Invention : Spells

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 "won".

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 working method.

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 ..

For further information on this sort of game click on games listed under INVENTION in the INDEX side bar.

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