A Second Grade game focusing on a single story.

I tend to think of classroom games as cross disciplinary affairs, allowing students to create their own interconnections between things they learn in different classes, at home, etc. – but there are in fact any number of different ways in which the games can be used.

I was talking about the educational applications of my games with my friend Gail Burke one afternoon – she teaches Second Grade – and she asked me whether I thought a game could be used to illuminate the characters and connections in a single story… and we played this WaterBird game around the story of Cinderella to find out.

Charles Cameron

Move 1: "Cinderella" in position 8.

Cinderella is the heroine of the story, of course, as well as its title, so that's where we began.

Move 2: "The Prince" in position 1.

The second move doesn't need to link to the first in a WaterBird game, but this one does in any case. “Cinderella and the Prince are good friends” is how Gail figured a student might put it, though of course the class might chime in with a whole series of links: “The Prince rescues Cinderella”, “The Prince marries Cinderella”, “The Prince dances with Cinderella”, “The Prince goes looking for Cinderella”, “The Prince has Cinderella's shoe”…

Move 3: "Fireplace" in position 4.

At the beginning of the story, the children might remember that Cinderella has to do all of the housework, and picture her sweeping out the fireplace and getting all sooty while she's doing it: perhaps someone would mention that she gets her name “Cinderella” from the cinders in the fireplace.

Move 4: "Magic Wand" in position 9.

At this point, a move could be made linking to Cinderella, Prince and Fireplace in position 2, or to Cinderella and Fireplace alone in position 9. Gail imagined the kids going for the simpler of the two choices, playing “Magic Wand” in 9, and linking the Fairy Godmother's “Magic Wand” to “Fireplace” in 4 because there's a light given off by the top of the wand, and to “Cinderella” in 8 because the wand creates the magic by means of which Cinderella gets the ball gown and slippers she needs, and the carriage which take her to the ball…

Move 5: "Shoes" in position 2.

I thought that at this point one or two students might pick up on the “slippers” mentioned in the previous move, so I played “Shoes” in position 2. This links with “Fireplace” in 4 because Cinderella doesn't wear shoes when she's sweeping out the fireplace, with “Magic Wand” in 9 because the magic wand makes the glass shoes she wears, and with “The Prince” in 1 because the Prince takes the glass shoe she drops to find and identify her. It's basically the same move we avoided in move 4.

So far so good…

Move 6: "Mice" in position 6.

Going back to the text of the fairytale, Gail figured someone might notice that the the mice were playing in the fireplace as Cinderella did her chores. Putting “Mice” in position 6 made an easy link with “Fireplace” in 4, then with “Magic Wand” in 9 because the wand turns the mice into horses, and finally with “Shoes” in 2 because the mice carried the shoes to the castle in the carriage…

Move 7: "Dropping" in position 3.

By this time, I was really beginning to feel the constraints of the game board – and our decision to work strictly within the limits of just one story – pretty keenly, and wondering if there was really a way a group of kids could stay within the story and still complete a game.

I looked at “Shoes” in position 2, and without really considering the board or any other linkages, free associated to “Dropping” – as in “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. I told Gail it seemed to me that the Sisters only “get” that Cinderella is the one who wins the Prince at the very end of the story, that it's only then that “the other shoe” drops for them – which gave me my link to “Shoes” in position 2.

Suppose the kids play “Dropping” in position 3, I said…

This was a very tentative stab at a move on my part, a little like a chess player trying out the waters with a given move but keeping a finger on the piece to indicate s/he hasn't yet decided whether to make it or not, but Gail wrote it in on the board, and I felt I'd better come up with appropriate links to the other items in play.

I'm going into all this in some detail, because this was the move which convinced me that, yes, it is possible to play a game entirely around a single story: I could so easily imagine a group of kids proposing the other links… which seemed to pop into my mind quite effortlessly once I began looking for them… with “Cinderella” in 8, because she dropped her shoe on the way back from the ball; with “The Prince” in 1 because the Prince drops to his knees to propose to Cinderella; and with the magic wand “because it drops radiance on everything around it”.

This last link seemed a little strained to me, but I can imagine a child seeing it and saying it – and that's the point here, no?

Move 8: "Dark" in position 5.

Going back once more to the text, Gail thought the children might notice how much of the fairytale takes place at night, in the “Dark”. She suggested the following links: the “Magic Wand” (position 9) is used in the dark, the magic in this story occurs at night; “Cinderella” (position 8) goes to the ball in the dark, and returns at midnight; she loses her “Shoe” (position 2) in the dark.

And at this point, Gail pointed out that there's also a psychological sense in which the whole story (as the story of psyche) unfolds in darkness… Presumably this isn't the sort of thing that the children would be likely to suggest themselves – but a well-phrased comment from a teacher might set them thinking…

Move 9: "Pumpkin" in position 7.

There were only two positions left, 7 and 10, and Gail and I thought the kids would surely want to include both the pumpkin and the Sisters at this point: so I played “Pumpkin” in 7, and claimed links with “Magic Wand” in 9 because the wand turns the pumpkin into a carriage; with “Cinderella” in position 8 because the pumpkin-carriage carries Cinderella to the ball; and with “Dark” in 5 because a pumpkin can be lit from within and glows in the dark…

This last link is a Halloween reference of course, and not part of the story, so I felt a little guilty making the suggestion: but again, the point is that children might very well make this kind of association, whether or not it fits our predetermined “rules” – so i decided to go ahead with it anyway.

Move 10: "Sisters Ugly" in position 10.

That left the “Sisters Ugly” to go in position 10. This was their dream, Gail explained, which Cinderella usurped. They wanted to have a magic wand waved over them, to go to the ball with a prince, carried by mice in a pumpkin coach…

Well, that's the game we came up with, and I think it shows it can be feasible to use the game to explore a single story, thought it seems likely that some of the moves and links may wander away from the stated theme. I can imagine, for instance, that if “Pumpkin” had been played a little earlier, one child might have proposed “Lantern” as the next move, and another chimed in with “Halloween” for a third, linking it with “Magic Wand” because Halloween witches also carry magic wands…


A WaterBird Game

Cinderella: A WaterBird Game

HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright © Charles Cameron 1995, 96, 97.
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