A Politically Correct Version of Hangman

Instead of playing Hangman, students can try a different version of the game called Snowman.

By Greg Harrison


In the politically correct environment of the 21st Century, teachers are coming under fire for doing and saying things in the classroom that previously did not cause any problems. I know a teacher who was reprimanded for playing the classic game Hangman in her class, because a parent thought that the image of a stick figure being hung was inappropriate. It was brought to the attention of the principal, and the entire school was forbidden to play Hangman. While I think that this reaction is a little extreme, I can understand the parent's objection. Lynching was a dark and terrible part of our country's history, and anything that evokes that awful time should be avoided at all costs.

Another Version of a Popular Game

Luckily, I have a simple solution to the "hangman issue." About ten years ago, when I was teaching fourth grade, a student suggested a new way to play the game. One of the boys in my class raised his hand and said, "Mr. Harrison, instead of playing Hangman, I think we should play Snowman. It's a nicer way to play." He told us that the game was played by adding a snowball to a figure each time a guess was incorrect.

How Snowman is Played

He was right! In the game of Hangman, when a child misses a letter of the secret word, you draw a circle (representing the head) in the noose. That's followed by a long stick (the body), two sticks (the arms), two sticks (the legs), two eyes, and a sad face. That's a total of nine mistakes. When you play Snowman, for the first incorrect answer the lower (and biggest) snowball is drawn, for the second the middle snowball is added, and for the third a snowball is added at the top (the head of the snowman). After that, the snowman gets two sticks (the arms), a top hat (like the one Frosty the Snowman wears), two eyes, and a sad face. Voila! Nine mistakes!

By the way, Snowman can also be played in the Wheel of Fortune format. Instead of having to guess a word, students have to figure out a multi-word phrase. For example:

_ / _ _ _ _/ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/ _ _/ _ _ _ _ _/ _ _/ _/ _ _ _ _/ _ _/ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!

The answer to the above is “I love stumping my class in a game of Snowman!”

Snowman is a game that should be played in schools. Kids love it, and it’s a great sponge activity that takes up those interminable three or four minutes before recess. Additionally, you can play games of Snowman "for points." If the class guesses the word, or phrase, they earn points. If they don't, you get the points. Below you will find some other great language games to play with your students.

Games Lesson Plans:

Sight Word Memory Game

In this simple, yet effective, lesson plan, early readers play a matching game with sight words. Each word is written on an index card, and students match the word that's been turned over with the correct word in their pile of index cards. This lesson can be done with a whole group, small group, or in a literacy center.

Mad About Adjectives

Although not a game, this lesson utilizes the classic "Mad Libs" technique to reinforce the use of adjectives in writing. Students use a sample story embedded in a lesson, which is missing the adjectives. Partners work together to create a list of adjectives, then insert them into the story. A humorous result usually occurs. This is a fun lesson!

Cooperative Group Spelling Game

This engaging lesson has students work in groups. Each group has sections of a newspaper. The teacher calls out the definition of one of the weekly spelling words, and the students work together to spell out and glue down that word as quickly as they can. The team that is first to glue down the word, correctly spelled, earns a point. The team with the most points at the end of the period is declared the winner.

100 Amazing Earth Facts Game

In this lesson, student teams use the online resource "100 Amazing Earth Facts" to learn some very interesting facts about Earth. Then, they play a Jeopardy-like trivia game to see which team has learned the most facts. This clever lesson can be used with third grade and above!