I have mostly taught lower secondary classes, and it has been a challenge to devise activities to motivate them. This is one which had a bunch football mad kids scrambling to academically outwit their opponents.
Class set of: Dictionaries, or text books.
Divide your class evenly into groups. Preferably 4 to a group is a good size, because as you will see this makes for good creativity. Then give each group the name of a Football, or Basketball, or Baseball team. Essentially any team name that they are interested in, it adds to the sense of cohesion.
To add excitement, you can draw up a playing table on the board and a scoring ladder. Teams can play home and away matches with 2 points awarded for a win. Then after every pairing has played twice the post season play offs begin, culminating with a grand final. this is sure to get even the most disinterested interested in academia.
Now, the game itself is a variation on the Dictionary Word Game that is well known. Hand out as many dictionaries as you have, preferably one to each student. The teams work as quietly as they can because they shouldn’t give their plans away to other teams. They choose a word which they think the opponent team won’t know. Each member of the team comes up with a plausible meaning for the word, and one member has the correct dictionary meaning.
As per the playing roster one team presents a word to the opponent team, this is their home game. Each member gives a plausible meaning for that word. If the opposing team chooses the wrong meaning, the other team gets 4 default points. If however they pick the correct meaning, they can spell it for an extra 2 points. This scoring is based on Rugby League scoring, American teachers can use 6 and 1 point if you wish.
Then the other team in the pairing presents their word. This is their home game. After you have gone through all the roster of teams you might like to have a playoff of final 4 or final 8, with the highest ranked team playing the lowest ranked team and so on. The team that finished highest has a second chance if they are beaten in their first playoff game.
You don’t have to use dictionaries
It would work as well with any text book
Teams can devise questions to try and stump other teams.
It can be used as a review method before exams or quizzes.
The kids tend to get a little loud, you must control this..
Incidentally, the team that was quietest in my class, girls, won.