Nuts and Bolts of The Big Six
Nancy Aronson | Katie Beedon | Linda Woods Hyman | Pat Zeeb

[ Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |
Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References ]

Instructional Objective
This game is designed to reinforce The Big Six, an informational and problem solving technique developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz. The Big Six consists of six separate tasks, which help students focus research, solve problems and make decisions. The players must have received instruction in The Big Six before playing this game.The Big Six steps are as follows:

  1. Task Definition: The student defines the scope of her topic. She orders her tasks, and creates a timeline for completion.

  2. Information Seeking Strategies: The student considers all the possible sources of information that are available. Then she weighs which sources are best.

  3. Location and Access: The student thinks about the ease of finding both the sources and the information that resides within them.

  4. Use of Information: The student reviews the information sources to determine what each source provides, and how the information can be used to solve her problem

  5. Synthesis: The student reviews the information to determine how the various sources answer her query.

  6. Evaluation: The student looks back on the process by which she solved her problem. Did the synthesized product satisfy the requirements of her task? Did she use the Big Six effectively?
The board game consists of a series of questions which players need to answer correctly in order to score points and cycle through the Big Six process twice. The game board is divided into six areas that represent each step. These areas are flanked by "rooms" which occupy the four corners of the board. The rooms describe locations in which Big Six activities typically take place: the Classroom, the Library Media Center, the Home, and the Group Study (where students might work collaboratively on projects).

The game is a linear race game which continues until all the players have finished. The first player to finish is not necessarily the winner. Nuts and Bolts has been designed to reward understanding the Big Six more than the roll of the die. Those players who have answered questions most deftly accrue the greatest number of points. The winner is determined when the last player has completed the second round.

In addition to individual winners, the game can be structured to generate winning teams. Each player can be assigned to a larger team in which her teammates are either playing simultaneously or whenever the teacher finds spare time. Team scores can be added after each of the individual games has been played. This creates another way for students to connect, and greater incentive for them to learn the process of The Big Six.

Learners and Context of Use
The game is designed for fifth and sixth graders; however, it is possible that other grade levels may find the game useful and fun. The cards would have to be customized accordingly.

Object of the Game
Individual and/or team that has scored the most points by the end of the game wins.

Game Materials
  • Gameboard
  • 6 bolts, each painted a different color
  • 6 nuts, painted to match the bolts
  • 1 six-sided die
  • 1 laminated score card
  • 1 dry erase marker
  • 1 stack of question cards
Board Graphic

Time Required
The game can be played two ways which will affect the amount of time required.

1) Players go around the board twice, with everyone crossing the finish line. This should take about 45 minutes. If less time is available, players can go around the board once; this takes approximately 25 minutes.

2) Players can play for a designated length of time. In this method, it is possible that some players may not complete an entire trip around the board.

The Rules
  1. The game is designed for 2 to 6 players.
  2. Play begins with all of the players' pieces located in the Classroom.
  3. Each player rolls the die to determine who goes first. Highest roll goes first.
  4. The player with the lowest roll is the scorekeeper.
  5. To begin, each player answers one Task Definition card correctly; this enables him to move his "bolt" game piece onto the "start" space. The player to his right asks the question.
  6. If the player correctly answers the question, he rolls the die and moves that number of spaces clockwise on the outer path of the board. For each correct answer the player is awarded the number of points stated on that question card.
  7. The scorekeeper records points for each player in the Big Six category which corresponds to the question category they answered.
  8. If the player does not correctly answer the question, he does not roll the die or move his bolt.
  9. When a player has completed his turn, play continues as above with players taking turns in a clockwise direction around the board.
  10. Landing on a chance space (a space which includes a special situation written on it and the opportunity to gain or lose points) allows a player to gain or lose points for the Big Six category that corresponds to his position on the board.
  11. As a player completes the first lap around the board on the outer path, he is allowed to attach the matching nut to his bolt and continue moving his gamepiece onto the inner path.
  12. The first player to "finish" scores an extra 10 points.
  13. The game is over when all players pass the "finish" space. At this point the scores are tallied. The player with the highest score wins.
  14. If the game is played using teams, then team scores are added up to determine the team winners

Design Process
We began with the idea of creating a board game for students who had already learned about the Big Six and would benefit from having this knowledge reinforced.

The original concept of the board was of four triangles that bordered on each other and formed a square. The shape quickly became a hexagon by the beginning of the second meeting. It was thought that the six sides of the hexagon reinforced the six steps.

We had some difficulty defining how the race would occur. At first we considered having physical shortcuts, such as going to a reference desk, which would hasten the player's progress. We eliminated this not only because it was too complicated, but because we were not sure that it reflected reality to reinforce that behavior regardless of the context of a given problem. Also, there was some difference of opinion in the group about the current relevance of the reference desk metaphor. In the last meeting we added the inner track to make the game last longer.

When we were at an impasse in the third meeting, Bernie facilitated our ability to focus the movement of the game. We were having a lot of difficulty focussing on how the game would function. Bernie informed us that a simple race game was sufficient. He also gave us the idea of using case studies for the card content. Linda had received emails from the Big 6 listserv which we used as inspiration for the case studies.

We were not sure how to coordinate what we originally conceived of as chance cards with a given section so that the concept of the steps would be preserved. We realized we would have to either "hardwire" them (affix them to spaces on the board), or have separate stacks of chance cards for each section. We decided on the former.

Towards the middle of the process we became aware that it must be a lot easier to deal with concepts which have sets of stable, hierarchical relationships than to design a board game which conveys an iterative process. We further realized that we had to give up on the idea of mirroring the real-life process of having to do steps over again or return to a previous step.

In our final meeting we were discussing what to use for game pieces. Linda described some pieces she saw in a store that had a big nose which could represent "nosing" for information. But the group didn't want to spend a lot of money on game pieces, so Pat jokingly mentioned using bolts and nuts for the game pieces. The rest of us realized that the nuts and bolts image would reinforce two aspects of the game content: the hexagonal bolt echoed the six-sides of the board as well as the six steps of the process. Also, "nuts and bolts" is a pun which alludes to the basic concepts of the Big Six that our game is designed to reinforce.

Books and Journals

Clark, R.C. (1989). Developing technical training. Phoenix: Buzzard's Bay.

Internet Resources

Eisenberg, M.B. and Berkowitz, R.E. (1998). The Big Six skills information problem-solving approach to library and information skills instruction. [Online]. Available: [1998, October 26].

Hyman, L. W. (1998). Big six information problem-solving. [Online]. Available: [1998, October 26].

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Last updated October 26, 1998