Another school year is in our midst, and more game ideas are swirling around in my head. As I sat down to plot out my first game of the year in my 8th grade social studies class (Colony Quest— more info. on the game below), I just knew I HAD to find a way to incorporate my favorite guilty pleasure, “Big Brother,” into the game.


I love this goofy show! I especially love the competitions that the contestants play. After attending a Gamification conference this past summer by the amazing Dave Burgess (@burgessdave on Twitter), I was reminded how important it is to bring our personal passions into the classroom. When teachers are passionate and excited about what they are doing, they are able to bring a level of enthusiasm into the classroom that can foster crazy high levels and creativity and engagement from our students. I knew that the fun, silly, highly competitive Big Brother-type competitions would be the perfect way to make my Colony Quest game something all of my students would be excited about.

Here are some of the competitions that I creatively “stole/borrowed” from my favorite show:

  • OTEV: This classic BB game involves houseguests retrieving the answers to questions and bringing them back to a foul-mouthed robotic monster thing– named OTEV.  This game uses a musical chairs concept; because when the houseguests race back to OTEV, there was one less spot for each player to kneel down and present their answer. Therefore, the last houseguest to arrive to OTEV would be “out” of the game. As I watched this game on the show, I thought it was PERFECT for the classroom! (Well, aside from the foul-mouth part… obviously). I came up with a list of review questions about our content, hid answers in the courtyard at our school, found some rubber place mats (to use for the musical chairs concept in this competition) and played my version of OTEV. It. Was. Awesome. Students were working together with their group to figure out the answers to the question, and then sending their runners to retrieve the answer and bring it back to me (aka OTEV). One by one, students were eliminated until we had a winner who gained bonus XP points for their colony group!
  • SPELL-IT-OUT: In this BB game, houseguests are required to dig through muck and grime to find letters that they bring back one by one to try to spell out the longest word in the time allotted. I knew instantly that if I took out the muck and grime part and swapped it with obstacles for students to climb over and through, this would be an excellent game for vocabulary practice! One student from each colony group had to climb over chairs and under desks to retrieve one letter (written on a notecard) at a time from a baby pool and then bring it back to their group that would work on spelling out the word. The groups had to tell me the definition of the word and spell it correctly in order for their word to count. The group that correctly spelled and defined the longest term from our unit was awarded bonus XP! It was hilarious.
  • ENDURANCE COMPS: Big Brother loves making their houseguests withstand torture with their endurance competitions. These comps require houseguests to stand on a small platform for hours while objects are tossed at them, gunk is sprayed in their faces, and the platform is moved and shifted. The last player standing wins. I had my students try to stand on one foot on top of a brick. Then, I had them do different things with their hands (hold them up over their heads, cross them, clap them together, etc). The last player standing won extra XP for their colony group. I know exactly what you’re thinking… What learning targets were “covered” in this game? Um, NONE! It was simply for laughs, and we had a lot of them. Laughing and having fun with my students helps me build a positive rapport. This early in the school year, I need to win them over as fast as I can; this 3 minute game helped me inch closer to that personal goal.
  • FILL IT UP: Guests in the BB house always find themselves playing a game where they have to use a tiny measuring cup to fill up a big jar high enough to be able grab a ping pong ball from the small opening of the jar. The first player to grab their ball wins. In the show, houseguests normally have to “skate” on a Crisco-like substance from one end of the race track to the other; making it very slippery and challenging. I decided to make it a team-building relay game for my colony groups. The relay concept took the place of the Crisco (and made the game a lot safer). It was so fun and memories were definitely made.

I am always trying to find inspiration to help me improve my craft. I loved being able to bring these competition ideas into my classroom–it was the perfect way to spice up my Colony Quest game.

Check out pics on our Instagram account: @gamyedu


COLONY QUEST GAME (General Concept): In this game, students work in groups to prepare a crew and a ship to set sail from Europe across the Atlantic to the “New World.” This game is used during my first unit of the year: European Exploration and Colonization. Students roll a pair of dice to let the fates determine their groups and the European country they are sailing for. Students work cooperatively to learn about the Explorers that came before them, different motivating factors for exploration, and all the details of packing a ship and sailing it across the Atlantic. As they complete class activities (and competitions) they earn XP (experience points) for their group. For every 10 XP a group earns, they are awarded privileges (homework passes, extra supplies for their ship, music passes, etc.). Students are working hard to get to the New World and then create a settlement that will survive the hardships early settlers faced in the 17th century. For more details and materials on this game, email me directly!

Game on! Don’t get yourself evicted.


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