Gaming Breakout Session – Notes and Report Back

Participants: Maura Smale (City Tech, CUNY), Iris Finkel (Hunter, CUNY), Jennifer Rosenstein (Pace), Galina Letnikova (LaGuardia CC, CUNY), Cheryl Costello (Pratt), Tess Tobin (City Tech, CUNY), Diane DiMartino (OLS/Hostos, CUNY)

We discussed strategies for using games in library and information literacy classes, as well as both challenges and opportunities for digital and analog games. Some challenges include: limited time in a one-shot session, limited resources (skills, funds, time) to create digital games especially. Opportunities include desire for increased student engagement during library sessions, and ways to use games as a low-stakes introduction to research, which many students find intimidating.

We then used a game developed by Maura Smale called Game On for Information Literacy (more info: to brainstorm a game to use in library/information literacy instruction. The game involves drawing cards from three decks – Information Literacy Goals, Mechanics, and Games – and creating a game to teach the IL Goal using inspiration from the Mechanic and Game.

Our three cards were:

  • IL Goal: Students will select an appropriate documentation style and use it consistently to cite sources
  • Mechanic: Trading (we started with Stealing, but found that difficult to incorporate into our game)
  • Game: Mad Libs: Players are asked to suggest words of a specific part of speech to fill in blank spaces in a story, usually with humorous results

After much productive discussion, we came up with a game that we feel can be used in a variety of library instruction settings. The quickest version – which we estimate could be played in 15 minutes – is described below; additional variants could be added to extend the playtime to an hour or longer, or to be used with more than 20 students. The game could also be tweaked to teach different citations styles: APA, Chicago, etc.

Title: Citation Challenge!

Student learning outcome: Students will learn how to cite a variety of sources in MLA style

Number of players: A class of about 20 students broken into groups of 3-4 students each

Class time needed: 15 minutes

Materials or supplies needed:

  • Use index cards or slips of paper to create the components of a citation. For example, for a book citation you’ll need one index card with the author’s name, one for date, one for book title, one for publisher, and one for place of publication. Repeat for each type of citation that you choose, e.g. journal article, website, newspaper article, book chapter, etc.
  • Create a handout for each student that includes a sample citation for each type of citation that you’ll use in the class. (To make this more difficult, include a citation for a different book than the book citation on the index cards students will play with.)
  • Before gameplay begins, prepare a package for each student group that contains most but not all parts of a citation – one component should be missing. Keep the missing components together — the librarian will hold those as the game begins.

Playing the Game:

  • Introduction: 5 minutes
    • Introduce citation to students by briefly reviewing why we cite sources.
    • Pass the handout around to students and briefly explain the parts of a citation, point out differences between citations, etc.
    • Break the students into groups of 3-4 and give each group a package containing most parts of a citation. Explain to students that they will have to correctly arrange and complete as many citations as they can in 10 minutes – the group that completes the most citations wins.
  • Gameplay: 10 minutes
    • Each group will work together to create a properly formatted citation from the index cards they receive with citation components. They will be missing one component of the citation, and will need to call the librarian over when they’re ready to request the missing component.
    • Once the group is satisfied that their citation is complete and correct, they should call the librarian over to check their work. If the citation is indeed complete and correct, the librarian can give the students another citation package to try and complete.
    • Repeat the above with all student groups. Once 10 minutes have passed, the group with the most complete citations is the winner.
    • You may wish to hand out small prizes: candy (lollipops go over well), stickers, pens, etc.


  • Add index cards with punctuation and style information (e.g. italics) as components of a citation to extend the time students will take to create their citations.
  • Another, longer variant we imagined is that each group of students could be presented with a selection of index cards that includes some (but not all) correct cards as well as some incorrect cards. Each group would need to trade with another group to replace their incorrect cards with correct cards to successfully complete their citation.


2 Responses to Gaming

  1. Pingback: Play a Game, Make a Game: Getting Creative with Professional Development for Library Instruction | The Journal of Creative Library Practice

  2. Pingback: Citation Gaming | CUNY Games Network

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