Middle School Game

6, 7, 8

Students play a simulation game that illustrates their power to take action for the good of others.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 20-minute lesson

The learner will:

  • listen to a set of rules for a game.
  • agree to follow the rules exactly.
  • reflect on the meaning of the game for empowering students to take action for the common good in the real world.

a printed copy of the Instructional Procedures for describing the game rules


We have power to make a difference. We can speak up. We can propose ideas. We can grow, network, and make happen what we set our minds to. What do you think it takes to get other people interested in taking action to make the world a better place?”

How can we make sure that everyone in our community feels like they have a leadership role? How can we help those who may not feel empowered? How does this game prompt you to take action?


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Tell the students that they are going to play a game for which they all have to get out of their seats and meet together in an open area of the classroom. Push the desks back, if necessary. When the students are standing around you, explain the rules.

  2. The teacher should read these rules exactly as written. Rules: You are all middle school students--sixth graders, seventh graders, and eighth graders. At first you will all start out as sixth graders. Sixth graders have no rights. They have to squat (not sit or kneel) with their eyes closed and they may not speak unless they are spoken to. Seventh graders have the right to stand up, but they still may not open their eyes, move around, or talk unless someone speaks to them first. Eighth graders have freedom to do what they want. They may open their eyes and move around and talk without permission.

  3. Get a promise from the students to follow these rules for the sake of the game. Tell them you want them to play fair so they don't ruin the game for anyone else. After the game is over, you will discuss what happened and how they felt in each grade level.

  4. Tell the students that when they are tapped on the shoulder, they move to the next grade level and earn their new rights. So if they are sixth graders, they may stand up when they feel a tap. If they are seventh graders, they may open their eyes and move around and talk when they feel a tap. Review the rules a few times and make sure the students understand the rules and restrictions.

  5. Teacher Note: This game tests students' leadership potential--do they recognize that as eighth graders they have the ability to tap other students? Don't give away the point of the game by calling it a leadership exercise.

  6. Start the game by having everyone squat down and close their eyes. Walk around the sixth graders as you repeat the rules of what each grade level can do. Remind them that when they feel a tap on the shoulder, they may move up to the next grade level.

  7. Tap the shoulder once of about one-third of the people.(If you notice someone who has trouble squatting because of physical limitations, you may want to tap that person’s shoulder first.) Take your time so people have a chance to get uncomfortable. Try to choose people you think are NOT likely to move quickly to solve the game.

  8. Continue to repeat the rules while you slowly tap the shoulders of about half of the standing people (seventh graders). Take your time so the people in sixth grade are growing more uncomfortable. Once you put people in eighth grade, you should avoid eye contact with them as they may look to you for clues on what they should do.

  9. You may ask a couple eighth graders to review the rules since they are allowed to talk. Don't hint that they now have the power to tap others.

  10. Very slowly move around, repeating the rules and tapping a few more shoulders. Take your time so students have time to reflect in their situations. By now, the sixth graders are probably thinking they'd like the eighth graders to help them, but they can't say anything. Remind everyone that they promised to follow the rules. If no eighth graders get it, tap some more shoulders until someone figures out that they have the power to free everyone and they walk around and turn all the sixth and seventh graders into free eighth graders.

  11. When they figure it out, have students go back to their seats so you can discuss the game.

  12. Discussion:

    1. Who was in sixth grade for most of the game? In this game, what is sixth grade like? How did you feel?
    2. Who was in the seventh grade for most of the game? What was it like for you? How did you feel?
    3. Who was in eigth grade for most of the game? How was that? When did you realize you had the power to tap shoulders? How did you feel when you figured it out? Why do you think it took a while to realize you had the power?
    4. What does this game tell you about your power to do things in the real world?
  13. The next time you walk by a person who is homeless or think about climate change or consider kids with special needs, think of this game. It doesn’t make a difference if you feel bad about the situation and hope that the people in charge are taking care of it. You have the power to tap shoulders in the world around you.

    With that realization of power comes choices: Whose job is it to change the world? Do we wait for only government to do it? Who needs to get it done if we really want change?”

Cross Curriculum 

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills. For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.