This final Scrabble post of the semester features the names of authors and characters that are playable words. Learning these will not only increase your word power (and up your game), it will also broaden your knowledge of literature. If you haven’t read some of classics listed here, I encourage you to check them out.
eyre: a long journey (the last name of of the title character in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, 1847)
dickens: a devil (Charles Dickens, 1812-1870)
fagin: a person, usually an adult, who instructs others, usually children, in crime (from a character of that type in Dickens’ Oliver Twist)
holden: the past participle of hold (Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye)
huckleberry: a berry like a blueberry (the first name of the title character in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Hucklebery Finn, 1884)
oedipal: describing libidinal feelings of a child toward the parent of the opposite sex (from the title character in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, c. 429 B.C.)
quixote: a quixotic, or extremely idealistic person; also quixotry, a quixotic action or thought (the title character in Michael de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Part I: 1605, Part II: 1615)
Could the words in the hypothetical game featured in the image at the top of this post be the first plays in an actual game of Scrabble? They couldn’t be the first two plays, but they could be the first three. “Huckleberry” with the “b” on the center square/double-word bonus square would be worth fifty-eight points, but “huckleberry” has eleven letters, and the first player, or team, could not play more than seven letters. But the first play could be “berry” for twenty-eight points. The second player, or team, could follow with “q-u-i-x-o-t” to the left of the “e” in in berry for twenty-five points. Then the first player, or team, could add h-u-c-k-l-e to “berry” for a total of twenty-five points.
Beginning at noon on Monday, May 1, you and your classmates will deliver your exam-period presentations. As you prepare, review the directions for rehearsing on your assignment sheet.
Today in class you will review one of your classmates’ blogs and identify a passage that effectively demonstrates the skills that your classmate has developed as a writer, a critical thinker, a problem solver or a collaborator. Afterward, you will compose a short response, seventy-five words or more, in which you (1) recommend that your classmate address that passage in his/her/their individual presentation, and (2) explain why that particular passage stands out as a strong point in the blog.
This assignment serves two purposes: It provides one of your classmates with concrete feedback, and it prompts you to think about what passage in your blog you might address in your own presentation.
Plan a brief presentation of five minutes or fewer that highlights your achievements in English 1103 and demonstrates your ability to effectively assume the responsibilities that the internship in your field requires of you. (Remember that this assignment requires you to present yourself as a finalist for a much-sought-after internship in your field. See the assignment handout for details.)
Address one or more of your major writing assignments and the development of your critical thinking and collaboration skills. You encouraged but not required to address additional aspects of the course.
Include in your presentation an opening in which you state your first and last names and your major, concrete details in your blog that illustrate the development of your writing, your critical thinking, and/or your collaboration skills.
A close examination of one pertinent passage in your blog.
A conclusion that provides closure and invites questions from the interview committee.
Wordplay Day! To up your game and increase your word power, review the tips and tools on the Scrabble website as well as this blog post and my other posts devoted to the game.
Today in class you will compose a short final reflection essay that documents your work over the course of the semester, focusing on what you consider your most significant work and the feature or features of the course that have benefited your development as a writer and a student. Fetures to consider include the following:
Planning, drafting, and revising your literacy narrative and/or your analysis. You are welcome to address your final essay and annotated bibliography, but since you recently composed a refelection for it, you should address it only briefly in your final refelection.
Keeping a journal
Completing Check, Please! assignments
Delivering your group presentation on one of the Check, Please! lessons
Studying one of the readings examined in class, including “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” “The Case for Writing Longhand,” “Skim Reading is the New Normal,” “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “The Day that Language Came into My Life,” “Back Story” (from The Blind Side), “The Falling Man,” and “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.”
Writing collaboratively with your classmates
Completing follow-up revsving and editing exercises for your collaborative writing
Writing for an online audience/creating and maintaining a WordPress blog, and/or reading and responding to your classmates’ blog posts
Playing Scrabble/collaborating with your teammates on Wordplay Day
Limiting screen time
You are welcome to focus on more than one feature but no more than four.
Include in your reflective essay the following elements:
An opening paragraph that introduces your focus and presents your thesis
Body paragraphs that offer concrete details from your work to support your thesis
A quotation from Writing Analytically, a quotation from one of the class readings, or a quotation from one of the sources included in your final essay and annotated bibliography. Introduce your quotation with a signal phrase and follow it with a parenthetical citation, if needed.
A conclusion that restates your thesis without restating it verbatim
This week’s Scrabble post features comic book characters whose names are playable because they have common noun definitions as well. Learning these playable words will up your game–and it may lead you discover that Scrabble dominance is your super power!
batgirl: a young woman whose job it is to mind baseball equipment
batman: a British officer’s orderly
corsair: a pirate
hulk: to appear large or intimidating
iceman: a man whose job it is to supply ice
ironman: a man of great strength or endurance
joker: one who habitually makes jokes
magneto: a small electric generator containing a magnet
mystique: an aura of attractiveness
riddler: one who poses riddles
robin: a type of thrush
superman: an idealized, superior man
superwoman: an exceptional woman, especially one who succeeds in having a career and raising a family
wolverine: a smallish, vicious carnivore of the weasel family, native to the tundra
Could the words in the hypothetical game featured in the image at the top of this post be the first plays in an actual game of Scrabble? They couldn’t be the first two plays, but they could be the first three. “Wolverine” with the “e” on the double word score would be worth forty points, but “wolverine” has nine letters, and the first player, or team, could not play more than seven letters. But the first play could be “wolver” (one who hunts wolves) for thirty-two points. The second player, or team, could follow with “batgirl” for fifteen points. Then the first player, or team, could add i-n-e to “wolver” for a total of sixteen points.
Wordplay Day! To up your game and increase your word power, review the tips and tools on the Scrabble website, this blog post of heroes and villians, and my other posts devoted to the game.
Today in class you willl plan and draft a short reflective essay that documents your writing process and includes at least one relevant quotation from Writing Analytically, the article or essay that served as your starting point, or one of your other sources. Introduce your quotation with a signal phrase, and include a work cited entry for Writing Analytically. For MLA-style entries, see the samples below.
Questions to address in your reflection include the following:
Did your subject change? If so, what was your original subject, and why did you change it?
What aspect of the writing seemed the most challenging? Determining which article or essay would serve as you starting point? Locating additional useful sources? Composing your annotations? Developing the final essay? Why did that aspect of the writing seem the most challenging?
What do you consider the strongest element of your final essay and annotated bibliography?
At what point in the process did you decide on a title? Did you change the title during the writing process? If so, what was the original title?
What image that documents part of your writing process away from the screen did you include in your blog post? Why did you choose that particular image?
What additional images, if any, did you include?
Wordplay Day! To up your game and increase your word power, review the tips and tools on the Scrabble website as well as my blog posts devoted to the game.
At the beginning of today’s class you will receive your handwritten drafts with my comments, and you will have the class period to devote to revising on your laptops–or you may continue to write longhand, if you wish. Your revision is due on Blackboard and your blog next Wednesday, April 12. The hard deadline is Friday, April 14.
As you continue to revise your final essay and annotated bibliography, consider visiting The Writing Center. If you do so, you will earn five bonus points.
To schedule an appointment, visit https://highpoint.mywconline.com, email the Writing Center’s director, Justin Cook, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or scan the QR code below. To earn bonus points for your final essay and annotated bibliography, consult with a Writing Center tutor no later than Thursday, April 13.
Good Friday! Enjoy Easter and the rest of your four-day weekend.
Yesterday in class, we examined Ian Falconer’s The Competition, and as a collaborative exercise, you and two or three of your classmates composed a one-paragraph summary of the magazine cover, followed by a second paragraph that presented your close reading or analysis of The Competition.
Below are three sample paragraphs that I wrote as models for you. The first is a summary of Falconer’s cover. The second and third offer close readings of the magazine cover. Each integrates one of the two possible interpretations that the authors of Writing Analytically offer on page 89.
Ian Falconer’s mostly black-and-white New Yorker cover The Competition depicts four beauty pageant contestants, three of whom stand in stark contrast to Miss New York. Her dark hair, angular body, narrowed eyes, tightly pursed lips, and two-piece bathing suit set her apart from the nearly-identical blondes–Miss Georgia, Miss California, and Miss Florida–whose wide-open eyes and mouths and one-piece bathing suits are typical of pageant contestants.
The contrast between the raven hair and eyes of Miss New York and the platinum-blonde and pale-eyed contestants from Georgia, California, and Florida in The New Yorker cover The Competition by Ian Falconer suggests what the authors of Writing Analytically present as the first of two possible interpretations: The cover “speak[s] to American history, in which New York has been the point of entry for generations of immigrants, the ‘dark’ (literally and figuratively) in the face of America’s blonde European legacy” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 89).
The self-satisfied expression of Miss New York in The New Yorker cover The Competition by Ian Falconer suggests what the authors of Writing Analytically present as the second of two possible interpretations: “[T]he magazine is . . . admitting , yes America, we do think that we’re cooloer and more individual and less plastic than the rest of you, but we also know that we shouldn’t be so smug about it” (Rosenwasser and Stephen 89).
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. Chapter 3: “Interpretation: Moving from Observation to Implication.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 70-97.
As you continue to work on your final essay and annotated bibliography, review these samples as models for your own summaries and close readings of your sources.
The final essay and annotated bibliogaphy are ones that I wrote as models for you. The bibliography includes Jonathan Kay’s essay “Scrabble is a Lousy Game,” the starting point for my research, four refereed research articles, and a newspaper story featuring a Scrabble prodigy who began playing the game during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Scrabble as a Game Changer in the College Classroom
Earlier this month, when I reread Jonathan Kay’s Wall Street Journal review “Scrabble is a Lousy Game,” I once again meditated on his criticism of Scrabble as a word game that deemphasizes semantics. In Kay’s words, “Scrabble treats language the way computers do—as arbitrarily ordered codes stored in a memory chip” (C5). I asked myself, if I want my students to play a board game that cultivates word power, collaboration, critical thinking skills, is Scrabble the game to choose? Thus, Kay’s review became the starting point for my research on the benefits of Scrabble play. As I scrolled through search results, I found only a handful of articles that specifically addressed Scrabble in the college classroom, but many that focused on the value of the game, itself, for sharpening the mind.
The dearth of articles on Scrabble in the college classroom may be explained by the emphasis on classwork with assessable outcomes rather than activities that foster the habits of mind essential to lifelong learning. The bibliography that follows includes Kay’s review, the starting point for my research, four refereed research articles, and a newspaper story featuring a Scrabble prodigy who began playing the game during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Three of the four refereed articles offer windows into the classrooms of professors whose students play Scrabble: one an English professor at a two-year college in California, a second, a director of the honors program at a university in Kansas; and third, a professor of engineering at a polytechnic university in Russia. The fourth article addresses cognitive evaluations of competitive Scrabble players and what they reveal about how experience shapes word recognition.
Though Kay’s criticism of Scrabble warrants reconsidering the inclusion of Scrabble in my first-year writing classes, his disapproval of the game stems from the practices of tournament-level players, not people for whom the game is a pastime—or from students, like mine, who play Scrabble as a classroom exercise. It’s also notable that collaboration, which is an essential component of team Scrabble, does not factor in Kay’s review.
In “Tabletop Games and 21st Century Skills Practice in the Undergraduate Classroom,” Mark Hayse observes that “[T]wo of the four Cs, communication and collaboration, figured prominently” (298). And he and his two colleagues who participated in the study all reported “that tabletop gameplay helped students move from classroom passivity to classroom ‘engagement’” (298).
How much does Scrabble play cultivate our word power? The answer to that question remains unclear, but the research of psychologists and educators points to the merits of team Scrabble for improving not only our language skills, but also our facility with critical thinking, team-building, and spatial skills.
As I review my research on Scrabble, I look forward to searching for additional studies and commentary on the game. Whether it will lead to a larger project of my own, I do not know. But the knowledge I have gained will inform my teaching as I continue to revise the curriculum and consider additional opportunities for wordplay in the classroom.
“Critical Habits of Mind” addresses the teaching practices of a group of college math and writing faculty who collaborated to develop lessons to foster intellectual capacities, such as motivation and self-efficacy. Developmental educational instructors from three California colleges, Cabrillo, California State University-Monterey Bay, and Hartnell College, partnered to pilot classroom activities, including clicker technology, peer writing review, improvisation, metacognitive writing activities (e.g. “Math Anxiety Essays”), and Scrabble Fridays. Reflecting on their collaboration, Fletcher observes that foregrounding procedural knowledge, as their pilot activities did, enabled them to couple their teaching of discipline-specific content with the set of behaviors essential to teaching and learning. Fletcher notes that Hetty Yelland observes “the extra effort students have to make to overcome the boredom—and their passive word knowledge—that eventually leads to more active and internalized language practices” (54).
Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay. Her books include Teaching Arguments, Teaching Literature Rhetorically, and Writing Rhetorically. Fletcher’s account of Hartnell writing instructor Hetty Yelland’s Scrabble Fridays is of particular value to educators who are considering Scrabble play as a classroom activity.
“How a Hobby Can Shape Cognition” presents the findings of Canadian researchers in the Departments of Psychology and Medicine at Calgary University who investigated how the word recognition skills of competitive Scrabble players differed from those of age-matched nonexperts. The researchers’ cognitive evaluations revealed differences only in Scrabble-specific skills, such as anagramming. Also, the researchers observed that Scrabble expertise was associated with two specific effects: vertical fluency and semantic deemphasis. The study’s results indicate that experience shapes visual word recognition.
Ian Hargreaves is Professor Emeritus of Journalism, Media, and Culture at Cardiff University and one of the contributors to A Manifesto for the Creative Economy, a the-point plan for bolstering creative industries. The research of Hargreaves and his former colleagues at Cardiff is pertinent to educators who seek to understand the cognitive benefits of frequent Scrabble play. Notably, the semantic deemphasis that the study identifies—and that Jonathan Kay addresses in his review—contrasts the gains in language skills that Hetty Yelland observes in her English students.
Mark Hayse’s and his colleagues’ primary research question was, “Does tabletop gameplay require the practice of 21st century skills?” (290). Their secondary question was, “What initial links might be drawn between tabletop gameplay, 21st century skill practice, and undergraduate learning?” All three professors reported “that tabletop gameplay helped students move from classroom passivity to classroom ‘engagement’” (298) and that “[e]ven though tabletop gameplay technically was coursework . . . the nontraditional nature of it seemed to render it as play more than work” (298).
Mark Hayes is Director of the Honors Program and Mobee Library Professor at MidAmerica Nazarene University. His other publications include an essay on the World of Warcraft, a study of the video game featured in the collection Don’t Stop Believin’: Pop Cultureand Religion from Ben Hur to Zombies, edited by Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, and Barry Taylor.
In “Scrabble is a Lousy Game,” writer and editor Jonathan Kay criticizes Scrabble for its lack of emphasis on semantics. In Kay’s words, the game “is like a math contest in which you are rewarded for reciting pi to the 1,000th decimal place but not knowing that it expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter” (C5). Kay asserts that the best board games for casual players involve a mix of luck and skill and recommends two other board games, Codenames and Paperback, as better options for wordplay.
Jonathan Kay is senior editor of the journal Quillette and the author of Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life. While Kay’s review focuses on the competitive player’s approach to Scrabble, the concerns he raises about the game’s deemphasis of word meaning and the frustration that novice players can experience warrant the attention of educators who are researching the potential drawbacks of introducing Scrabble play into their classrooms.
“Scrabble as a Tool for Engineering Students’ Critical Thinking Skills and Development” presents research involving second-year engineering students and teachers of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) at Tomsk Polytechnic University in Tomsk, Russia. The students—all non-native speakers of English—played Scrabble as an in-class and out-of-class-activity for one academic year. At the end of the year, the best six student players competed in teams in a tournament against two teams of the six EFL teachers. Throughout the tournament—which was conducted outside of the classroom to relieve students of the pressure to obtain a high score—the researcher, Nadezda Kobzeva, observed the contrast in the students’ and teachers’ practices as players. While the EFL instructors possessed an advanced knowledge of English language, they were newcomers to Scrabble. On the other hand, the engineering students with limited knowledge of English relied on the skills they developed throughout their year-long Scrabble program. In the feedback the students provided after the tournament, which they won, the majority of students rated the skills they developed as Scrabble players as excellent in all five fields assessed, including team building, thinking, spatial skills, vocabulary, and spelling.
Kobzeva, Professor of Engineering at Tomsk Polytechnic University, focuses her research on engineering students, but her findings are valuable to researchers and teachers in other fields who seek answers to the questions of how Scrabble can be used effectively as a learning tool, and what specific skills students may develop through frequent play.
Liu, Rebecca. “‘Dig Deep and Think as Hard as Possible: The Secrets of Success in Scrabble, Sudoku, Jenga and More.” TheGuardian, 24 Dec. 2022. Gale Business: Insights, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A731074943/GBIB?u=hpu_main&sid=bookmark-GBIB&xid=174c68bc.
“‘Dig Deep and Think as Hard as Possible: The Secrets of Success in Scrabble, Sudoku, Jenga and More,” introduces Guardian readers to Samarth Manchali, a Scrabble prodigy who began playing the game at seven during the pandemic, after watching his mother and his older brother play while stuck at home during COVID-19. For those aspiring to improve their Scrabble play, Manchali offers these tips: (1) learn all permissible two- and three-letter words, (2) put the high-scoring letters—such as J, K, Q, Z—on the triple-letter squares, (3) have “board vision,” which means taking your lead from the board, rather than your letters , and (4) focus on what spots can give maximum points, and places where you can block your opponent from high-scoring words. Manchali’s mother describes a more advanced method called tracking, which involves keeping tabs on which tiles haven’t been played. In her words, “If I know that my opponent is left with a Q, I will look for the place where it can be put, and I’ll try to place a letter there.”
Rebecca Liu is a commissioning editor at The Guardian and staff writer for the feminist film journal Another Gaze. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, gal-dem, The Financial Times, The White Review, and Internazionale, and has been translated into Italian and Portuguese. Liu’s Guardian article would be useful to educators who are researching the particular strategies that Scrabble players employ to improve their game. It would also be a valuable source for those researching the rise in the popularity of board games during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of class on Wednesday, you will receive your drafts with my written feedback, and you will have the class period to devote to additional research and writing. The revision of your final essay and annotated bibliography is due on Blackboard and your blog the following Wednesday, April 12. The hard deadline is Friday, April 14.