Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Saturday, 18 January 2014

Fives - a game I played with my parents when little

I can't remember when I started playing this with my parents, probably in single digits. It's not the most thrilling of games, compared with the excitements of iPads and games centres but it's quite a satisfying logic puzzle, and can probably be adapted for younger children (see below).
  • It's a two person game.
  • Each person thinks of a five-letter word where no letter is the same, eg house, knife, apron, films etc (generally we excluded plurals but of course "she films the event" gets round that!)
  • Write your word down on a piece of paper, kept hidden from opponent, also write, on same piece of paper the alphabet in full.
  • The first player takes it in turn to say another five letter word (anything except proper names and this time it can include words with the same letter in multiple times, such as PUPPY) and the second player says how many letters in that word are also in their word, but not which one*.

Eg, your hidden word (my target) is FILMS
  • In my first guess I say POPPY - there are no letters in common, and I can cross off O, P and Y from my list of letters.
  • (Then you have your turn)
  • In my second guess I say PUPPY (I already know that P and Y aren't in this, so this lets me determine if O is there or not - again no letters in common and in two goes I've crossed off four letters, two of them vowels.
  • (It's your go)
  • I guess POEMS - you tell me there are two letters in common with my word, though I don't know which. I know P and O are not in it, leaving E, M and S so I need to find a word to help me work out which.
  • (Your go)
  • I try POESY (we're allowed archaic words) and you tell me there's only 1 letter, but is it the E or the S?
  • (Your go)
  • I try SOPPY - you say 1 letter is there, so I know that S is IN your word, definitely, still have to find a way to guess whether the other letter is E or M.
  • (Your go)
  • I try QUEEN - you say no letters, so I know it's not the E (and therefore must be the M) and I've also eliminated Q, U and N as well (in total E, N, O, P, Q, U and Y eliminated)
  • and so on... 
  • You can continue playing until someone gets their word or carry on until both people have.
In fact PUPPY and POPPY were pretty much how we always started the game, so we might as well call it the puppy opening gambit :)
Sometimes you try a word with lots of common letters, to open things up a bit and find new some letters to work with, other times you're playing a much tighter game (eg POPPY and PUPPY) to try and pin down or eliminate a particular letter. Sometimes you might want to check something and use a word to confirm you're right about a particular letter, eg at the stage I've left it at the word OPENS should have only 1 letter in common with yours. This doesn't really tell me anything new (I already knew from SOPPY that it had an S in it, but confirms that S is and O, P, E and N aren't - assuming I'd not made a mistake).

*Adaptations for smaller people
For younger children who perhaps don't have a wealth of 5-letter words to hand, you could let them pick any word they like, and take turns in saying other words. Or you could just say which letter is there (eg S is there, but O, P, E and N aren't), or even which position it's in in the word ("the letter S is at the end of my word"). You could just guess letters ("is J in it?" and so on).

You could also do a variation of hangman but instead of hangman call it something less murderous, like swing game, so that with each turn (whether or not successful) you're building a swing for a stick figure to swing on.

In both games - fives, and 'swings' you get to see a copy of the full alphabet in front of you which possibly helps with letter familiarity. 'Swings' might be a good way to show the importance of vowels, and letter frequency. Fives has a bit of 'strategic thinking' about it, if played as outlined above, so possibly needs more adaptation for little children.

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