Place a large set of alphabet cards face-down on the floor.
Form two or more teams of 2 to 6 people.
Instruct each team to nominate a runner.
To begin, ask each runner to randomly select 9 cards from the pile.
Lay all 9 cards in a 3 x 3 grid in front of their team.
If no vowels are present in the grid, a team may turn any one of their nine cards over to become a vowel as nominated by you (the facilitator.)
When ready, challenge each team to identify as many words as possible using the letters in the grid.
Words can only be formed by tracing letters which are situated horizontally, vertically or diagonally next to the letter before it.
Allow three to four minutes of play.
The team which forms the most number of words wins that round.
Play two or more rounds, shuffling the letters between each round, or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
The word Boggle alone will evoke memories of the commercial game of the same name for many of you. If you loved playing Boggle, then you’ll love this team-based version.
Start by getting your hands on a large set of alphabet cards (see Leadership Tips for advice.) Place all of these cards face-down onto a table or the floor.
Divide your larger group into smaller teams, using a random process such as those suggested in Getting in Teams. Ask each team to nominate one person to be the runner.
Instruct each runner to randomly select nine cards from the pile, and return to their group. Place these nine cards in a 3 x 3 grid, such as:
B C N L A K S M T
On occasions, some groups will happen to have selected nine cards without (at least) one vowel being represented. This will truly handicap the team so invite such groups to select any one letter (from their nine cards) and flip it face-down. Then, announce (on behalf of all affected groups) a particular vowel to represent each of these face-down cards.
When ready, announce that every team has exactly three (or more) minutes to create as many words as possible from their grid.
Note, each word can only be formed by tracing a letter horizontally, vertically or diagonally from the letter before it. To illustrate, B-L-A-C-K is permitted, but S-C-A-M is not because C is not positioned immediately next to S.
Naturally, the team which identifies the most number of words wins that round.
Play two or more rounds, ensuring you shuffle the letters between each round.
Practical Leadership Tips
Not sure where to get a deck of alphabet cards? Download a Print+Play set from the Resources tab (you may wish to produce several sets,) or better still, connect with the folks at CrowdWords to purchase a highly versatile and durable set of letters.
In case it’s not obvious, each letter can only be used once for form a word.
In my opinion, two-letter words are barely words, so feel free to only award points for words comprising three or more letters.
Some groups may find it difficult to remember all of the words they generate, so invite them to nominate a particular person to record all of the found words. As the makers of CrowdWords say, “memorising is a good challenge but it can be tedious.”
For the record, here is a list of words for the grid illustrated in the Narrative tab: BLACK, SMACK, SLACK, SLAM, SLAT, SANK, CALM, CLAM, TACK, BALM, TALC, BANK, TANK, BACK, CAT, BAT, MAN, CAN, TAN, TAB, etc. Can you see anymore – if so, tell me here.
You could integrate Human Boggle as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Setting Personal & Group Goals
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Resolving Conflict Constructively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of problem-solving and mental stimulation. In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully think of a long list of words speaks to the benefits of being mindful and cooperative insofar as this game is a team-based adaptation of the commercial game Boggle.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Human Boggle could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Rotate Once: As soon as every team has prepared their 3 x 3 grid, instruct each team to move to the grid situated immediately to their left. This will surprise your group as much as present every team with a fresh grid to start with.
Valuable Words: Rather than award one point for each word identified, allocate more points for longer words, eg 2 points for words with 5 to 6 letters and 3 points for any word with 7+ letters.
Bigger Grids: To ramp up the challenge, instruct each team to create larger and larger grids of letters, eg 4 x 4 and 5 x 5. Same challenge, just many more options to create many more words.
Any Letter Will Do: A simpler challenge, each group is entitled to create as many words with any of the letters no matter where they are situated in the grid.
Centre Letter Challenge: A more difficult challenge is to form as many words as possible which incorporate the centre letter every time, ie referring to the grid illustrated in the Narrative tab, every word would have to use the letter A.
Small-Group Boggle: For groups of less than 8 people, create just one letter grid (of whatever size) and challenge each person to identify and record as many words as they can from the same grid.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Use Jamboard, a free Google app, to present this exercise to multiple members of your remote team. In advance, create one or more boggle matrices of nine letters using your favourite program (then upload to your board) or simply create 9 x sticky notes with letters in the centre of the board. Share your screen viewing the board with your team members, and then instruct your group to enter their words in the chat room facility, ie this creates a ready reference. If there are serious video streaming lag issues, you may wish to wait for every team member to see your board before uploading the boggle matrix.
Note, with Jamboard, you can create multiple boards (look for the tab in the top centre of your board.) This means you can create multiple boggles on different ‘frames’ within the software, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Many of you will have grown up with this next game as a kid. We don’t have the actual board game here, so we’re going to use you and your group instead…
Do you love crosswords, or playing Scrabble or Words with Friends? Then you’re going to love this next exercise…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this terrific team-based game:
When your team first looked at the grid, what did you think? Why?
Were there moments during the rounds that surprised you?
What helped your group form its list of words?
What got in the way of thinking creatively?
Did the pressure of performing within the strict time limit affect your performance?
The inspiration for Human Boggle was sourced from the makers of CrowdWords, with thanks.