Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 111: Field Notes

To begin our last class meeting before Super Bowl LV, we will turn to a piece of writing about football–not simply to read about a sport that’s on the minds of many of us this week but instead as an opportunity to explore how skillfully the writer Michael Lewis dramatizes a few seconds on the football field. 

In the passage that follows, Lewis recounts the moments in the November 1985 Redskins-Giants football game leading up to the injury that ended quarterback Joe Theismann’s career. These are the words that begin Chapter 1 of The Blind Side, now widely regarded as a nonfiction masterpiece.

From the snap of the ball to the snap of the first bone is closer to four seconds than to five. One Mississippi: The quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Joe Theismann, turns and hands the ball to running back John Riggins. He watches Riggins run two steps forward, turn, and flip the ball back to him. It’s what most people know as a “flea-flicker,” but the Redskins call it a “throw-back special.” Two Mississippi: Theismann searches for a receiver but instead sees Harry Carson coming straight at him. It’s a running down—the start of the second quarter, first and 10 at midfield, with the score tied 7–7—and the New York Giants’ linebacker has been so completely suckered by the fake that he’s deep in the Redskins’ backfield. Carson thinks he’s come to tackle Riggins but Riggins is long gone, so Carson just keeps running, toward Theismann. Three Mississippi: Carson now sees that Theismann has the ball. Theismann notices Carson coming straight at him, and so he has time to avoid him. He steps up and to the side and Carson flies right on by and out of the play. The play is now 3.5 seconds old. Until this moment it has been defined by what the quarterback can see. Now it–and he–is at the mercy of what he can’t see.

What Theismann cannot see is Lawrence Taylor. A second later, as Taylor sacks Theismann, Taylor’s knee drives straight into Theismann’s lower right leg, leading to the “snap of the first bone” that Lewis mentions in the first sentence. He hooks the reader by linking the beginning of the play, “the snap of the ball” to the gruesome “snap of the first bone” that will follow. Lewis develops the paragraph using the common one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi method of marking seconds to present the events leading up to the compound fracture that ends Theisman’s career.

Lewis doesn’t dramatize the injury itself because his interest lies instead in the blind side that led to it and subsequently elevated the status and salary of the left tackle, the player who protects the quarterback’s blind side.

When you’re struggling to develop a piece of writing, reread the opening paragraph of The Blind Side. Study how Lewis dramatizes 3.5 seconds–yes, only 3.5 seconds–with 224 words.

And now we turn to a game of another sort: Scrabble, the subject of my version of the You’ve Got to . . . assignment, the sample that I wrote for you.

A Game for Hardscrabble Times

The Guardian article “Spell Bound” notes that the exact beginning of Scrabble is “debatable,” adding that “Scrabble experts are the kind of people who like to debate it at length.” In a piece of writing such as this–one that begins at the beginning of the game–the starting point could be Lexico, which is the game that Alfred Mosher Butts developed before he invented Scrabble–which, by the way, wasn’t named Scrabble until Butts sold the game to Jacob Brunot. That’s when the game that Butts had christened Criss-Cross Words became the game that would multiply to more than 150 million sets worldwide, a game that can now be found in a third of homes in America (Bukszpan 16).

If that description of Scrabble’s beginnings doesn’t capture your interest, perhaps because you don’t think of yourself as a word person, consider this: Scrabble’s inventor wasn’t a word person either. Butts was fascinated by games of all sorts and saw word games as the category that offered the most opportunities for innovation. For him, that innovation meant creating a game in which the frequency of letters corresponded with their frequency in the English language. As part of his research, he documented how often each letter appeared on the front page of the newspaper. E is most common, so there are twelve E’s in Scrabble but only one tile for each of the rarest of letters: J, K, Q, X, and Z. For many players, including me, part of Scrabble’s appeal is the combination of skill and luck. Word power alone won’t win the game. You don’t know which letters you will draw or which seven letter tiles are on your opponent’s rack. And for many players, another source of the game’s appeal is its synthesis of crosswords and anagrams.

Since creating words from anagrams is a process of letter scrambling, James Brunot may have chosen the name Scrabble in part for its similarity to scramble, but the word scrabble itself is apt for a game that often requires players to struggle (or scrabble) to make a word from a seemingly impossible combination of tiles. It’s notable, too, that Scrabble’s beginnings date to the 1930s, when its inventor was an out-of-work architect. He wanted to create a diversion from the dark days of the Depression. Now it’s a game that many of us have returned to, pantomiming the ghosts of those first-generation players. Once again, it’s a game for hardscrabble times. 

Works Cited

Bukszpan, David. Is That a Word?: From AA to ZZZ, the Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble. Chronicle, 2012.

“Spell Bound.” The Guardian, 27 June 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/jun/28/healthandwellbeing.familyandrelationships.


In addition to including my model of the assignment in the body of this blog post, I am including it below as a PDF along with an additional copy of the assignment file. (See the links below and the rectangles labeled download.)

You’ve Got to . . . Assignment Notes

  • Unlike my sample, yours does not have to include sources. If, however, you do quote or paraphrase a text, follow MLA style guidelines and look to my sample assignment as a model.
  • You are welcome to write more than two paragraphs, as I did, but be sure that the first two paragraphs comply with the directions outlined in the assignment.
  • Approach your writing as a process. My model did not begin with what is now the first sentence. Instead, it began this way: “Designed for two-to-four players, the board game Scrabble begins with each player randomly drawing a letter tile from an opaque bag. The player whose letter is closest to the beginning of the alphabet is designated the first player.” My first draft fulfilled the basic requirement of the first paragraph, but I was doubtful that it would hold the reader’s interest. I asked myself where else I might begin, and it occurred to me that I could begin with the debate about the origins of the game.

Preparing to Submit Your You’ve-Got-to . . . Assignment

  • Review the assignment file, and look to the guidelines as a checklist. 
  • Reread the notes on revising and editing in my January 27 blog post.
  • Remember that you will submit your assignment to Moodle as a Word document, not a PDF, and you will not post it to your blog. A Word file template is posted in Moodle for you.
  • If you would like for someone to review your assignment before you submit it, the Center for Academic Engagement offers  a variety of resources, which are outlined on pages four and five of the course syllabus.

Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. 2006. W. W. Norton, 2009.

Posted in Teaching

ENG 242: Well Played Again!

Congratulations to the winner of our Virtual Victorian Parlor Games! Jacob Palmer selected option three (the first seven letters of a character’s name) and chose H-A-S-T-I-E-L for Dr. Hastie Lanyon in the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Entering H-A-S-T-I-E-L in the Scrabble Word Builder yields two-hundred and twelve playable words!

Posted in Teaching

ENG 242: Well Played!

Congratulations to the first ten participants in our Virtual Victorian Parlor Games!

  • Grey Sacona
  • Madison St. Clair
  • Lauren Setzer
  • Bryan Alba
  • Ashton Canipe
  • Courtney Gant
  • Landon Childres
  • Ruben Castillo
  • Crowson Roosa
  • Joe Van Story

Well played!

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 011/111: Wordplay Days

Our Wordplay days in class gave us opportunities to build our word power, collaborate, and engage in creative problem solving. Now they offer us a way to forget our sense of isolation. I hope that games, whether table-top or digital, continue to lift your spirits.

With that hope in mind, I designed this assignment devoted to word games.

Directions:

Choose one of the options below, and post your response as a comment by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17.

Option One:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters of your name (all first, or first plus part of last) are seven tiles on a Scrabble rack.
  2. Go to the Scrabble Dictionary, click the Scrabble Word Builder tab (to the right of Scrabble Dictionary), enter your seven letters, and click “Go.”
  3. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) the seven letters that you entered, (2) the number of playable words that you can spell with those letters, (3) at least one of the words in the list that was unfamiliar to you, and (4) the definition of the word.

Sample: Entering the first seven letters of my name, J-A-N-E-L-U-C, into the Scrabble Word Builder yields fifty-one playable words. Two that I wasn’t familiar with are fish: “alec,” a herring, and “luce,” a pike.

Option Two:

  1. Reread the The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’” that you read and summarized for February 7.
  2. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) one of the newly playable words, (2) its definition, and 3) whether the word was familiar to you.

Sample: The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’” includes the newly playable word [insert word here], which was unfamiliar to me. [Insert word here] means [insert definition here].

Do not use the word “OK.” In other words, “OK” is not okay. It’s in the title of the article, and you already know its definition.

Let the play begin!

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 242: Virtual Victorian Parlor Games

Wordplay days gave us opportunities to build our word power, collaborate, and engage in creative problem solving. Now they’re pastimes that can help us forget our isolation. I hope that games, whether table-top or digital, continue to lift your spirits.

With that hope in mind, I designed this assignment inspired by Fred’s Victorian parlor games In A Christmas Carol (stave 3) and our Wordplay Days. Below the directions, I’ve included a list of Victorian authors for your reference.

Directions:

Choose one of the options below, and post your response as a comment by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17. The first ten students who post comments and the student whose letters yield the largest number of playable words will receive bonus points.

Option One:

  1. Imagine that seven letters of a Victorian author’s last name (all last, or last plus first letter/s of the first) are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack. See my sample below.
  2. Go to the Scrabble Dictionary, click the Scrabble Word Builder tab (to the right of Scrabble Dictionary), enter the seven letters, and click “Go.”
  3. Post a blog comment of twenty-five words or more that includes (1) the seven letters that you entered, (2) the number of playable words that you can spell with those letters, (3) at least one of the words in the list that was unfamiliar to you, and (4) the definition of the word.

Sample: Entering the seven letters A-R-N-O-L-D-M (for Matthew Arnold) in the Scrabble Word Builder yields 103 playable words. Two that I wasn’t familiar with are “dolma,” a stuffed grape leaf, and “lardon,” a thin slice of bacon or pork.

Option Two:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters in the title of one of our Victorian readings (A Christmas Carol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the “The Adventure of the Speckled Band“) are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack.
  2. Follow steps two and three listed in option one.

Option Three:

  1. Imagine that the first seven letters in the name of a character in A Christmas Carol, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or the “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” are the seven tiles on your Scrabble rack.
  2. Follow steps two and three listed in option one.

Let the play begin!

Victorian Authors

  • Barrett Browning, Elizabeth
  • Besant, Annie
  • Besant, Walter
  • Bradley, Katharine
  • Brontë, Emily
  • Browning, Robert
  • Caird, Mona
  • Carlyle, Thomas
  • Carroll, Lewis
  • Chamberlain, Joseph
  • Chew, Ana Nield
  • Cobbe, Frances Power
  • Coleridge, Mary Elizabeth
  • Cooper, Edith
  • Darwin, Charles
  • Dickens, Charles
  • Dowson, Earnest
  • Doyle, Sir Arthur
  • Eliot, George
  • Ellis, Sarah Stickney
  • Engels, Friederich
  • Field, Michael
  • Froude, James Anthony
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth
  • Gosse, Sir Edmund
  • Hardy, Thomas
  • Henley, William Ernest
  • Hobson, J.A.
  • Hopkins, Gerard Manley
  • Hughes, Thomas
  • Huxley, Leonard
  • Huxley, Thomas Henry
  • Kingsley, Charles
  • Kipling, Rudyard
  • Macaulay, Thomas Babington
  • Martineau, Harriet
  • Maurice, Frederick Denison
  • Mayhew, Henry
  • Mill, John Stuart
  • Morris, William
  • Mukharji, T.N.
  • Mulock, Dinah Maria
  • Newman, John Henry Cardinal
  • Nightingale, Florence
  • Pater, Walter
  • Patmore, Coventry
  • Rossetti, Christina
  • Rossetti, Dante Gabriel
  • Ruskin, John
  • Russell, William Howard
  • Shaw, George Bernard
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis
  • Swinburne, Algernon Charles
  • Tennyson, Alfred Lord
  • Thomas, John Jacob
  • Thompson, Flora
  • Wilde, Oscar

I omitted Matthew Arnold from the list since I used his name in the sample.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

Scrabble as a Game Changer in the Writing Classroom, Part 2

For my students’ final writing assignment in English 111: Writing and Inquiry, they compose a reflective essay that addresses the features of the course that have contributed to their development as writers and critical thinkers. As I embarked on this final assignment with them, my thoughts repeatedly returned to the hours they had devoted to playing Scrabble on Wordplay Days, a bimonthly feature that I included in my classes for the first time this semester.

When the students in the Monday-Wednesday 8 o’clock class tore the plastic from the boxes of Retro Edition Scrabble, I had no idea how they would respond to the game. Back in August, when I had decided to include bimonthly Wordplay Days on the calendar, I did so to achieve two of my goals as a teacher: first, to offer students an opportunity to collaborate on low-stakes assignments that would develop their critical thinking skills and word power; and second, to provide another chance for them to turn away from screens.

A year earlier, in August 2017, when I revised my writing class curriculum to minimize my students’ screen time, I did so because both the research of psychologists and my own anecdotal evidence revealed the critical need to do so for the benefit of students’ mental health and cognitive development. With that in mind, I reserved more class time for my students to turn the pages of our textbook, to read aloud and pore over words, and to compose essay drafts in longhand—all while still maintaining blogs and devoting class time to typing essay revisions and posting comments to their classmates’ blogs.

Over the summer, as I looked back on the previous school year, I thought of the students’ faces. Some had seemed to express genuine interest, but more often they conveyed resignation or resistance. Research and my own observations of students’ progress assured me that my teaching practices were sound, but I remained troubled by how reading and writing away from the screen, rereading for deeper understanding, and putting pen to paper all seemed like drudgery to my students. How could I enliven the classroom? I asked myself. Scrabble came to me as an answer as I mulled over possibilities for collaborative classroom activities. By using a grading system with a participation and preparedness category, I am able to give students opportunities to improve their grades with low-stakes assignments, such as submitting monthly letters in stamped, addressed, and sealed envelopes. I do not grade the students on the quality of their letter writing (since I don’t read them). Instead, I grade them for the act of submitting the letters for me to mail.

I realized that I could similarly grade students for their participation in Scrabble Days, or—as I chose to call them—Wordplay Days, if I devised a score sheet that I could use to document their participation.

“Each team will appoint a scorekeeper,” I told the students on the first Wordplay Day, “but your grades will not be based on those scores. Instead, they will be based on your participation and the completion of the score sheet. If you participate in the game, don’t reach for your smartphones, and complete the score sheet, you will achieve one-hundred percent participation for the day.”

Then I held my breath.

The students gathered in their designated groups (drawn at random by a student volunteer) and began to play. When the class period ended, I had to remind them that it was time to leave. Let me repeat that: When the class period ended, I had to remind them that it was time to leave. What I had witnessed on that first Wordplay Day was not only students forming words on Scrabble boards but also posing questions about words (Is that a word?), and passing around the box top to study the rules of play. As they played, their postures and facial expressions changed. They were comfortable and happy. It’s not an overstatement to say that Scrabble transformed the classroom.

Noting that transformation isn’t to say that all of the students liked Scrabble. Some clearly didn’t. But even the students who agreed that “Scrabble, to put it bluntly, is a lousy game” (Kay C5) seemed to appreciate the opportunity to earn credit for an activity that didn’t seem dull or menial. And their other work in the classroom began to seem less arduous to them. Perhaps they didn’t mind reading and writing as much when they knew more Wordplay Days were still to come. Or perhaps they began to make connections between their book work and board play as they increased their word power and became more sophisticated strategists.

One of the first reading assignments that followed the inaugural Wordplay Day focused on games—not board games but electronic ones. When my students and I read portions of Sam Anderson’s “Just One More Game . . .” in class, I was struck by his reference to Jane McGonigal. Anderson notes that “[i]n her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal argues that play is possibly the best, healthiest, most productive activity a human can undertake—a gateway to our ideal psychological state” (108). What I witnessed when my students played Scrabble seemed to attest to that. But McGonigal, I later learned, is a video game designer. My awareness of the research that links screen time with increased anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation (Twenge par. 43) makes the notion of video games as a “gateway to our ideal psychological state” (Anderson 108) seem perverse.

That said, I am not opposed to electronic versions of Scrabble and similar word games, such as Words with Friends. But replacing board-game Scrabble with its digital counterpart—or with another video game, or smartphone app—would be contrary to my aim of limiting students’ screen time. And bearing in mind the research, I believe there’s a critical need to repeat this unpopular line at the beginning of class: “Your digital devices should be tucked away.”

As the semester progressed, fewer students were staring at screens when I entered the classroom, and rarely—and in some classes never—did I find myself asking a student to put away a phone during a Scrabble game.

About a month before the semester’s end, on a day when the students enjoyed a scheduled break from classes, our school’s administrators, faculty, and staff were on hand for an event called the Tenth-Grade Extravaganza, which brings more than one-thousand high school students to our campus to learn about the college.

Late in the day, one of the campus administrators shepherded the last tour group to the Blackbox Theatre, where I was assisting the theatre professor and her student volunteers. The last portion of the Theatre Department’s tour took place in the costume area, where we had set up a station for selfies and group photos. On a table nearby, we’d placed hats and various props for students to pose with. As the students fiddled with the hats and props, trying one, then another, their shepherd-administrator nudged me and said: “That girl over there has looked sad throughout the tour, but when she put that sock puppet on her arm, her face lit up with joy.” When I turned and saw that tenth-grader’s joyful face, she became one of my own students who had transformed before my eyes. The sock puppet was her Scrabble.

My return this semester to public higher education marked my first experience with lockdown drills. While they are new to me, most of my students’ years in school have long been disrupted by periodic exercises in avoiding slaughter. Witnessing how quickly they sprang into action, how the protocol was second nature to them, was heartbreaking. As I crouched with them in the corner, I thought of how now, more than ever, classrooms need to provide our students with a gateway out of the darkness and into joy.

Works Cited

Anderson, Sam. “Just One More Game . . . : Angry Birds, Farmville, and Other Hyperaddictive Stupid Games.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 4th ed., by Richard Bullock, Maureen Daly Goggin, and Francine Weinberg. Norton, 2016, pp. 105-110.

Kay, Jonathan. Review. “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.” The Wall Street Journal, 6-7 Oct. 2018, C.5.

Twenge, Jean. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/Sept. 2017, Accessed 28 Aug. 2018.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

Scrabble as a Game Changer in the Writing Classroom

Scrabble Game Changer

In October, after I read Jonathan Kay’s Wall Street Journal review “Scrabble is a Lousy Game,” I meditated on his criticism of Scrabble as a word game that deemphasizes semantics. I asked myself, if I want my students to play a board game that cultivates word power and critical thinking skills, is Scrabble the game to choose? Thus, Kay’s review became the starting point for my research on the cognitive benefits of Scrabble play. As I scrolled through search results, I found only a couple 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.

Article and draft

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, along with three refereed research articles. Two offer windows into the classrooms of professors whose students play Scrabble: one an English professor at a two-year college in California, the other a professor of engineering at a polytechnic university in Russia. The third article addresses cognitive evaluations of competitive Scrabble players and what they reveal about how experience shapes word recognition.

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.

Annotated Bibliography

Fletcher, Jennifer. “Critical Habits of Mind: Exposing the Process of Development.” Liberal Education, Winter 2013, pp. 50-55. Association of American Colleges and Universities, https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/critical-habits-mind-exposing-process-development. Accessed 26 Nov. 2018.

“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, author Jennifer Fletcher, associate professor of English at CSUMB, 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’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. Fletcher notes that Yelland’s 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).

Hargreaves, Ian S., et al. “How a Hobby Can Shape Cognition: Visual Word Recognition in Competitive Scrabble Players.” Memory & Cognition, vol. 40, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-7. ProQuest, http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/952889499?accountid=9935.

“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.

The research of Ian Hargreaves and his colleagues at the University of Calgary 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.

Kay, Jonathan. Review. “Scrabble is a Lousy Game.” The Wall Street Journal, 6-7 Oct. p. C. 5.

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.

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 considering introducing Scrabble play into their classrooms. And his recommendations of Codenames and Paperback offer teachers two word-game options to pursue as alternatives Scrabble.

Kobzeva, Nadezda. “Scrabble as a Tool for Engineering Students’ Critical Thinking Skills and Development.” Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, no. 182, 2015, pp. 369-74. ScienceDirect, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042815030669. Accessed 26 Nov. 2018.

“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, a professor of engineering at Tomsk, focused his research on engineering students, but his 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.