A Game: “Roman Candle”

I made up this teaching game while washing dishes one night. Tell me what you think, and what happens if you use in in class.

The name of the game is “Roman Candle.” Roman Candle is a fast-paced game of courage and skill, and is played for bragging rights (and probably a few participation points). The game can be used as a time-filler, lasting as few as five minutes, or as exam preparation with games lasting as many as 15-20 minutes. If possible, it should be introduced early in the term, so that the rules are learned and the game can be played on short notice or spontaneously.

The game begins when one student agrees to be the first Roman Candle. A second student volunteers to “light the fuse.” The fuse-lighter shouts out a figure or topic relating to a critical issue (“Priestly writer!” “Ezra!” “722 B.C.E.!” More challenging examples might be “Outline of Deuteronomy!” “The genre Novella!” “Double redaction of the DtrH!”). The Roman Candle then has sixty seconds to rattle off, as coherently as possible, as much information as she can on that figure or topic. For broader topics, the challenge will be to get as much out there as possible before running out of time (selecting priorities). For narrower topics, the challenge will be to fill the time with relevant connections to other figures or topics (creative synthesis).

Immediately after that Roman Candle is finished, her fuse-lighter becomes the next Roman Candle. So, it takes courage to be a fuse-lighter! The game goes on until the professor says that it is time to stop. The last fuse-lighter is now “on deck” to start whenever the class plays again.

If the Roman Candle has nothing to say on the figure or topic picked by the fuse-lighter, she may say, “Another!” The fuse-lighter will offer a second figure or topic. The Roman Candle may say “Another!” a second time, but then must choose from among the three topics at her disposal.

If the Roman Candle threatens to “sputter out” before her sixty seconds are up, any students may “lob crackers”: toss one- or two-word hints to help the Roman Candle keep it going.

If no student will volunteer to be a fuse-lighter, then the Roman Candle may select a topic or figure from a hat kept by the professor. Then, she may select for herself the next Roman Candle!

After the game, the professor should plan a few minutes to correct any misunderstandings and to take questions of clarification. For the purposes of this game, questions about the exam are not permitted (how many essays? how much are IDs worth?); for this game, all questions must be about the subject matter.

Suggestions for revision or for variants? Other teaching games?

2 Responses

  1. I’m having a bit of a hard time seeing how this works, but it sounds terrific.

    • If it helps with visualization, the students remain at their desks, with the student who is the “roman candle” standing up. She would sit down when finished, and her “fuse lighter” then stands up to be the next “roman candle.”

      (If anyone hasn’t seen a real Roman Candle: it’s a kind of fireworks, a tube that shoots off flares in rapid succession until it fizzles out.)

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