the best games were the bluffing games, where reading the personalities of the other players was key.

We found that most of the games required personal interactions, and many of them led us to learn more about the other players. We were challenged to use our imaginations, let loose, and have fun. The scorekeeping and competitive aspects took a back seat to the laughter and silliness.  

The Six Categories of Games

  1. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”—making lists to compare with others
  2. “Call My Bluff”—creatively learn more about other players
  3. “That’s My Plan and I’m Sticking to It”—strategy games designed to make a plan to reach a goal
  4. “Ready, Set, Go!”—speed to the answer before others playing the game
  5. “Try to Remember”—memory games
  6. “I’m Puzzled”—easy-to-create puzzles

We all agreed that there were some great new finds in this book. We tried more than 25 games and decided that at least half of those are ones we will play again. Our favorite games came primarily from three sections: “Matchmaker,” “Call My Bluff,” and “Try to Remember.” These games had us laughing hysterically and wanting to play again and again. Our three favorite games were Popular Match, What You Didn’t Know about Bob, and Uncommon Combos.

Learning a new game at The Living School
We discussed some of the pros of the book:

  • Great for playing in the car, around a campfire, on road trips, or as party games
  • Nothing but a pencil and paper required
  • A good variety of games, with something for everyone

Some of the cons:

  • It would be helpful to give a suggested age range for the games.
  • Some of the games had very complicated scoring. (We tended to make up our own scoring when needed.)
  • There were some games we tried but never played because the directions were too confusing and frustrating.
  • It would be helpful to put a range for the number of players for each game. (Groups of 4 or 5 seemed best.)
  • The book itself (a paperback) is a bit flimsy and might not hold up well over time and use.

Living School kids play a bluffing game around the campfire

Overall, we think this book is worth the purchase, as it encourages many types of games that will get people laughing and talking, using their imaginations, and challenging their memories. We love games and will continue to play many of these at school, around the campfire, and with our families.

Paula Estes

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