In the previous issue of the GameLetter, I published a jolt, Who’s the Winner? In the concluding paragraph, I invited the readers to come up with diabolical scoring alternatives. Philippe Petit, one of my favorite readers, did exactly that. He got carried away and submitted several sadistic scoring systems. I liked them all and incorporated them in this new jolt.

Surprise is an anagram activity in which players are given a set of letters. The challenge is to work independently and rearrange these letters to form several different words.


Ask the players to create a list of words from a given set of letters within a given time limit. At the end of the time, ask a manager to announce a scoring system for awarding points to the list of words.


To explore the effects of playing by unknown rules.


Minimum: 3

Maximum: Any number, divided into groups of 3 to 7

Best: 10 to 30


4 minutes for the activity. 5 minutes for debriefing.

Supplies and Equipment

  • Pens or pencils
  • Timer
  • Whistle
  • Flip chart
  • Markers


  • Anagram Challenge, one copy for each participant
  • Instruction to Managers, one copy for each manager
  • Anagram Solutions, one copy for the facilitator

Duplicate the pdf documents here.


In this version of the jolt, we use the word development as the base for our anagram. You may choose any other word that is more relevant to your participants, scramble the letters, and create your own challenge.


Demonstrate how to solve an anagram. Write these 10 random letters on the flip chart:


Explain how to solve an anagram puzzle by rearranging these letters to form different words. Give a few examples (son, team, and storm, for example) and encourage the players to call out other acceptable words.

Set up play groups. Organize the participants into groups of 3 to 7 people. Randomly select one person in each group to be the Manager. Explain that this person will not compete with the other members of the group but will ensure that everyone follows the rules.

Distribute the Anagram Challenge handout. Give a copy to each participant and ask everyone to place this handout printed side down until you blow the whistle.

Ask the players to generate lists of words. Explain that the participants should work independently, without talking to each other, and make a list of different words by rearranging the letters in Anagram Challenge handout. Ask everyone to wait until you blow the whistling before turning the page over and starting on their task. Announce a 3-minute time limit and blow the whistle.

Brief the Managers. Call the Managers to the front of the room and give each of them a copy of the Instructions to Managers handout. Give them these brief secret instructions:

This handout contains 10 different scoring systems. Select any one of them. At the end of the time limit, read aloud the description of the selected scoring system. Help the players score their word lists using the selected system.

Wait until the task is completed. Send the managers back to their groups and ask them to wait for the end of the time limit.

Explain the scoring system. At the end of 3 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the participants to stop writing words. Tell the participants that their manager will explain how the players’ word lists will be scored. Ask the managers to take care of their play group, explain the scoring system, help the participants score their word lists, and identify the winner.

Resolve disputes. If any participant wants to know if a strange-sounding word is an acceptable one, check with your Anagram Solutions handout.

Congratulate the winner. Ask each managers to identify the winners in the play group. Lead a round of applause to congratulate these winners.


Conduct a discussion. Ask the participants to discuss their experiences and insights during the word-listing and scoring activities. Encourage them to relate what happened in the activity to what happens in the workplace.

Choose the procedure for the next round. Ask the participants which of these procedures they would prefer (if they were to play another round):

  • After the activity, the Manager will choose and announce a scoring system.
  • Before the activity, the Manager will choose and announce a scoring system.
  • Before the activity, the Manager and the players will collaboratively choose the scoring system.

Learning Points

  1. People don’t like waiting for the scoring system to be specified until after an activity is completed.
  2. People prefer the scoring system to be specified before an activity is started.
  3. People prefer to collaboratively choose the scoring system before an activity is started.


Anagram Challenge


Rearrange these letters to form different English words.

Write you list of words below:



Instructions to Managers

This handout contains 10 different scoring systems. Select any one of them. At the end of the time limit, read aloud the description of the selected scoring system. Help the players score their word lists using the selected system.

  1. Score as many points for each word as the number of letters in it. (El gets two points; eel gets three points; peel gets four points; peeve gets five points; temple gets six points; element gets seven points; envelope gets eight points; elopement gets nine points; and development gets 11 points.)
  2. Only words of six or more letters count. The person with the longest list of words beyond this minimum length wins.
  3. The player who came up with the longest word is the winner. If a list includes the word development, the player (or players) who created the list wins.
  4. Players score one point for each unique word in his or her list. (If a word is found in other players’ list, it does not score any point.)
  5. Only the words that end with the letter n score a point.
  6. Only the words two e’s score a point.
  7. Only adjectives in the list score a point.
  8. Each two-letter word in the list scores 10 points. Other words score as many points as the number of letters in it.
  9. The score value of any word that has the letter v in it is tripled.
  10. If the list contains any word that has six or more letters, it scores a zero.

Anagram Solutions

All of these words are accepted by people who play Scrabble® and Words with Friends®

11 Letter Words


9 Letter Words

elopement, enveloped

8 Letter Words

develope, envelope

7 Letter Words

demeton, deplete, develop, devotee, element, envelop, pentode, telemen, templed, venomed

6 Letter Words

deepen, delete, dement, demote, denote, depone, devote, dolmen, eleven, elevon, eloped, emoted, evened, lepton, leveed, loment, melted, melton, metope, molted, molten, needle, omelet, omened, opened, peeled, peened, peeved, pelmet, pelted, poteen, potmen, teemed, telome, temped, temple, toneme, vendee, vented, vetoed

5 Letter Words

delve, demon, depot, devel, devon, donee, doven, elope, emend, emote, epode, event, lemon, lento, leone, levee, loden, loped, loved, melee, melon, meted, model, monde, monte, moped, motel, moved, netop, noted, novel, olden, opted, peeve, pelon, poled, tempo, tepee, toled, toned, toped, topee, veldt, venom, voled, volte, voted

4 Letter Words

deem, deep, deet, dele, delt, deme, demo, dene, dent, dole, dolt, dome, done, dope, dote, dove, enol, epee, even, lede, leet, lend, leno, lent, lept, levo, lode, lone, lope, love, meed, meet, meld, melt, mend, meno, mete, mode, mold, mole, molt, mope, mote, move, need, neem, neep, neve, node, noel, nome, nope, note, omen, oped, open, oven, peed, peel, peen, pele, pelt, pend, pent, peon, pled, plod, plot, poem, poet, pole, pome, pond, pone, teed, teel, teem, teen, tele, temp, tend, toed, told, tole, tome, tone, tope, veep, veld, vend, vent, veto, vole, volt, vote

3 Letter Words

dee, del, den, dev, doe, dol, dom, don, dot, eel, eld, elm, eme, end, eon, eve, led, lee, let, lev, lop, lot, med, mel, men, met, mod, mol, mon, mop, mot, nee, net, nod, nom, not, ode, old, ole, one, ope, opt, ped, pee, pen, pet, pod, pol, pom, pot, ted, tee, tel, ten, tod, toe, tom, ton, top, vee, vet, voe, von,

2 Letter Words

de, do, ed, el, em, en, et, lo, me, mo, ne, no, od, oe, om, on, op, pe, to