games for thinking

Attendance: ~45 from Grades 6-8

Learning goals: Experimenting with quick design thinking games

Activity/ies: Picture phone, line at a time drawing (also Dog and the Bone, Fruit Bowl; didn’t get to sound machine and an adapted form of Pictionary)

We decided that Amalini’s photography workshop would be most successful with a small number of children. I knew that managing 30 children just out of school was going to be pretty tough for me, too, so I abandoned my original plan of trying out Five Chairs to accommodate Lini. She and Irf took 14 students on a photo walk for 45 minutes at a time, and Sarika and I played a variety of games with the rest while they waited their turn.

Insights/surprises: The games were far too high-level for the children. They just managed picture phone (although many could not resist the urge to cheat), but scribbled all over the line at a time drawing sheets. I’m now extremely curious to test this out with girls from my old school.

I’m sorry we didn’t have time to test (most likely to failure) our adapted Pictionary game, but the children were fairly bouncing off the walls after our first two segments. The game included the following prompts, largely the spawn of Irf’s extremely fertile imagination: a monkey in a dress, a chicken on a bicycle, a tree with toys, swinging on a cloud, an elephant flying a kite, a dreaming cow, and a watch with wings.

Workshop feedback: I didn’t collect any – the fact that I’d over-estimated their capabilities (particularly for an afternoon activity) was clear! I did collect workshop feedback on Tuesday for the photography workshop, though, which was by all accounts a thundering success.

Continuing challenges: My tendency to give students activities that are too hard is one challenge that I’ve actually managed to satisfactorily address this summer. While I think I will always flummox my students, partnering with the school in front of my house has given me space to test ideas far more inexpensively than I’ve been able to in the past. I could run home for more supplies or send Lalith on a stationery/photocopying run, and there is also the advantage that I speak Sinhala. In the future, I will try, as far as possible, to first try out ideas in Lunawa and then tweak them for here.


This has turned into quite the food trip. We walked to Ammachchi’s for breakfast and feasted on kiri appa, gundu thosai, vadai and passion fruit juice (sadly, there were no modaham today). We did our rounds of errands after breakfast, scanning feedback forms from Sunday (we used another communication centre whose staff were also unaware of the fast scanning capabilities their machine has, and Irf was really itching to teach them), scoping out a place for digital prints for after the photography workshop, and a bank run.

Back at the hotel, we translated our ridiculous Pictionary prompts with the help of a mystified Ranjith (the front desk guy) and prepped for the afternoon, before setting off at 12.30pm with our newly arrived Mind Adventures crew. We got to the school without a hitch, but I think we somewhat overwhelmed Mr Farhan’s office with our numbers (four of us, Peranavan, and six from Mind Adventures). It’s really incredible to think we managed to do three simultaneous workshops – how far this whole “drama workshop” thing has come!

We settled Tracy et al in the big airy classroom, and I took the smaller one. I do think the size and layout of the class has an interesting effect on the children; the bigger one doesn’t make you feel so boxed in, although the smaller one can be made to feel more fun with the grouped tables. This wasn’t possible today, though, with the sheer numbers and the fact that the next day was a school day.

After we got back, we started sorting through all the photos and realised that not all the children had started their photos with a picture of their name (which I’d suggested as an idea for auto-sorting and knowing who took what photos). We’d intended to print a couple of photos from each child’s set, but we now didn’t know where a set started and ended. Printing ALL the photos would have been a bit exorbitant, so we decided to burn five CDs to be given to their IT teacher, which they could view in their new computer lab.

I wish the others had managed to do their full four sessions (and in the morning, too), because I felt the photography walk really deserved a debrief session. It was rather amusing when Irf exasperatedly exclaimed that she wished she could send the children a Howler a la Harry Potter, looking rather like Mrs Weasley as she said it.

Lini said that there seemed to be some good eateries around the mosque, so the four of us ambled in that direction for dinner. The Jeridh Hotel seemed rather promising, so we went in and tried to decide what to eat. We were too tired to turn everyone’s food restrictions and preferences (and general lack of assertiveness) into a coherent order, so the brisk uncle taking our order solved all our problems by suggesting he put a semi-buffet in front of us and simply charge us for what we ate. Possibly the best meal I’ve eaten in Vavuniya. At the end, I was sorry my stomach wasn’t twice as big.

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