Werewolves

You may have noticed that despite the fact that I spend the majority of my time teaching or thinking about teaching, I don’t ever write about it. This is because writing about my classroom efforts doesn’t make for exciting reading, unless you think that hearing about the hours I spend with Google trying to figure out how much my students plagiarized on their latest assignment is particularly exciting. However, I’d like to take this time to detail the best game that I’ve ever had my students play.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out good games for my students. In my experience, there are fun games and there are educational games, but it’s hard for the two to intersect. The best intersection I’ve found thus far is actually Scattergories, but you can’t play Scattergories every week. Plus, when my students are discussing their responses in teams, it’s hard to police the only-English rule.

Which is where this game comes in: Werewolves, basically an alternate version of the party game Mafia. I thought this game might be a good one because it’s fairly simple but also interesting enough that the students will stay focused. Plus, it’s very easy to enforce the only-English rule: if you speak Indonesian, you die.

Here’s the version of the game that I used in class:

Make a card for each student: two werewolves, one seer, one little girl, and villagers for everyone else. Shuffle them and pass them out. Everyone looks at their card but doesn’t tell anyone else who they are. Everyone sits in a circle.

The game proceeds through a series of two phases. The first is night. At night, everyone goes to sleep and the werewolves come out from hiding amongst the villagers and kill one person. For the game, this means that everyone closes their eyes. The moderator, in this case me, then says, “Werewolves, open your eyes.” Once the werewolves have opened their eyes, the moderator says, “Werewolves, pick someone to kill.” They silently confer and point to who they want to kill. The moderator tells them to close their eyes.

Once the werewolves have gone back to sleep, the moderator says, “Seer, open your eyes.” The seer does so. The moderator then says, “Seer, pick someone to ask about.” The seer’s ability is the power to tell who is a werewolf and who isn’t. Each night, they point to one person and the moderator gives them a thumbs up if the person is a werewolf or a thumbs down if they’re not. The moderator then tells the seer to close their eyes.

The moderator then tells everyone to open their eyes because it’s morning. She then tells everyone the person who was killed. That person reveals their identity and is out of the game.

Thus begins the day phase. During the day, the villagers discuss who they suspect are the werewolves and then pick one person to kill. The day is the really interesting part because anyone can say anything they want, accuse anyone they want, and pretend to be the seer–if they want. My students got very into the day phase and their discussions lasted for a long time, talking about whose behavior was different than normal, who looked too happy.

Eventually, the villagers vote on who to kill. If there is a majority, the person is dead and they reveal their identity. Then night begins again.

It’s important that the dead people don’t talk because they don’t participate in the closing and opening of the eyes and therefore learn everyone’s identity. My students were very good at enforcing this rule–those who were still alive would often say, “Shut up, ghost!” They also, of their own accord, instituted a graveyard, instructing all of the dead villagers to sit in one place.

I have yet to mention the little girl. Like the seer, the little girl has a power. In her case, she is able to open her eyes when the werewolves are picking who to kill. If, however, the werewolves notice her looking, she dies instantly.

My students never took advantage of the little girl role, but including her did make discussions interesting, especially in one game when she was killed and accusations were thrown around about who looked happy when her identity was revealed.

There are several other “special” roles detailed on the Wikipedia page that I didn’t bring into the game because I didn’t want to make it too complicated. As it was, I allowed one of my students to explain the game in Indonesian after I gave the English instructions because I figured it was already complicated enough. However, next semester I plan to introduce the game early on and gradually bring in other roles throughout the semester.

My students loved the game. Our game extended past the time allotted for class, and when I pointed that out they said they didn’t care and wanted to play another time. In my opinion, the whole experiment was an extreme success. My only regret is that I found the game so late in the semester.

2 thoughts on “Werewolves

  1. Zoë, thanks for sharing this! That was a funny line about checking for student plagiarism, but I’m sure the Indonesian attitude toward education is, well, a lot more pragmatic than ours. Regarding the English curriculum, I used to teach adult ESL classes and have built up a steady curriculum over the years. I’m not sure what the focus of your class is, but I’d be happy to share those lesson plans and curricular resources if you think it might be useful. Good luck with the teaching!

    • I should probably write a post on plagiarism here. I haven’t figured out everything that my students are thinking when they plagiarize, and I’m sure a good deal of it has to do with taking the easy route, but I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that they want to turn in “good English” and don’t judge their English to be good enough. Throughout the course of this semester, I’ve realized that one thing I need to do is really stress that I’m much happier to see their possibly imperfect English than I am to see someone else’s perfect English.

      And thanks for the offer! Once I find out what courses I’ll be teaching next semester (which may not be for a while), I’ll probably shoot you an email. And like I said, I am always open to game ideas. :)

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