Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Risky Business" - A Game for World Language Classrooms

I enjoy playing games in my Spanish class to provide additional comprehensible input, and so do my students, but did you ever play a game with your students and one team was so far ahead in points that the other teams wanted to give up? If so, considering trying a new game I created called:

Actually, it is the scoring that is new.

My students and I had read a chapter in Vidas Impactantes, written by Kristy Placido, on Azucena Villaflor. While reading it, I realized that the information could be subdivided into the following sections:

  A. Azucena Villafor. (6)
  B. El golpe de estado (6)
  C. Néstor (4)
  D. La búsqueda (3)
  E. La primera manifestación (7)
  F. Gustavo Niño (6)
  G. Arrestado (5)
  H. La desaparición de Azucena (4)
  I. Justicia (5)

After dividing the chapter into the above 9 categories, I wrote questions (the # of questions is in parenthesis above) from that section. When we played the game, I listed the categories on the board, but I did not write the # of questions in each category. The students did not know how many questions were in each category.

The class is a small class so I divided the students into three teams; I will call the team A, B, & C in this explanation. Students on a team were permitted to discuss the questions with their team members.  The goal of the game is to have the most points after all the questions are answered or after the allotted time the teacher set for the game has ended.

Answering questions in a category:
Team A chooses a category and they have to answer the first question from that category. If they answer correctly, they earn 10 points. EVERY TIME a team starts their turn, in each round, the answer is worth 10 points. If a team answers the first question of their turn incorrectly, they do not earn the 10 points, nor do they lose any points. Their turn is over after an incorrect answer.

After Team A answers the first question correctly, they can chose to end their turn or continue with the second question in the SAME category.  If they answer correctly, they DOUBLE their score, (in the example below, they answered the first question correctly and earned 10 points; they answered the second question correctly and doubled their score to 20 points). After each question they answer correctly, they can choose to continue with the next question in the SAME category, or they can choose to end their turn. If they answer the third question correctly, their score is doubled from 20 points to 40 points.

Ending a turn
A team will end their turn in one of the following three ways:
- the team answers incorrectly
- the team chooses to end their turn
- there are no remaining questions in the category they choose (This is why I DO NOT write how many questions are in each category. I don't want team members to choose a category based on how many questions and possible points they can earn. This add some unknowns to the game.)

Losing Points
When a team answers the first question incorrectly, there are no changes to any of the teams scores. However, a team will LOSE points if they incorrectly answer any question after their first question in each round.  

In the example on the left, ALL teams start with 0 points:

Team A earned the following points in a first round: 

 10 pts - answered 1st question of a category correctly

 20 pts - answered the 2nd question in the SAME category and doubled their score (10x2=20) 

40 pts - answered 3rd question correctly in the SAME category and doubled their score (20x2=40) 

80 pts - answered the 4th question correctly in the SAME category and doubled their score (40x2=80)

40 pts - The team INCORRECTLY answered the 5th question. They LOSE half of their current points, (80➗2=40) and the 40 points they lose are divided by the number of other teams playing and added to the scores of the other teams.  (40 pts divided by 2 teams = 20 pts for Team A & 20 pts for Team B.

Score: Team A - 40 points; Team B - 20 points; Team C - 20 points

Team A's turn ends because they answered incorrectly. Team B starts their turn in the first round and chooses a category. If Team B knows the answer to the question that Team A answered incorrectly, they can choose to stay in the same category and answer that question. But as a reminder, they do not know how many questions are in that category. It is possible that the category only has 5 questions and after Team B answers the question correctly that Team A missed, and earns 10 points because it is the first question they answer correctly in their turn for that round, it may be the last question of the category and their turn would end. Team B can choose a different category instead of continuing with a question in the category that Team A answered questions.

Points will accumulate quickly when teams answer correctly and when they earn points from teams that lose half of their points.


Team B starts their turn. They choose a new category:

20 pts - (their beginning score) points were added to their score when Team A answered incorrectly

30 pts - Team B answered the 1st question correctly (20 + 10 = 30). Remember, the first question that a team answers is ALWAYS worth 10 points; points double starting with the 2nd question they answer correctly.

60 pts - Team B answered the 2nd question correctly and doubled their score (30x2=60)

120 pts - Team B answered the 3rd question correctly and doubled their score (60x2=120)

240 pts - Team B answered the 4th question correctly and doubled their score (120x2=240)

Team B decides to end their turn (indicated by the small "x"). Their ending score is 240 pts.


Team C starts their turn. They choose a different category. 

20 pts - (their beginning score) points were added to their score when Team A answered incorrectly

30 pts Team C answered the 1st question correctly (20 + 10 = 30)

60 pts - Team C answered the 2nd question correctly and doubled their score (30x2=60

120 pts - Team C answered the 3rd question correctly and doubled their score (60x2=120)

240 pts - Team C answered the 4th question correctly and doubled their score (120x2=240)

480 pts - Team C answered the 5th question correctly and doubled their score (240x2=480)

240 pts - Team C incorrectly answered the 6th question. They lose half their points (480➗2=240)

The 240 points that Team C lost is divided by 2 (since there are 2 other teams playing) and Team A and Team B receive 120 points each.


When my students were playing, there was one team that started to play cautiously because they had a large number of points and didn't want to RISK losing half of their points and having those points going to other teams. They chose to answer only 1 question per round. They were playing safe because the first question a team answers at the start of their turn in each round, is only valued at 10 points and if they answer incorrectly they don't lose points and the other teams do not receive any points for their incorrect answer.  

However, the one team was playing cautiously, but another team was answering several questions correctly each round before deciding to voluntarily end their turn, and the other team quickly caught up to the team playing cautiously.

Order of questions in each category
There are two ways you can order the questions in each category:

1. List them from easiest to most difficult. Teams will know that with each question, the difficulty increases so they can plan accordingly.

2. Order questions in each category in random order of difficulty. Teams will not know if the next question is easy-peasy or if it will be difficult and cause them to lose their points. If they proceed cautiously and end their turn, the next team may choose to continue in the category that the previous team answered one question correctly, and have several easy questions which will make the cautious team wish they had not ended their turn.

This game can be played with any written material/text or with text from a video or MovieTalk, as long as you are able to divide the information into many categories and there is enough material to write many questions.  I recommend a minimum of 6 categories and 20+ questions.  The advantage to having many categories is that if a team is on a roll, their turn will end as soon as they answer the last question in the category.

Whew! That was a long explanation. If there is something that is unclear, please ask me about it in the comments below and I will clarify it.  Thanks for reading!

Thanks to Carrie Toth - it wouldn't be Risky Business without you. 


  1. Cynthia - First of all, I absolutely love this new game idea! My students beg for Martina's GrudgeBall game often. I can't wait to implement this new game. I thought about the Spanish version's name: Riesgo? Possibly?

    Anyway, here's my question: What do your questions look like? Are they multiple choice? Do you use Bloom's question levels for your questions?

    For a larger class (say 30 students), how many teams would be advisable?

    Thanks for your help. Love the idea!

  2. Cynthia - I absolutely love this game/assessment for my students! My students can't wait to play Grudgeball (Martina's), but I believe they'll fall in love with this one as much, if not more.

    Question: If I have a class of 30 or 25, would you still split the class into 3 teams?
    Another question: how are your questions set up? Are they multiple choice or open answer? Thanks again for your help and ideas.

  3. Cynthia - I love this idea! Can you give me examples of how your questions might look like (multiple choice etc)? Also, how would you handle teams with a larger class - say 30 students? Thanks.

  4. This Chatter Pix is AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing and I can't wait to dazzle my little darlings!!! So cool!!

  5. Dang it...I commented on the wrong post! Sorry :)