Scripture Mastery “Contact!” Game

a timer
numbered pingpong balls (one per student)
list of scripture mastery key words
students’ individual scriptures
index card for each student
paper hole punch

Today, to review scripture mastery, we played a game my husband made up called “Contact!”

I placed a pingpong ball in a basket – one for each student. Each pingpong ball was numbered. I passed around the basket, allowing each student to pluck one from the basket with their eyes closed. I have twelve students in my class, so there were twelve balls numbered one through twelve.

I had the seats set up in class so that each student went to seat one if they had ball #1, seat two if they had ball #2, etc. Each team had two players, thus with my class of 12, we had 6 teams (unfortunately we were missing one student and as such, one team had an awkward number of three).

I set the timer to 4 minutes and prior to starting the game announced the rules – which were:

  1. Each round begins with all students’ scriptures closed.
  2. Once hearing the key word, they race to find the scripture.
  3. Once finding the scripture, they touch the actual scripture mastery verse with their finger and raise the scriptures high in the air, while shouting “Contact!”

I started the timer and called out the first scripture mastery key words. And trust me, it soon becomes apparent why the “winners” need to raise their scriptures high in the air, even while hollering “Contact!”

It is all too easy for the students to call “Contact!” WHILE still turning the last few pages to get to the verse. The only easy way to determine who arrived first is by seeing which arms are up in the air with fingers pointed at the correct verse. It makes a big difference.

Verify the winning team that BOTH members are correct. If they both are correct, each of their index cards receives one punch. If not correct, move on to the next team who had shouted “Contact!” to verify they had found the scripture and punch their cards instead. Then move on to calling out the next key word(s) for another scripture mastery verse.

We as a class continued to do this for the first round until the four minutes were up and the timer rang. Then I passed around the basket with the pingpong balls and they selected blindly another ball. This meant they could then move to new chairs and receive a new partner. My husband suggested this so that each student could have a chance to vary their teams – due to the fact that some of the kids are stronger in these kinds of games than others, and it would be difficult to be saddled with one person the entire game.

The new teams prepared themselves by once again closing their scriptures and waiting to hear new key words for scripture mastery verses. We were able to switch teams about five times before class time was up, each round doing a variety of different key words/scripture mastery verses.

I’ve heard that these kinds of games are helpful to prepare the kids for the big scripture mastery day at the stake center at the end of the year. I’ve heard that playing these kinds of games helps the kids become familiar with finding these scriptures so that at some future point, they can find them again when they truly need them – not just for a game.

My problem with these kinds of games is precisely what I saw unraveling during class. Because we had one team with three kids on it (instead of two like the other teams), that made things immensely difficult. Do I give the third person a punch, because they happen to be on the winning team – yet they hadn’t bothered to find the scripture themself? In a normal game, perhaps this might make sense simply as fun sportsmanship – because their team won, they also get a punch.

But in this purposeful activity, isn’t the point to help each individual find these scriptures? So if that third person doesn’t even bother to look up the scriptures, simply because two of his teammates are, then where is the value of the game? Because I noticed this was starting to happen, I modified the rules in the middle of the game to try to encourage participation. One student had a problem with this and made the rest of the experience difficult for many.

By the end of class today, the contention had grown to such extent (just speaking honestly here), that I stopped the activity and immediately asked the other adult in the room to pray to close the class. I did this because I began to feel so angry over the kids’ choices, I knew I needed to end the day before saying anything inappropriate.

Even though closing early, we actually ended up only letting out one minute early. I will play this game again. I think it is very valuable. BUT I will never play it with uneven teams again. It caused too much fighting amongst the kids. Something which surprised even me. After all, if we study the meaning of the word “contention” (as in 3 Ne 11:29), it should never have any part within a seminary class or moment. I was shocked to see it happening like this in my classroom.

So I will modify this next time to make sure we only play it with even teams. Then I think things will go much more smoothly. Whew. On to next week and hopefully better days! :0)Free resources for the LDS seminary teacher.

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