Reintroducing 8-square

February 2, 2012


It’s been about three years since I’ve taught a middle school class, and in that time the average number of middle schoolers playing 8-square during break has declined from roughly 73% to roughly 0%. I take this as a personal insult.

Before Christmas break I told my access class (think homeroom) that we’d have to go outside and play 8-square when the weather got warmer. They did not know what 8-square was, and asked if it was like 4-square. I said only in-so-much-as a blizzard is like an ice-cube. Intrigued –more with the possibility of going outside than in playing 8-square– they have been incessently asking me (a) “What is 8-square and?” (b) “Could they go outside and play it, please?”

As Lauren mentioned, we’ve had some really warm weather lately, so yesterday I took them out. There was much rejoicing. Earlier in the day I had grabbed some seniors (we keep a full supply on hand) who remembered playing 8-square to come out and chalk out a “court”. Traditionally an 8-square court is laid out in a 2×4 grid, but we drew out a 3×3 grid this time. It seemed to work well.

The rules are exceedingly simple:

  1. The ball must bounce in your square before you hit it.
  2. You must hit* it with your hand(s).
  3. You must hit the ball into someone else’s square.

None of the screwy rules you see with 4-square. This is a real man’s game (the girls tend to be as good as the guys). Acceptable exclamations include, “good show”, “bad form”, “nice hit”, “tough one” and “quit your whinin'”. It’s a good game for teaching kids to just take their lumps, because everyone “gets out” all the time.

They are playing with the huge “training ball” right now. Later on I’ll bring out the Tournament Play ball. It’s smaller and bouncier.

*You do have to explain that “hit” is a single momentary contact with the ball. Otherwise you get shoves and holds, which break rule 2 and get you out.


About Lloyd

Lloyd Sommerer is a middle/high school teacher who likes to build websites, read books, grow beards, make fun of Lauren’s prototypes and eat the sauce of the picante.

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13 Responses to “Reintroducing 8-square”

  1. Gretchen Said on:

    Looks like the “training ball” has a rating of PG-13. What is the rating on the Tournament Play ball -- R? NC-17?


  2. Brad Said on:

    Some of our 8th grade guys play four square when we have a rare recess time. They have labeled each square. If you’re in the lowest square, you’re called the Joker. Then you’re Queen, then King. The highest square gives you the title Super King.


    • Brad Said on:

      We just so happened to have some recess time this morning. The guys played Four Square, so I asked them about the labels again. The first square’s label is not Joker, it’s Dunce.


  3. Lauren Said on:

    Sooooo….. it’s really 9 square, huh. Don’t you teach math?


  4. Kristi Said on:

    Those squares are huge. I don’t recall them being that large when I learned the game. (This is what happens as you age, isn’t it? Things aren’t as big as they used to be.)


  5. Peggy Said on:

    I’ve never played this game. It sounds hard. Any chance you have a video of the game?

    Did any of you out there ever play SPUD? I remember playing that as a kid.


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