Simple starts : Chance, co-operation, choice.

Since words are the basic material of poems, the first games we devised were ones that used words much as infants use building blocks. Although simple, they help develop vocabulary recall and selection: the ability to find and choose words, to consider which word suits the sentence and sense better than another, is fundamental to poetry.

The games are fairly similar, in that the players acquire or use one letter at a time to develop a group or individual work built one word after another, though some are more suited to large groups and others to individual play. For example: a session with the Springboard had over 150 contributing players one wet afternoon in Netherley - a Shoveha'penny session could have involved only perhaps 30 of them. Perhaps the most flexible of all has been the card game version of the Amazing Push Poem Machine.

The games adapt themselves to the ability of the players - versions have been enjoyed by infants and elderly; psychiatric patients and regional arts officers, young offenders and teachers alike. They are all suitable for use in "exposed situations" and the larger versions can be treated as high-energy, busked-up fairground games, though the quality of the work usually improves if pressure is reduced.

In all these games the "referee" or "scribe" is very important in assisting all age/ ability groups to produce coherent work and to explore the possibilities of the game and the poem in play.

A theme, or at least a general idea of subject, will usually emerge after the first few words, if it has not been previously agreed. When it does, the scribe should point it out and get the players to agree on what they are writing about and then help them to maintain the subject, though like all poems the work may grow in unforseen directions. A firm grip needs to be kept on the sense and basic grammar, but the scribe should also point out the results of differing punctuations and help players to avoid dead-ends, unworkable situations.

The scribe should continually read out the work so far, to keep players involved and concentrating, to give a sense of the rhythm of the piece, and to keep the subject and development of the work clear. In an open situation the work should be recorded in a highly visible way - on a blackboard or large sheet of paper - to emphasise the continuing process.

Co-operation should be encouraged between players, especially in the last round of the card game, since the work will benefit from well-thought-out sentences. The referee should also encourage the use of adjectives and adverbs, as these will often solve or pass on difficulties and make the work richer and more fluid.

These games can be made from anything - cardboard boxes, half-postcards, toilet rolls, or simply chalked on the floor, drawn on paper - but any structure that balls are to be thrown at must be stable and sturdy. I would suggest that you leave out the letters V and Z, that you treat X as EX and Q as ? (free choice).

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Windows Workshops Dave Calder, The Windows Project ,1997,1998,1999,2009