Thursday, May 14, 2015

Battleship with Google Docs by Mark Littlefield

I recently attended a GAFE summit conference in Tennessee and presented on implementing Google Drive with kindergarten and first grade students.  One thing I love about conferences is getting awesome ideas to try out from other attendees.  After the session, a teacher came up and asked if I had ever tried playing Battleship with my students using Google Drive, which I hadn’t.

I normally set up a public Google Drawing and demonstrate a game of Tic Tac Toe with students as a means of teaching collaboration and sharing and to teach the kids how to share and open a document, but a game like Battleship?  Nah, it sounded a little too complex.

However, curiosity got the best of me the following days. First chance back in the classroom, I pushed back our regular plans for the week and gave Battleship a chance. My schedule is set up so I have four classes of each grade a week (k-4).  It may be unfair, but the first class usually helps me get things oiled and working smoothly for the other classes. I created a public text document and had two tables on it. The top one was for my ships and the bottom was to keep track of their torpedoes.  

The first run-through didn’t go so well. I didn’t demo as well as I should have and the map was way too big. I set it up 15 x 15 and left too much of a variety of ships. Some of the kids created the wrong size or too many or too little.  There were too many misses in such a short class time to actually enjoy playing the game.

The second class went much better. The playing area was narrowed down to 8 x 8 and the ships were just 4 blocks long and they had to put four ships on the map. We then confirmed with our neighbors (not our enemies) that our ships were in fact 4 x 1 and that we had just four. We had half the class divide up around two computers on opposite sides of the room.  

After about six or seven shots (including some teacher advised locations…:), the students got the idea. We went over key vocabulary words like hit, miss and ship sunk! We also worked on coloring in locations of hits and misses on the maps by either using specific letters or by filling in the cells. 

They also utilized the undo button, which solved a lot of unnecessary hand raising for help during the first class when they accidentally adjusted the map or colored in an entire portion by error.

It went extremely well the second time around. We worked on hand signals and mouthing our torpedo shots instead of shouting them. Surprisingly, it didn’t get very loud in the room.We set a timer of about 15-20 minutes. The goal was to sink as many ships as you could and if all of them were sunk, then you started over. Plus, the kids worked on map coordinates without even knowing it.

Thanks to that kind stranger for telling me about this excellent idea. The kids learned many valuable tech skills at the same time.  Give it shot; you’ll love it and the kids will too.

Use Mark's Battleship template here! Mark Littlefield is the lower school technology coordinator at University School of Nashville where he teaches technology to grades k-4.  He can be found online at or on Twitter @littlemarkfield.


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