A few years ago, I was introduced to a highly motivating, fast-paced academic version of the games Spoons. After playing a few rounds and having a lot of fun, I knew this was something I wanted to incorporate as much as possible into my classroom.
The academic version of Spoons is a great way to motivate your students to review almost any concept! (If you are not familiar with the regular card game, click here to read about it)
My own students request to continue playing it a recess, and they literally cheer when I put Spoons games in their math centers for the week. (Read more about math centers in my classroom HERE.) Read on to learn how you can play spoons in the classroom with your students and grab free games!
- All players sit in a circle.
- Place one less spoon than the number of players (eg. for five players, place four spoons) in the centre of the circle, so that the pile is an equal distance away from all players.
- Deal four cards to each player.
- The dealer should keep the remainder of the deck near them to their left. The dealer will be the only player drawing from the deck.
- The dealer draws a card, then passes a card from their hand to the player on their left. When that player receives their new card, they must too choose a card from their hand to pass along to the left. Meanwhile, the dealer is simultaneously picking up a new card from the deck, and will then pass a card along. In this way cards a continuous flow of cards is created: as soon as a player has five cards, they must choose a card to pass to the left. The trick is to choose and pass quickly, so that there is a frantic pace of play.
- The player to the left of the dealer does not pass their chosen card to another player, but instead places it in a discard pile.
- When a player has a set of four matching cards, they may take a spoon.
- After one spoon has been taken, the race is on: all other players are allowed to grab for a spoon, and the player left without a spoon is the loser of this round.
A player with four of a kind will usually make an immediate grab for a spoon, sparking an outburst of furious grabs and knuckles getting bruised.
They could also make a more discreet acquisition while other players are paying attention to their cards. The spoon holder can then enjoy the ignorance of the rest of the circle (keeping their matching hand by always passing on all new cards given to him) until another player notices that a spoon is missing. In this way Spoons resembles the popular drinking game of observation and sneakiness, Thumb Master.
- 4 Players
- 3 Spoons
- 16 cards (four of the same cards that “match”). I know some people use more cards when they play Spoons so they have a dealer stack or a discard stack. My version has neither. This keeps the game from lasting too long. Usually in one center rotation my students can easily play two or three rounds of Spoons (the same game or a different game to review multiple skills).
- Answer Key and Directions Page
- The 4 players sit in a circle with the 3 spoons in the middle.
- One of the players distributes 4 cards to each player, including him or herself.
- Each player takes turns passing one card that they do not want to the player to their left, usually at one player’s signal to “Switch”. (There is no discard pile.)
- When a player has 4 cards that are a match, he/she, as quietly as possible, takes a spoon from the center.
- As the other players notice this, they (as quietly as possible) take a spoon until there is one player without a spoon.
- The player without a spoon must say, “Prove it!” to the player that has the match.
- Next, the player with the match has to prove that his/her cards are matches.
- If the original player is able to prove it, the player without the spoon has to add an S to his/her scoreboard. If the original player cannot prove that his/her cards match, that player gets an S.
- Take up all cards, shuffle, and play again.
- If a player spells the word SPOONS, they lose.
The main difference between this game of spoons in the “fun” game of spoons is that the last person to grab the spoon is not eliminated. They have to tell the person with the match to “Prove it.”
Another difference is there are only 16 cards, enough for each player to have four cards. The other difference is that the matches are not perfect matches in the sense that each card shows exactly the same word, number, or phrase. Here is example of a four card “match” from my Word Relationships Spoons game.
As you can see they are not matches in the sense that every card says the same word or phrase. Instead they are matched because they each refer to antonyms: one card says antonyms, one card defines antonyms, and the other cards provide examples of antonyms. This takes the rigor up a notch and really makes the students think when they are deciding which cards to keep or switch. It also ups the rigor when it comes time for them to prove their matches.
Making Your Own Spoons Games
These are pretty simple to make your own once you choose a skill or concept that can be reviewed with four matches. To be honest, choosing a skill that works for this type of game is the difficult part. Not all skills will have four “easy to come up with” matches and sometimes you have to be creative.
Once you have chosen your skill, you will need 16 index cards or pieces of card stock. Write your four sets of four matches on the cards. Create a quick answer key and you are done. Here is an example of what a hand-created match for a Parts of Speech Spoons game could look like.
For this game, the students could be matching basic parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs). The cards shown would be a complete match for noun: the card labeled noun, the card defining nouns, and two sentences with nouns underlined.
Don’t want to make your own games? Keep reading until the end of this post because I have two free Spoons games for you to try with your students and links to where you can purchase some more, if you want!
Tips for Playing
- If you have five players, have two of the players partner up. This would be a great way to scaffold a struggling student by partnering them with another student.
- If you have only 3 players, have them place one of the cards in the middle for all the players “to have”. Have this card be placed face up and teach the students that any of them can use that card for one of their matches. Then, they will each be given 5 cards instead of 4. However, they will still have to find four of the same concept or number.
- When I first introduce the game, I teach it in small groups of students. This way I can model explicitly how I want them to play, how I want them to grab the spoons, etc. When I have lower groups of students, I use cards with numbers on them to easily teach the concept of the game.
- You will need to explicitly teach your students behavior expectations for this game. The students get very excited playing Spoons, so you have to set the expectations from the get-go. Usually, my kids love “playing” the game so much that they will self-monitor their own behavior. However, I have had to take the “game” aspect away from a few groups over the years. When the students lose the game for the week, they have to use the game pieces as a matching or sort, and they have to record their answers to turn in. If you have to do this, you will only have to do it once because the students would much rather play the game.
- When I put Spoons games in centers, I always put at least two games for the students to play while they are at that center. My students can only play around 3-4 rounds of one game before they have to choose another game to play (carrying their letters over to the next game).
- Print your games on different colored card stock or colored paper to help the students keep them organized, especially if you place more than one game at a center.
Want to try out the academic version of Spoons with your students? Click HERE to download the game shown in the pictures of this post (word relationships) and click HERE to grab an exclusive blogger freebie game for reviewing quadrilaterals. The simplicity of the quadrilateral Spoons game makes it perfect for introducing the game and getting your students used to how to play the game and the behavior expectations.