I play Taboo in class sometimes. Taboo is a team-based clue-and-answer game with words. Basically, a person has to get his or her teammates to guess a word on a card by giving only verbal clues; no gestures are allowed. The kicker is that each card also contains a list of “taboo” words that the clue-giver may not say. If he or she does, the team loses points. If you care, read more here.

The game is usually loads of fun, and it’s often many of the students’ favorite part of the semester (or so the evaluations tell me), even though we play it only once or twice. I explain to them why I think it’s relevant: It encourages outside-the-box thinking about words and audience-specific reasoning. But I’m not sure the reasons for playing stick with the students (or if that’s important).

Although most students say Taboo is one of their favorite parts, a few say they don’t understand why they have to come to a college classroom to play a silly game; it seems to be one extreme or the other. Even some of my colleagues have asked how a game can be relevant to a writing-centric and reading-centric class.

I think Taboo is a valuable and engaging way to build the brain muscles I want to help students strengthen, so I’ll keep playing it in class. Do you have any class activities that may be relevant in an indirect or subtle way?

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