If you have students who are reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum or watching the classic movie starring Judy Garland, Oz Fluxx by Looney Labs is a fun complementary teaching tool. The game itself is wonderful, and can be a quick reward at the end of the teaching session or added to your standard free play games, but the cards can also be used separately as a fun and motivating way to both teach and test comprehension. Here’s how I use the cards:
(NOTE: It is not necessary to know how to play the game in order to do these educational activities, but if you’d like to learn the basic game rules, you can find them here and a printable play mat here.)
1. Before reading The Wizard of Oz or any other work of fiction, I like to review the basic story parts: Character, Setting, Problem, and Resolution. This can be done any way you wish. I often use another great Looney Labs game called Nanofictionary. I will be adding a blog post about this process soon. As students begin reading, I encourage them to look for the various story parts and point them out as they come to them.
2. After reading the book or watching the movie until Dorothy has met all three of her companions, I pull out the green Keeper cards from the Oz Fluxx deck. These include: Artificial Brain, Artificial Heart, Broomstick, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, Emerald City, Falling House, Good Witch of North, Hot Air Balloon, Kansas, Munchkins, Potion of Courage, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, Toto, Water, Wizard of Oz, and The Yellow Brick Road.
Depending on the comprehension level of the students, I have them either independently or with my guidance divide the Keepers into three groups: Characters, Settings, and Problems/Resolutions. There are no hard and fast right answers, as some cards can be argued to fit in multiple categories. I use this activity as a starting point for further discussion, which I personalize to the needs of these particular students. Here are some possible discussion topics. I don’t recommend covering them all with all students. Rather, pick and choose the ones that are most relevant for your situation.
–Why did you put (insert card name) in this category? (For example, why might someone put the Good Witch of the North in Problems/Resolutions rather than Characters?)
–Of the cards in the Characters stack, which are main characters, which are supporting characters, and which are minor characters? Why do you think so?
–Why are there only a few settings? Are some settings missing? Which ones?
–In the Problems/Resolutions category, which are problems and which are resolutions? Are any cards both problems AND resolutions? (For example, the hot air balloon is a resolution to the problem of getting back to Kansas, but becomes a problem when it leaves without Dorothy.) Are any cards problems for one character and resolutions for another?
3. After completion of the book or movie, I pull out the pink Goal cards. Each Goal card requires two Keepers to win. For example, the Goal card called “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” requires the Emerald City keeper and the Yellow Brick Road keeper. I have each student take five to ten Goal cards and explain why the goal requires the particular two Keepers that it does. For example, the Follow the Yellow Brick Road card uses the Yellow Brick Road keeper for obvious reasons, but it also uses the Emerald City keeper because the Yellow Brick Road leads to the Emerald City, their final destination. There are a total of 31 Goal cards. I don’t recommend going over every one in this way, as the session becomes too long and tedious.
4. Now mix the 31 Goal cards up and, as a group with you placing the cards, try to place the cards chronologically as they occurred in the story. For example, The Witch is Dead goal card comes early in the plot line of the story, whereas Gifts from the Wizard comes closer to the end. Some cards can arguably be placed in several places. This is an excellent opportunity to involve all your students in using their language skills to argue their placement of these cards. For example, the I’m Rusting goal card will probably be placed after Follow the Yellow Brick Road because that is when Dorothy meets the Tin Woodsman. But an argument could be made for placing it first, because the Tin Woodsman actually rusted many years before Dorothy landed in Oz.
Activities one and two are teaching opportunities, whereas activities three and four serve better as checks of comprehension. All four of these activities encourage high levels of discussion and language development, the key to any good comprehension program. I hope you and your students have a great time playing with Oz Fluxx no matter how you use it!
P.S. Check out this fun extra promo card you can buy for only a dollar!
Additional links of interest:
• All 14 original books in the series, on Kindle, with links to audio versions.
• The Wiz, an all African-American musical film adaptation.
• Wicked, a Broadway musical about the Wicked Witch of the West.