The Habit Challenge

by Bill Jaynes

Bill's current job is as an engineering documentation specialist for General Dynamics. He enjoys hiking, reading, and Macintoshes.

Instructional Objective The learner shall be able to become more aware of what constitutes both good and bad habits.

Learners/Context The learners are Primary and Junior boys (ages 7-13) in a Sunday School of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) Church. The game also could be adapted for Sunday School girls.

This card game would be used by the student as the main activity during a lesson on habits. The length of time available for the game would vary from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the teacher's discretion and the childrens' interest.

Rationale The subject of habit formation is a frequent lesson topic in SRF Sunday Schools. Teachers are always looking for new and fun ways to make the children more aware of the need to establish good habits and avoid bad ones early in their lives. To this end, many techniques are used such as role playing, object lessons, discussions, and informal lectures. But no one has developed a card game specifically for this purpose.

A card game will be useful for several reasons:

* Space is limited, and the game would not require much space.

* The number of cards can be expanded (or contracted) as needed to include as many habits (or players) as desired.

* Talking about habits can be boring and possibly threatening, but a card game could be fun, instructive, and non-threatening.

* Budgets can be tight, and this game would be simple and inexpensive to modify and reproduce.

* The game will accommodate the average class size of 10 or less.

* The cards will be normal size (3" x 2") so that a child's smaller hand can more easily hold a number of cards.

Rules The game is played in the following manner:

1. There are 52 cards (the number can be optional) that are divided into two sets: one set for Character and one for Hygiene. There also will be four wild cards called Good Karma cards. These cards can serve as a Good Habit card for either Character or Hygiene.

2. Players choose a dealer. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals three to each player, then stacks the remaining cards.

3. The player to the left of the dealer then chooses either to draw a card from the stack or challenge someone for a Good Habit card. If the player chooses to draw a card and it's a Good Habit card, then he can discard a Bad Habit card. If the card drawn is a Bad Habit card, he must keep it. Then play moves to the next player.

4. If a player challenges, he must ask for a Good Habit card only from a specific set, i.e., Character or Hygiene, or he can ask for a Good Karma card. He also must state the general message on the card, but not word for word. If a player challenges someone and that player doesn't have the card, or states the wrong message on the card, he must give the person challenged a Good Habit card from his hand (if he has one). The person challenged also can give the challenger a Bad Habit card from either set, assuming he has one.

5. If the challenge is successful, then the challenger gets another turn and can challenge someone again or draw a card. When he draws a card or fails in a challenge, play passes to the next player.

6. Very Important: Each time a card if drawn, discarded, or passes hands in a challenge, the message on the card must be read and the card shown to the group.

7. The game ends when one player acquires four Good Habit cards in one category and three in the other, with no Bad Habit cards. The winning player then announces, "Good Habits," he shows his seven winning cards, and the game is over.

Card Design

An example of a Character card.

An example of a Hygiene card.

An example of a Good Karma card.

Deck Design As stated above, there are three types of cards used in the game:

1. Character cards - There will be approximately 24 of these cards, somewhat evenly divided between good and bad habits. These cards will be labeled at the top with the word Character. Underneath will be the designation of the card as either a Good Habit or Bad Habit. In the center of the card will be a character trait that the good or bad habit represents, such as Honesty. Beneath this word will be a brief situation statement that provides a good or bad example of that trait.

2. Hygiene cards - There also are approximately 24 of these cards, somewhat evenly divided between good and bad habits. These cards will be labeled at the top with the word Hygiene. Underneath will be the designation of the card as either a Good Habit or Bad Habit. These cards will only have a brief situation statement that provides a good or bad example of hygiene.

3. Good Karma cards - These will be Good Habit wild cards that can be used to fill out a suit in either the Character or Hygiene set. Each card will have a slightly different saying that stresses the origins of good and bad habits as coming from our own thoughts, desires, and actions, or the importance of choosing a good environment.

The Design Process When conceiving this game, I wanted a new aid that would help myself and other SRF Sunday School teachers present the topic of habit formation to children who aren't naturally interested in habits. The game had to be instructive yet fun, nay, challenging and exciting. The game also had to be flexible enough to involve at least 10 children, and to be capable of expansion or contraction to fit various teachers' preferences for good and bad habits. I also wanted the game to simulate real-life situations, and to maximize the children's exposure to examples of good and bad habits.

To achieve these goals, I tried several approaches to the challenge process. Initially I wanted to allow a player to challenge for a Good Habit card in either suit, but decided against this because there wasn't enough risk involved to the challenger. I also wanted to require the children to state both the card category (Character or Hygiene) and the general message on the card. I wimped out and decided that this would be asking too much.

After receiving your feedback, however, I returned to my original idea.

Now the challenger must ask for a card in a specific set as well as the general message. Of course, he also can challenge for one of the Good Karma cards, and again must state the general message. This added requirement not only increases the risk but also the need for the children to use their memories and concentration, another frequent subject in SRF Sunday School lessons.

Another added twist is to make the challenger give a Good Habit card to the person challenged if the challenger doesn't meet all the requirements of a challenge. This feature increases the risk of a challenge and makes the game more fun.

I believe that these strengthened rules will cause the children to become more absorbed in the game: maybe even achieve flow. Players also will remain involved in the game when it is not their turn, because it's in their interest to know what each player has in his hand.

In addition, these rules increase the children's exposure to good and bad habit traits and situations, so that they won't lose sight of the lessons imprinted on the cards. The other instructional enhancement is the requirement to have the players read each card out loud and show it to the group as the card passes from one player to another or is drawn or discarded. This process would make a point without slowing the game too much.

The game simulates real life because we usually acquire bad habits from others. So I devised the process of a player passing a bad habit card to another player through a challenge.

In real life people also can discard bad habits on their own without giving them to anyone else. So I included the rule that if a person drew a Good Habit card he could discard a Bad Habit card.

Because reading the situations on the cards is part of the enrichment process, some reading skills are preferred. When younger children are playing the game, however, the teacher or another player could read the cards as needed.

Evaluation I had seven Junior Boys in Sunday School play this game. One boy read the rules without difficulty, they were repeated for clarification, and play began. When the boys became comfortable with the game they really got into it. I was pleased to see that the necessity to remember what each player had in his hand did both add to the challenge and enhance the instructional value.

Time ran out before the game could be finished, and several boys hotly debated who had won the uncompleted game. I asked them if they liked the game and the response was an enthusiastic yes, and they didn't want to quit. One boy who often acts bored was the most enthusiastic. I will have them play the game several more times to further validate their responses.