By Teachers, For Teachers
Oftentimes, teachers steer away from playing classroom games out of fear that there will be utter chaos. While it may get a little loud at times (from all of the excitement from learning, of course), classroom games can be a fun, and valuable way for students to learn. Besides classroom games being a great way to keep your students actively engaged, they are also a wonderful way for students to develop and use their social skills. Furthermore, through the process of game playing, students are better able to understand an unknown concept or idea. It gives them a different perspective they may not have been able to see through just a lesson or a textbook.
Here are five things to avoid when playing games in the classroom. By following these five tips, you will ensure that your students are not only having fun while they are learning, but that there will not be any chaos for you to worry about.
One of the biggest issues that teachers have with allowing their students to play games is that their students will get completely out of control. As long as you plan for zero unstructured time during game time, then you should be OK. This means that you need to keep the game in constant motion so that there will be no time left for students to chit chat or misbehave. Classroom management is key, so before the game even begins, you should go over all of the rules, consequences and expectations. Keep the game moving by using timers or assigning specific students to watch the clock. In addition to that, closely monitor each team or group.
In order to be confident that your time is being well spent, then you need to make sure that your learning objective is aligned with the classroom game that your students are going to play. Ask yourself, “What do I want my students to get out of the game?” and “What do I want them to be able to understand as a result of this game?” Asking yourself these questions will help you determine which game will be more suited for what you want your students to learn.
You may think that trying new games will help make it less boring, and break up the monotony of what the students are used to playing. However, you will notice that you need to take a lot of time explaining the rules and prepping students for how to play a game. Plus, you will need to go over the rules, expectations and consequences. All of this takes a lot of time. By choosing only a few class favorites, you will find that your students will get right into it, because they are familiar with what is expected of them. So, stick with what works, you will be glad that you did.
Jeopardy!, Family Feud, and Pictionary are all great classroom games to play, but no one ever said that you couldn’t put your own twist on them. Next time you play a game, try adding an element of suspense to it. Perhaps have the last question in your Jeopardy! game be an all-or-nothing points question, or add a challenge question to your Pictionary game which offers extra points. Adding anything with a little element of risk will really help engage your students in the activity.
There always seems to be that one student who takes over the game and tries to answer all of the questions, or who puts themselves in charge of the group. These natural-born leaders end up doing all of the work for the team, while the rest of the students just sit back and watch. To prevent this from happening you need to make sure that you set up the game properly. This means that each student is accountable for something within their own team. For example, if you are playing Jeopardy!, then each student within the team must answer a question to earn their own points that can be added together with the team points. You can also assign a “Task” or a “Job” for each person within a team to make sure that all students are accountable for their learning. Some teachers use an individual scorecard that each student must fill out at the end of the game. This is a great way to send a message to all students, that their participation is required.
Fear not, classroom games can be a great way for students to learn and have fun without the chaos and off-task behavior. As long as you can keep the game moving, and make sure that all students know their role in the game, they can be a great way to actively immerse their attention in learning.
How do you play classroom games? What tips and tricks help your students learn while still having fun? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.