Prepare a set of alphabet cards, modelled on the letter tiles of the commercial board game Scrabble (see Resources tab.)
Place all of the cards in a central pile face-down on a flat surface, eg table or floor.
Form teams of 2 to 4 people.
Ask one person from each team to collect 7 letters (cards or tiles.)
Every group is permitted to view their letters.
Challenge each group to be the first to successfully use all of their letters to form a series of interconnected words, ie similar to Scrabble.
The typical rules of Scrabble apply, ie no nouns, pronouns, contractions, abbreviations or acronyms are permitted.
Announce three unique parameters to add pace to the game:
– Each group applies their words to an independent ‘board;’
– Groups are entitled to change the formation of their words at any time; and
– When a group successfully uses all of their letters to form a series of interconnected words, they will call “TAKE TWO” which requires every group to take two new, random letters from the central pile.
This process continues (integrating new letters at frequent intervals) until all of the letters have been taken from the central pile.
Play continues until when one group announces that they are the first to use all of their letters.
Allow a few moments for each group to observe what other groups created.
Play two or more rounds, or introduce a new variation.
How To Play Narrative
This is a wonderfully engaging variation of the classic commercial board game Scrabble. Indeed, many people comment that they prefer this version over the original. You decide.
To start, you need to source either a set of actual Scrabble tiles or Scrabble cards featuring different quantities of all of the letters of the alphabet. I like the larger cards, but if you have only a small group, then the tiles will more than suffice.
To make it easy for you, look to the Resources tab to download a ready-to-play set of Scrabble letters.
You begin as you would ordinarily, facing all of the letters down on a table or the floor, to create a central pool of letters.
Divide your group into smaller units of 2, 3 or 4 people (at the most.) Ask one person from each group to take 7 of the letters from the pile and reveal them to the rest of their group.
It does not matter if the groups can see each other’s letters or not, but expect some people to be naturally protective or secretive of their stash.
At this point, explain the basic rules of the game of Scrabble. Most people will be familiar with the game, but not everyone. So, for the record, each small group is challenged to be the first to use all of their letters to form a series of interconnected crossword-like words. To govern fair play, no nouns, pronouns, contractions, abbreviations or acronyms are permitted.
Now, it’s time to announce where Take Two is different.
First, every small group works on their own independent ‘board,’ ie there is not one common board on which all groups play. Most groups will circle around their ever-evolving board of words.
Second, each group is entitled to change the words or the interconnection of the words that they have created as often as they like, whenever they like. I personally love this feature of the game.
Even more so, I love this next parameter. When a group has used all of their existing letters successfully (to form a series of interconnected words, or perhaps, even one word) they are obliged to call “TAKE TWO” loudly so that all groups can hear.
On this call, one person from each group must (randomly) take two more letters from the central pile.
From the perspective of the other groups, there will be a mix of dread (think ‘the other team is beating us’) and relief in the hope that they will draw letters more useful to their ultimate objective.
Again, as soon a group has successfully used all (7 + 2 = 9) of their letters to form a series of interconnected words, they will call “TAKE TWO” to compel each group to take another two letters.
The game continues like this until all of the central pool of letters have been exhausted.
Remember, each group is entitled to change whatever words they have created at any time. Nothing is set in stone, it’s like pressing the refresh button. Another great feature of the game.
Once all of the letters have been pulled from the central pile, the game will continue until one group is the first to announce that they have used all of their letters.
From here, you have several options:
You can celebrate the thrill of enjoying a fun game, and repeat.
You can award the successful group a point, and start the second of multiple rounds to arrive at a ‘winner.’
If you happen to be using actual Scrabble tiles or cards, you may calculate the value of all of the words which have been formed in the same way the standard game of Scrabble is played (click here to view a list of the letter values.)
Ordinarily, the value of any tiles not used to form a word is deducted from a group’s total to calculate their final score. After several rounds, the team with the highest score wins.
Typically, as soon as the game is finished, the focus suddenly shifts to that of the other groups and their interconnected words. This is always fun and fascinating. It’s at this point, there may be some scoffing at the veracity of certain words. It’s up to you, and your overall purpose of play whether you choose to go down that rabbit hole, or not.
Practical Leadership Tips
One of the beauties of this game is that you can play with as few as two people or many dozens. Your only limitation will be the number of sets of alphabet (letter) cards you can source.
If you don’t have access to a set of Scrabble cards or tiles, and you plan to create your own, click here to know the quantity (and value) of each letter. Or, you can download a ready-to-play set of Scrabble letters from the Resources tab.
Clearly, your group needs a certain depth of vocabulary and cognitive ability to make this game work.
If you’re not sure whether a word is actually a word (presuming this is important to you or your group,) you may rely on several sources, in both hard-copy and digital format. Typically, each source may vary, so the key to avoiding arguments is to agree on one single source to rely on from the beginning.
Often, the very last round of “TAKE TWO” may not provide enough letters for every group to take two each. Generally, this does not matter, because some groups will be happy to not take any more letters, while others will desperately grab whatever they can hoping to break an impasse in the puzzle they have created.
Note it is not necessary to call “TAKE TWO” (ever) to win, but the two events are often related. That is to say, one team may only ever make the call in what becomes the very last round.
You could integrate Take Two 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 ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
The dynamics of this fun group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with one another in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions about which words to create? How were all members involved?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Was adaptability a key component of the team’s success? How?
Managing Change 1: Interrupt the game part way through, and ask every group to assume responsibility for the word grid of their left-hand neighbour, and continue as if it was theirs from the start. This will always come as a shock (because you intentionally did not announce this in advance.) You may choose to interrupt the play in this manner several times or try something new below. Consider inviting your group to reflect on their feelings and their reaction to this change.
Managing Change 2: As above, but ask each group to shuffle all of the letters of their current pile, before moving onto their neighbour’s pile. That is, each group will with a fresh set of tiles. Again, at the completion of the game, invite your group to reflect on their feelings and reactions to this change.
Managing Change 3: As above, ask each group to shuffle all of the letters of their current pile and start again, ie they do not move onto their neighbour’s pile of letters. The manner in which your groups manage this change, once again, provides a valuable opportunity for many teachable moments.
Mathematical Take Two: Use a set of numbers and basic mathematical signs (add, subtract, multiply and divide) and challenge your group to form a series of equations, again in a crossword-like grid.
Number Puzzles: Take a look at Alphabet Equations if you happen to have a fascination for letters and puzzles.
Exciting team-based, pattern-finding group initiative.
Fun puzzle to inspire teamwork & critical thinking.
Challenging group initiative to test patience & focus.
Useful Framing Ideas
Most of us have played the commercial board game Scrabble. And like me, you have probably encountered some players who take a long time to play their letters, often leading to a dull game. If this sounds like you, then I have a treat in store for you today…
In the world of games, all games, I simply love discovering new ways of playing some of the golden oldies. One of the oldest games I know is the word and letters game of Scrabble, and just recently, I have been introduced to a wonderful new way to play it…
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 innovative team puzzle:
Did you enjoy this version of Scrabble? Why?
What was the most difficult or challenging part of your group’s task?
How did it feel to hear another group call “TAKE TWO?”
How did it feel to be in a group that was entitled to call “TAKE TWO?”
Where else in your work or life do these feelings occur for you? What do you make them mean?
In the case you presented the series of Managing Change scenarios, here are some more useful reflective questions:
What range of emotions did you experience when you discovered you had to let go of the letters you started with and move onto the letters of another group?
How did you and/or your group react when you had to change?
How difficult was it to let go, or adopt a new set of letters as yours?
Was it more or less difficult to start with a completely fresh set of letters?
When you were required to re-start with the same letters you had just shuffled, what approach did you immediately adopt? Did you choose to re-create the old crossword grid, or start anew? Why?
The inspiration for Take Two was sourced from my friends Matthew & Linda (Sydney) who passed this fun variation of Scrabble onto me many years ago. I have since seen it pop up all over the world, so who knows how it first came into being?