Time and time again we see posts on facebook about children needing time to play. Research has told us that many children do not actually learn through "drill and kill" type worksheets. There is a time and a place for worksheet type work but in general, children do better with authentic learning activities, activities where they can have a choice, where student voice is considered, and where there is an element of play.
Read on to find out more about how using games in the classroom is beneficial for students.
Games can take on many forms. They don't have to be board games or online games. While those are great and I use them often, there are other types of games as well. For example, I sent my kids on a 2D shape scavenger hunt around the school. They worked in teams and had a blast. Think outside of the box when it comes to incorporating games and play in your classroom.
Here are just ten of the reasons that you should use games in the classroom!
1) Games are motivating and engaging for students. They get excited when they get to play games, and even forget that they are actually learning.
2) Games can be used to reinforce concepts that you have already explicitly taught OR you can use games to introduce a topic.
3) While students are playing games, you can walk around and document the learning that is happening in your classroom. Those observations and conversations you have while they are playing can be more telling about a student's understanding than just looking at a test score.
4) You can incorporate technology. I like to use QR codes with games in my classroom. I will often attach a QR code to an answer so students can self check their work, or one of the group members can check the answer. This always me to be free to meet with a small group while students are independently playing games. We also use many different online games like Dreambox, and Prodigy. Currently Prodigy is my favorite as well as my students.
5) While playing games, students are actually problem solving as they play. Through problem solving they can make real world connections which can help solidify their learning.
6) Playing games at school provides an opportunity for students that they might not normally have. The fact is that many children come from homes where they don't ever get to sit down with a grown up to play a game. I have many fond memories as a child of playing card games with my Grandma, Monopoly with my Mom, pictionary with my aunts and uncles. Many children don't get that opportunity.
7) Competition is a great motivator for students. I am also finding that more and more students are coming to me that have a difficult time with competition. Some of them just give up right away, some of them will yell and cry that it's not fair, and some have even knocked over the game board and walked away. So do I just give up on games? NOOOOOO! This is exactly why I start bringing more games into my classroom. Those students need to learn how to engage in competition in an appropriate manner. When they leave school and head out into the job market, they need to understand that if they don't get hired for a job they can't just have a temper tantrum. They need to learn how to lose (and win) appropriately, that it's okay to be disappointed but you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and try again.
8) Games are a great way to keep students busy with meaningful tasks while you meet with your small guided groups or conference one one one with students. Once they know how to play the game, they can manage themselves. When they have completed the game, they can simply play the game again. If you gave them a worksheet they don't have the opportunity to just do the worksheet over (well they might but that would be pretty boring).
9) Games can be affordable. I got many games from garage sales and second hand shops for a couple dollars each (games like Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble), and there are tons and tons of games for all subjects on TeachersPayTeachers. You can check out my QR code word problems games here and they are only $2.00. The great thing about games is that once you have them or make them, you can use them year after year.
10) Games can help to facilitate student's natural curiosity. You could try a scavenger hunt for 2D shapes, or "see how many 'at' words you can find around in the school in 15 minutes". Games can also take the form of student generated games like playing house or other imaginary play games.
Another reason I love to have a variety of games in the classroom is that when students are done work I can always say, "Go grab a game". I have also made copies of games and sent them home for students to play with their families.
What games do you like to play in the classroom with your students? How do you incorporate games play? Share in the comments!