Chem Mad Gab

Have you ever played Mad Gab? I discovered it only this past winter when I spotted a hilarious video advertisement. In this game, one player reads a phrase — printed in gibberish — aloud to his teammates. The objective of this player’s team is to discern the underlying target phrase that the spoken gibberish suggests. Well, this usually entails repeated and increasingly emphatic verbalizations accompanied by much frustration on the part of the speaking player, and much hilarity upon the part of, well, everyone else really. What makes it so funny is that the target phrase is printed on the reverse side of the card so that all of the other teams are in on the joke, as it were.

If you have passed a winter’s evening playing this game then you know how impossibly hilarious it is when you know the target phrase and hear just how close the pronunciation really is. And, yet, since the printed gibberish suggests something else, it’s amusing to witness the struggle as the playing team strives to unravel the target phrase. And when it is our turn we are aware of how utterly ridiculous we sound.

Mad Gab for the chemistry class

Because I’m the crazy chemistry teacher, of course I had to make Mad Gab Chemistry so that my students could play it in class. I think your students will enjoy it too.

Chemistry, like all disciplines, has its own target vocabulary. This game can be a fun start when reviewing from last year or gearing up for finals — just recalling all of these new and less familiar terms can serve as a good activator for any cumulative exam review period. Mad Gab Chemistry is suitable for review or rest-and-relaxation. Maybe you’ll even take it outside on a warm spring day. Additional ideas include challenging students to write their own cards, perhaps as an activity for a day when there is a substitute. In fact, it’s so fun to make the cards that you might find other chemistry teachers interested in helping with this creative exercise.

I have made some fifty-or-so cards to use with my AP Chemistry. A few are shown below. Cover the right-hand column up while you attempt to decode the entries in the left-hand column.

Here’s how to layout the cards for optimal printing. I print the gibberish in a large, fun font down the leftmost column of a spreadsheet — one phrase per cell. The answers are printed in a much smaller font down a right-justified column of another page. In this way the gibberish and target phrase end up back-to-back when the two pages are copied onto the same sheet of paper. If I have 9 pages of phrases then pages 1-9 are gibberish and pages 10-18 are answers. Pages 1 and 10 go together, pages 2 and 11, etc.

When making your cards, the more liberal you allow yourself to get with the gibberish, the better. The goal is to use actual recognizable words in the gibberish. My early cards were really just phonetic approaches to phrases (compare inure cha and inertiafave aura bill and favorable; and, a truly sad item, first ardor and first order). It became more fun for me, and more frustrating and rewarding for the students the wackier I got. Extra consonants and syllables that they must contend with just enrich the experience.

Some tips that I allow students to discover for themselves include moving syllables around. The concatenation of the syllables is often different in the target and gibberish words —that’s much of the secret of the game. Another secret (best to let the students discover it themselves) is for the guessing team members not to read the gibberish card but just to listen to their reader — looking and listening as the reader enunciates the gibberish.

I have found that teams of four work well with two teams playing against each other. A class of 24 students then would have 3 simultaneous games going on, with eight students involved in each game. I hope you play Mad Gab Chemistry and enjoy it with your classes!

Gibberish                      Target Word or Phrase

gnome in clay sure                             nomenclature

you neemo like yull are                     unimolecular

perry odd ache trains                        periodic trends

lone dandy Porsche own                  London dispersion

Gibberish                      Target Word or Phrase

leash hat lea lay                                 Le Chatelier

tea tree heed y’all                              tetrahedral

I saw their ma                                    isothermal

axed day shun real duck shun        oxidation/reduction