I love when I have an idea for something small and circumstances help it grow to so much more! It all started when I realized that I wanted my students to feel more comfortable speaking in front of their peers. I figured the best way to help encourage that is through the arts and more specifically through an old game. I remembered an old game I used to play with my students when I was a classroom teacher, usually at the beginning of the year to help us get to know one another better. Once I started to think about how else this old game could be used, I found lots of possibilities. Then, once I put it into the brilliant hands of my teaching colleagues, the ideas grew exponentially.
The game is called the “The Wind Blows” and it’s related to “Musical Chairs” except it manages to maintain that fun scrambling-for-a-seat without eliminating any players. The object of the old game is to find a seat after you move but there is one more player than there are chairs. What gets you to move is the caller who stands tall and proudly announces “The wind blows anyone who….” It is the caller who decides who the wind blows. It is the teacher who determines the objective of the old game and therefore the category. For example, if the objective is to get the students to learn about one another the category could be favorites (food, activities, etc.) or fun facts (number of siblings, places you’ve vacationed, etc.).
To play the game, have all the students bring a chair and form a circle sitting in their chairs. You, however, stand as part of the circle so that there is one less chair than the number of players. If you have a younger sister you might call out, “The wind blows anyone who has a younger sister” and all players with younger sisters need to stand and move to a new seat. Once the dust has settled there should be a new player standing and that player gets to decide who the wind blows. I have the caller stand in the open space in the circle instead of in the center of the circle so they can make eye contact with everyone in the circle. If a player is left standing who has already had a chance to be the caller, I choose another student to take the role of caller so everyone gets a turn.
How I had played that old game with my students and never reflected on other educational uses for it is beyond me. Because I was introducing the game to other teachers this time I started to think about it as a tool. What else could it be used to teach? How about ELD (English Language Development)? It’s great to use with students who are English language learners because of the repetitive sentence structure and the opportunity to practice everyday vocabulary (“The wind blows anyone who likes to swim”).
How about science? If you are studying how to classifying objects by attributes, after students have examined and tested objects for attributes like color, flexibility, texture, etc. allow each student to hold an item and bring it to the circle with their chair. The caller says, “The wind blows anyone who’s object is flexible.” This can be a formative assessment for you and great practice for them.
If you have an activity that your students love, allow yourself to think about how else it could be applied. If you know something works, milk it! And if you are looking to add a new game to your repertoire, try “The Wind Blows” and either sit back and watch or be part of the fun!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.