Tag Archives: composition

Rhetorical Peaks: The potential and the problems of teaching the humanities through games

I learned about Rhetorical Peaks at the Humanities Gaming Institute I attended last year. To my mind, it’s the most realized game so far made when it comes to trying to duplicate the kind of critical thinking instructors try to teach their students. Thing is, it can’t be played independently; it needs to be played in the context of a classroom, and under the guidance of a professor. It’s a game, still–can you solve the mystery?–but it’s not a game that uses a set of self-governing game mechanics to convey humanities knowledge, or ways of knowing.

Rhetorical Peaks is a study in making games for the humanities, both in terms of lessons to learn and pitfalls to avoid. My reading of it is that it trades immersion and autonomy for classroom-specific goals. My dream is that we learn to make games that don’t have those trade-offs: that they be immersive, autonomous games that teach the humanities’ ways of understanding the world.


Created by Francesco Crocco

This is a cooperative learning game that may be played verbally or in writing.

1) The point of this game is to cooperatively build an idea that involves memory recall, argumentation, and applied learning.

2) The game also teaches players how to write a successful paragraph by giving each player a different role to play that corresponds to the rhetorical elements of a paragraph.

1) Assign a question or topic, or let the students choose one.

2) Make teams of four.

3) Assign each player a different role:
➢ Start: One person starts the process by stating or writing a main idea related to the topic. If this is done in writing, pass the sheet of paper to the next person.
➢ Support: The next person adds a few sentences that offer supporting details. These may come from facts, statistics, examples, analogies, logic, explanation, quotations, or some other means of support.
➢ Summarize: The third person sums up the main idea and draws all conclusions, thereby finishing the paragraph.
➢ Counter-Argue: The last person opposes the completed argument by offering a critical position. This stage teaches the players that the creation of knowledge is both a constantly unfolding process and a process of dialogue.

4) Play it again with a different topic. Assign the players a different role each time so that they can learn each part of the process by practice and imitation.

If you like, add the element of speed by putting two teams in competition with each other. The first team to successfully complete the process wins an award (you decide what it is).

Unscrambling Your Body Paragraph

Created by Joe Bisz

This exercise is a fun way to teach students sentence organization in a paragraph, particularly understanding the natural order that transition words provide. Once you understand what I’ve done, you can just create your own paragraphs, of course—but be aware that students may find perfectly logical ways to order the paragraph beyond what you predicted! To teach this exercise in its ideal form so that its initial focus is on procedural thinking, combine it with a map-like game (Tic-tac-toe, a maze, war game map, etc.) as a preface (see example elsewhere or chat with Joe).

Note: This is part of my “Following a Space” series of exercises.

Unscrambling Your Body Paragraph-Web