As teachers we all know the tremendous benefits of using games for learning; however it is so easy in the middle of a busy week, term or year to lose track of their importance and neglect to include as many as you would like to. In this post I’ll be discussing a few tips and ideas to build educational games into your lessons on a regular basis to maximise their impact.
Build up a good stock list of games
There’s nothing more discouraging for your students than seeing the same 3 games over and over again. That’s not to say that repetition isn’t valuable – it absolutely is. However variety is also really important and so having a great bank of games to draw upon (and circle back to when the time is right) through the whole year is crucial. Check out Pinterest for an easy way to search for ideas, or even my earlier series on Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy.
Organise your games
Once you have a great set of games all prepared and ready to go make sure to keep them organised. Critically, make sure its an organisation system that your students can use independently. I’ve used some little stacks of tray, simple boxes, ziplock bags and more – you know your games and your students best so choose something that works with both.
Make games a regular session in your core lessons
The easiest way to build a good habit is to build it into your routine. I specifically have a Maths games session twice a week in my maths class. I also link some games to my Daily 5 sessions for ELA (e.g. Vocab Rock n Roll for Word Work). This also helps your students to understand and value the role of play in learning – at all ages!
Discuss the games with your class
Listen and respond to their feedback. If they are telling you they love a game you can include it more, if they dislike it find out why. It could be too easy, too hard, too short or too long, or maybe they’ve just not quite got the hang of it …or, without wanting to be too harsh, maybe its just not a good enough game.
Reflecting is incredibly important as a teacher and including your students in the process can increase its value even further – not least because they see you modelling this behaviour.
Play the games with your class! I cannot stress this enough: it shows the students the high value of the games, it ensures they have understood how to play, its great for your relationship building with students, you can scaffold weaker students more easily, you can informally assess progress AND its fun! Need I say anymore? This doesn’t mean I play every round of every game with every group (I can’t be in that many places and they need to play without me for a whole host of developmental and educational reasons) but I make sure to play with each student (often in groups) at least once a week. Sometimes that’s only for a short game, but that connection is still remarkable valuable.
If you follow these simple steps you’ll soon find that your class LOVES to play a whole range of games and that this ensures they get much more practice of some of those vital ideas and skills.
See you again soon!