Tic-tac-toe!

Manaswini Sridhar

A popular game that children and even adults love to play is tic-tac-toe or noughts and crosses, as it is also called. This is a simple activity that helps children develop the ability to focus on the task at hand; it also promotes strategic and logical thinking. And of course since everyone is born with the overwhelming urge to win, it also promotes better academic performance among students. So, just as we can use the game Bingo to teach, let’s see if we can use this relatively simple but intellectually stimulating game to encourage students to learn and demonstrate what they have learned. So who says that testing can neither be fun nor creative? We most certainly didn’t!

tic-tac-toe Teachers have adapted tic-tac-toe for every subject and for every level for many years now. Teachers have also found that as far as tic-tac-toe is concerned, she/he doesn’t even need to create a card (unlike Bingo!). The teacher just needs to announce a topic and have the students use their knowledge to win the game, or admit that the knowledge storehouse is not sufficiently stocked!

Let’s say that the mathematics teacher has completed a lesson on shapes and has also discussed at length their properties or characteristics. The teacher would of course like to test the students’ knowledge of the terms and their spellings.

A quick assessment of this knowledge would normally be based on the following questions:
Name the shapes that we have learned so far.
How many sides do these shapes have?
How would you spell these?

As we all know, only the quicker and more confident students call out the answers, unless the teacher has firmly put into place a strategy wherein her/his students are fully aware that they need to be pointed to or called by name before they can answer.

The conventional fill in the blanks worksheet or match the following also do the trick, but again, for those students who do not know or have not studied, it becomes more or less a guessing game. Most students do not feel self-conscious or embarrassed about receiving a bad grade for a test because the grade is handed over many days after the agonizing test, and the grade gets disclosed by the student only if he/she chooses to. However, if the test is in the form of a challenge like a wrestling match or a sparring match in an open arena, then students do take extra care to study in order to keep their reputation or self-esteem in tact!

This is precisely what the tic-tac-toe game does. It creates a healthy competitive environment, wherein the teacher can keep everyone in check simultaneously, even the shy and the lazy ones! And last but not least, there is no room for copying because each answer is bound to be unique. The student has to think on her/his feet.

The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at manaswinisridhar@gmail.com.

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