Playing learning games with your students can be fun for everyone involved. Students love the energy and change of pace and you get to watch your students engage in the material in new and meaningful ways. Games provide opportunities for interaction, offer immediate feedback, make the work relevant, allow practice, and motivate students to behave appropriately. The time and effort that you spend getting your students ready to learn through games is well worth the trouble.
Before you add games to your mix of pedagogy strategies, however, you will need to prepare your students. Here are a few tips to make sure that the activities work well with difficult classes:
Consider the geography of your room before you begin. Move furniture, put breakable items in a safe place, and plan how you will put the room back in order at the end of the game.
Pay attention to safety. If you see that students are so excited that the competition is becoming too intense, stop play at once.
You should select the team members so that no one will be left out.
Keep a container of numbers or other markers on hand for students to draw from to determine who goes first or to help with other decisions. Dice are helpful as well.
Have students assume the roles of scorekeeper, timekeeper, and master of ceremonies so that you can monitor activities.
Prepare to move your class to a location where they won’t disturb other classes if the game gets noisy.
After a game is over, be sure to ask your students to tell you what they learned.
While there are many sophisticated games available for teachers and students, sometimes it is just fun to have a few reliable simple no or low tech games ready when your students need to experience the material in a different way. Here is a list of some simple, low-risk, unplugged games that students of all ages can enjoy.
Flyswatter Badminton. Use masking tape to mark off a small badminton court. Blow up a balloon and hand each student a flyswatter to use as a racket. Divide students into teams and arrange them on either side of an imaginary net (indicated by a taped line on the floor). As you ask questions, students earn points for moving the balloon across the net and for answering questions correctly.
Quiz Bowl. Set up a tournament of quick questions and answers involving as many of your students as possible. To add interest, vary the level of difficulty, rules of play, way of scoring, and incentives.
Board games. Design your own board game to fit your topic. You can make small boards and photocopy them for students to use in a small group, or you can make a large board for the entire class to use. The tasks you assign your students in a board game can range from simply answering questions to solving problems. Students also enjoy creating and playing their own board games. You can find great ideas for board games at http://www.toolsforeducators.com.
Twenty Questions. Write an answer on a slip of paper, then have students take turns asking a question each until they guess the answer. Keep track of the number of questions that they must ask to guess correctly. In this game, the lowest number of questions wins.
Name That Person, [Battle, City…]. This game is similar to Twenty Questions in that students try to guess answers with as few clues as possible. You should make up the clues in advance. On game day, you’ll call them out one at a time until someone can name the targeted person, battle, city, or another item. x Ball Toss. Line up your students in two teams facing each other. As soon as a student correctly answers a question, that student tosses a soft foam ball to a student on the other team. That student must answer the next question.
Chain Making. This is an educational version of the old alphabet game that small children play. One player begins thinking of an object relating to the unit of study and beginning with the letter A. The next student must repeat that clue and add an object with the letter B. The game continues until students are stumped or until they reach the end of the alphabet.
One Two and You’re Outta Here. Stand at the door at the end of class with a set of flashcards or questions that require quick answers. For a student to leave class, he or she must answer two questions correctly.
Tic Tac Toe. Students advance play on a Tic Tac Toe board by giving correct answers to questions. Make a grid of three blocks across and down for a total of nine blocks. Photocopy so that students can play in small groups.
Student-Created Board Games. Many students can be very skilled and creative at designing their own board games. Often, they will create games based on such old favorites as Candyland or Battleship using the material they have learned in class.
Sporting events. Divide your students into teams, and use the chalkboard to play games of football, soccer, or whatever sport currently interests to your students. Students advance by correctly answering questions or completing assigned tasks.
PUZZLE AND GAME SITES
Free Power Point Games. One of the easiest ways to find great free games is to browse using the search term “Free Power Point Games.” There are dozens of free templates online for you to download and use with your class. At some sites, teachers even share their own games for other teachers who are teaching the same material.
Boardgames.com (www.boardgames.com). This commercial site offers a large variety of handheld, electronic, and traditional board games at reasonable prices.
Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com). Dave Sperling’s site lists dozens of classroom games, along with rules and suggestions. Click on the “Stuff for Teachers” tab and then the “Games” tab to access the large list. This site has many other resources for teachers, too.
Discovery School (http://school.discovery.com/brainboosters). This page on the Discovery School site offers dozens of brain twister puzzles, activities, and games for all ages and ability levels of students. x Out of the Box Games (www.otb-games.com). This is also a commercial site with a large assortment of games for sale. You can find classic board games, dice games, and word games, as well as newer games