Games, K-12

Gifts for the Gifted – Codenames

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

I was a little late to the Codenames party, just having gotten it about a month ago. In fact, I was so late that I ordered the Codename Duet version because our daughter had just left for college and it was just my husband and I at home. Though the rules are slightly different for the 2-player version (you are playing cooperatively instead of against each other), the premise is the same. A grid of cards is set out on the table and another card lets you know which of the cards are “secret agents” that are your allies. You need to communicate with your team member(s) with clues to help them find the friendly agents. The constraints are that you can only give clues that have one word and a number, and that you do not have enough turns to use one word per agent – so you need to find ways to connect a couple or more of your agents with one defining word. The number you give is how many cards that word describes. So, if I say, “corn, 2” that means you are going to look for two cards in the grid that have something to do with corn.

The first couple of times that my husband and I played, we failed royally. In the Duet version, each card is a random word (some of the versions, like Disney, use pictures), and trying to find connections between some of the words was quite a stretch. But we started to find our groove and felt pretty good about it. Then we took turns playing with our daughter when she came home for the break, and we won practically every time.

Codenames is a game that really encourages productive struggle in a fun way. It reminds me of an activity we used to do in the gifted classroom called, “Forced Analogies.” According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, one of the characteristics of intellectually advanced young people is, “an ability to relate a broad range of ideas and synthesize commonalities among them.” This skill may come easily to some, but I believe it can also be developed with practice.

I saw at least 7 different versions of the Codenames game on Amazon, including Harry Potter and Marvel editions, so you can not only find something that appeals to your family’s interests, but also add more once you realize how much fun it is. And there is apparently this free version that you can play online – inviting people to your Codenames room. (I have not vetted this, so proceed with caution!)

Codenames is a great game for home or in the classroom. Pick out an edition that appeals to you, and enjoy!

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