Lost in a Maze is a game that I have used successfully with
intermediate adult students. Briefly, it requires the students to find their way
out of a maze.
teacher needs to prepare a large maze on several sheets of paper. Each sheet
shows one portion of the maze with two or more exits; some of these apparent
exits are in fact dead ends on the next sheet. There has to be an entrance to
the whole maze on one sheet and an exit from it on another. One way is to draw
the maze on 16 sheets of A4 paper arranged in a square; the paths have to be
made big enough and simple enough to be visible to the whole class when they are
held up. The illustration gives a sample sheet, front and back from such a maze.
While the teacher may allow more than one way of solving the maze, the maze
should not in itself be very difficult. On the back of each sheet the teacher
should write on each edge the number of the adjacent sheet, as in the
teacher holds up the first sheet with the entrance to the maze, explains to the
students that they have to find their way to the exit and gets them to decide
together which of the possible exits from the sheet they wish to travel. Then
the teacher looks at the number of the adjacent sheet on the edge, picks it up
and shows it to the students, while putting down the first one so that they
cannot see it. Again the students decide which way they want to go, the teacher
picks up the appropriate new sheet and conceals the old one. And so on until the
students solve the maze. There is a certain knack in handling the sheets in this
way but the teacher will soon acquire it.
terms of language structure the basic exercise is practising stating location
and direction. However, the point of the game is the fact that a group consensus
must be obtained before a move can be made. The students have to decide among
themselves how they will solve each part of the maze. Though the activity often
starts with casual decisions by one or two students, they are soon involved in
fierce argument about the possibilities; they have to come to a group decision.
One important factor in this is that they never see the maze as a whole; they have to remember each part of it and the
decisions they took: they have to construct a mental map of the maze if they are
to solve it. In this case this is like the real-life activity involved in
walking through a hedge maze like the one at Hampton Court.
two important requirements are that the
students never see all the
maze at a time and that they have to reach a group decision. There are several
variations on the game.
- a map of a building or a town may be used instead of the abstract maze.
Because of the memory task involved this should not be too detailed.
- a sequence of photos of scenes can be used, say postcards of
London. The first one might be Piccadilly Circus; students choose which street
to go down; then they see a postcard of that and decide where to go next and so
on. They may either have no destination in mind or may be asked to find their way to Trafalgar Square or some other point. A
teacher with a camera could take a series of shots of the interior of some
building as the different parts of the maze.
some task or penalty may be attached to particular points in the maze. It might
be a toll that the students have to pay each time they pass a particular point;
they have a purse with so much money issued to them at the beginning of the
game. Or the teacher who knows the techniques of fantasy role playing can
elaborate 'encounters' with various dangerous denizens of the maze.
game is derived from some of the ideas that have been developed in the past few years in fantasy role playing (FRF). The maze idea is for
instance used in a game called Mystic Wood that may be adapted to the classroom; the photo sequence maze is utilised in a book called Three Men
in a Maze that
allows the reader to solve the Hampton Court Maze while following the adventures
of the characters from Three Men in a Boat. The FRP ideas on which it is
based are firstly the creation of an imaginary world in the minds of the
players; secondly the importance of
group decision to the way the game progresses; thirdly the important controlling
role of the teacher or ‘Mazemaster’. All of these add up to a game that is rather different from those that have been customary in language
teaching; it is hoped to develop these points further in reports on other games
devised using these principles.
Donnelly, The Mystic Wood, Ariel, 1980
Leslie, Three Men in a Maze, Tracker Books, Transworld Publishers, 1977
Sheet 6 of a sample maze; front on left; back on right