The original version of Spells uses a pathway game during which players
spell words as part of their move, which children enjoy even when they're
"weak" spellers. A version of this is provided, though for playscheme or
heavy use I would recommend that a wooden, painted board be made.
The board game can be used by groups of 4 players: for class work they
can take turns at being the spell-tester. Players move by dice or spinner,
when they land on a lettered square they are asked to spell a word that
begins with the letter.
The words, chosen for their usefulness as objects or
description for spells and drawn from the natural world, have usually been
listed in dictionary form in an A4 folded booklet. Players could compile
their own before the game.
Players should also decide the rules on missed turns or retries for incorrect
spellings. Each player should complete the course, even if another has
The game helps to provide a list of possible ingredients for any spell.
However, the point of the game is to create a list not simply of ingredients
but of useful ideas and this could as easily come from discussion, or writing
a list of random/useful objects beginning with, say, the player's initials.
But because many children will rush into an all-purpose list of ingredients
and soon get stuck, it's best to get them to first decide on the exact
purpose of the spell. The words available to the player may well help in this,
and we have found three categories useful to those trying to pin down a
subject: to make things worse, to make things better, to change one thing
into another. However, most children know what they want from a spell and
the more common problem is dissuading them from being avaricous, violent or nasty.
The players could write chants, (where the invoking words are the spell) or
recipes (where the ingredients are mixed and the method described).
Another approach would be to use the spell as a brief beginning to a poem
about its effects. Occasionally players produce poems that are entirely
narrative but these tend to flounder if not kept compact.
It will help the
poems to gain coherence if players are led away from "tooth of bat"
ingredients to ones actually connected with the purpose of the spell -
sympathetic magic - and are encouraged to consider the details and
circumstance of any ritual.
We have found riddles, which have the right air of mystery, to be very
accessible for youngest age groups and as a "warm-up" game. Two of the
classic forms of riddle are easy to explain and invent; these can be created
by groups or individuals.
They are the metaphorical (I am a ... I am a fire
that bakes the earth) and the alphabetic (My first is in... my first is in
sing but not in ring). There are many examples, but it is better to create
a new one, a worked example, especially with small children, to provide a
Played orally, we might read examples of spells and invocations, start by
writing alphabetic riddles, then ask players to write a list of items,
perhaps words beginning with their own initial, that they feel would be
appropriate to a spell.
Then they'd be asked which of the three categories
the spell will be in, and what it will do. As usual, the emphasis is on
extending ideas, so that even the list becomes more precise and interesting
- not just a tooth, but a jagged tooth from a slobbering dog ..