Running errands to learn

Resource Info

Basic Information

Running Errands is a board game that has been successfully used in European schools. The version presented here is relevant for Indian classrooms and helps build a variety of skills.

01 hours 00 mins

The beginning of a new school year can be both exciting and nerve wracking for a teacher. How are you going to relate to this new set of students? How will they relate to you? Perhaps you need an ice breaker, both instructional and fun, to set things on the right track. This classroom game, ‘Running Errands’, might provide the right break for you and your students.

  • To develop language skills
  • To develop social skills
  • To help children gain a background knowledge of different cultures
Activity Steps: 

Running errands to learn!

Running Errands is adapted from an idea originally developed by Maria Mathiedesz, a Hungarian teacher, and used quite successfully in European schools. The version presented here has been altered to suit Indian classrooms. The game is an example of a simulation activity that helps develop a variety of skills. It is a communication board game that specifically aids:

  1. the development of language skills, and

  2. the development of social skills and cultural background knowledge.

It is ideal for ages 10-12 (classes V to VII). The game can be easily adapted to different levels by building in complex or easy tasks, as required. The ‘board’ given here can be modified according to the interests of your class and the purposes you would like to achieve. Use this as a model to create an activity specific to your class. There are very few rules, as such, so the plan is flexible.

What you need

  1. A large rectangular board with the game plan drawn on it. A large piece of cloth would serve just as well, which you could hang on the classroom wall. You could also draw the plan on the blackboard, but that would be time consuming, and you would have to redraw it each time you played the game.

  2. Counters for the children to move on the board. Coloured drawing pins or flags can be used if the board/cloth is to be hung on the wall.

  3. Dice

  4. A list of pencils with numbers assigned to each. This could also take the form of cards with one penalty written on each, for the children to draw at random. The method of dealing out penalties is discussed later.

  5. Instruction cards or an instruction list.

The penalty cards carry messages such as: ‘Closed for Lunch’, ‘Come back next week’, ‘Not Ready’, ‘Person on Leave’, etc.

The instruction cards list jobs to be done, e.g. get a haircut, buy bread, withdraw money from the bank, buy a present, etc. You could have any number of tasks ranging from the simple to the complex.

Organizing the class

If the class is small, consisting of 30 students or less, you could divide the students into two categories: traders and customers. Each of the ‘traders’ manages one of the ‘shops’ or establishments on the board, and has to interact with any customer who might come his/her way. The others, the customers, carry out the errands they are assigned by the teacher.

If your class is large, students can play as groups of 2 or 3, while keeping the same two categories, trader and customer. Each unit of 2/3 students is assigned a set of tasks and they can work as a team, discussing how best to finish their tasks.

You, the teacher, are responsible for assigning tasks and dealing out penalties. The penalties may be given at random, depending on what kind of transaction you feel that child should carry out. In any case, these penalties are not really ‘punishments’ or handicaps – they only serve to introduce an element of the unexpected. The game itself is not really competitive. The challenge lies in finishing each errand as efficiently as possible, not in getting somewhere first.

A broad framework of rules

  1. Players can move in any direction on the board. The idea is to let students decide for themselves which is the shortest/most efficient route to a particular place.

  2. Each player gets one throw of the dice at a time. As usual, a ‘double’ means the child gets another throw.

  3. Transactions must be limited to the instructions given, or the errand on hand.

  4. Other students may participate in different transactions if it can be done without too much conclusion. The idea is after all, to communicate!

How to play

Each customer is first given a set of errands to complete. Give the children some time to study the board, mentally work out their route, and their plan for completing the tasks. The first customer throws the dice to move. Each block on the board represents one step – so the child moves the counter up as many blocks as is indicated by the dice. Once she/he reaches the shop where the task is to be carried out she/he – turns to the ‘trader’ in charge of that shop and carries out the instruction. A t this point the teacher may impose a penalty, so the shopkeeper will act accordingly. A child faced with a penalty must give up the turn to the next player, and come back later in the game to complete the job. The turn then passes on to the next player, and so on, until all the tasks are completed.

You can adapt the basic idea of the game to any subject area you want to emphasize. For example, if you want to drill them in world geography, you could build in a number of tourism-related errands, with travel agencies, an airport, etc. shown on the board. On the other hand, if it is basic arithmetic skills you want to concentrate on, you could have money transactions.

How it helps

The game helps students

  • Recognize and understand the names of shops, offices, facilities in a town

  • Select the places they need to visit to complete these tasks

  • Act out meaningful conversations

  • Practice specific skills a teacher may wish to build into the game.

As an extension of the game, students could be asked to:

  1. draw a rough plan of the main business area in their city/town and label it

  2. describe in writing how they would go about a certain task

  3. write a composition on the functioning of different businesses

  4. describe the route they would take to a certain place.


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