Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tag: Increasing Activity, Increasing Skills

Increasing participation and physical activity in a tag game, increases opportunities for learning social and emotional skills.

By Nate Folan

“Tag, you’re “it” and your goal is to get everyone out!” Or is it? Tag games, by their very nature are games of speed, agility, and elimination, unless you change the rules. Project Adventure has been changing the rules of education for 40 years. It’s no shocker that within the field of experiential education, the rules of tag have been adapted to increase participation, increase physical activity, and develop social emotional learning skills. Here are a few of the adaptations:

Consider the classic tag game Everybody’s It. In Everybody’s It, anyone can attempt to tag anyone else at anytime. Once a participant is tagged, they are “out,” unless you change the rules. Usually if someone is out during a tag game they either take a knee or sit right where they are or leave the area of play. Once providing opportunities to get back “in” increases participation, physical activity, and social interaction. A well known and simple rule change is that anyone who is still “in,” or moving around, may high ten frozen participants allowing them to get back in and attempt to tag others again. The high ten allows more participants to play the game for longer periods of time, while creating a social dynamic of helping others. And, in some cases, it allows some people the chance to help themselves. If there is no one left to tag, there is no game to play.

The competitor in each of us may challenge this. However, changing the rules, or perhaps perspective in this case, allows a competitor to see that trying to get more tags in a particular amount of time may be more fun and challenging than trying to eliminate everyone. It also provides choices for players who care less about the number of tags they get and care more for how many people they have helped or how few times they have been tagged. These choices create social and emotional learning opportunities for goal setting, helping others, and asking for help, to name a few.

High Ten is one way to change the rules of tag. Here are a few others:
•    Ankle Biters – In many tag games, once a person is tagged, they simple take a knee where they were tagged. From there, an exciting addition to any tag game is to allow these tagged participants to tag other peoples from their knee. If tagged by an Ankle Biter, a player must take a knee, just like everyone else and may continue to participate as an Ankle Biter. Using this rule provides an opportunity to develop the skill of awareness.

•    Pop-up Tag – Adding Ankle Biters provides an opportunity to add another participation increasing option called Pop-up or Pop-up Tag. Using this variation allows participants who are successful in making a tag from their knee to “pop up,” move again, and attempt to tag others. Another way to say this is, when an Ankle Biter tags someone, “they go down, you go up.” The learning opportunity here comes from the opportunity for someone to help themselves. It also creates the need for players who have not been tagged or have returned from being tagged to be more aware of all players.

•    Tag ‘em – If Pop-up tag is a good variation, Tag ‘em is a great variation. It adds the elements of awareness and surprise. When a player is tagged, they again take a knee and remain where they were tagged. Instead of being able to help themselves this time, they must rely on their own observation skills and the helpful will of others. Tagged participants must be aware of who tagged them.  They then track (with their eyes) this tagger until they get tagged. Once the person who tagged them gets tagged, they are able to get back in. In doing so this person may even surprise others because as some players are getting tagged, other players are randomly returning with little indication. From this participants learn to have greater awareness, expect the unexpected, and be quick on their feet.

•    Add On – Simple right? Once someone has been tagged they add on or join the person who tagged them, by holding hands or linking elbows with the tagger. Now the two or more people who are linked together continue playing as a team attempting to tag other people or teams. To reiterate, if someone is tagged by another person or team they add on to who tag them and play continues. This participation increasing concept has been popularized and most notably associated with the tag game called Blob Tag (aka Tusker Tag).  However, when using this variation in an “everybody’s it” game, such as Everybody’s It, Knee Tag, or Step Tag the game may simply be called Add On Tag. For fun though, we could  go with the Blob Tag theme and have names like Every-Blob’s It, Blob Knee Tag or Blob Step Tag? Have you ever played any of these? No? Me neither, I can’t wait to try!

These rule changes, or should I say rule additions, are great for tag games such as Everybody’s It, Knee Tag, Step Tag, and Asteroids. They increase participation, increase physical activity, and create more social emotional learning opportunities. Play with these ideas and let us know how it goes.