How To: Incorporate More Games into Your Lessons

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.

Get involved

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!


Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

Great Games Part Three: No resources needed

For the final part of this mini-series I’m going to look at a handful of games that hit a number of great criteria:

  • They help students to learn or practice something important
  • They are fun and engaging
  • They require nothing (or at least, very little!)

These games are great to have ready for those moments when a quick review is needed, or you want to take a quick break from a lesson without losing your class’ momentum.  There are so many others out there such as 20 questions, Pictionary, hangman, etc. but I’ve tried to include a few lesser known games that I actually play much more frequently than these.


This classic English game is great for practicing spelling and the random chance involves makes it great for whole class activities as well as small groups. Instructions:

  • Sit your students in a circle if possible as this makes keeping the order of the game easiest
  • Choose a word to spell that is right for your class/group, in this example I’ll use ‘hat’
  • The first child says ‘h’, the second says ‘a’, the third ‘t’
  • If a child says the wrong letter they are out
  • After the word is finished the next student shouts ‘sparkle’ and the person after them is out of the game!
  • You continue with a new word until eventually everyone is out and you have a winner.

Slap Count

This simple math game is great for practicing multiplication skills (count by 2’s, 5’s, etc.) but can be adapted for counting money amounts, fractions, decimals and more.

  • Sit students cross-legged in a circle with their hands on their knees, palms up.
  • Their hand should then rest on top of the hand of the person to their right, and under the hand of the person to their left.
  • After choosing a counting pattern, let’s say ‘plus 2’ one child begins with 0
  • As they say the number they (gently) slap the hand of the person to their left
  • The next child says the next number in the pattern e.g. ‘2’, then ‘4’, etc. and slaps the hand of the next child and so on

I set a target number to reach, and (once we’ve practiced a few times) a time to reach it in to make it even more exciting!

Math Ladder

This one does need paper and a pen (sorry!) but is great for practicing maths facts and easily adapted for vocabulary:

  • On a few pieces of paper write out some maths problems for your class (e.g. 3+7 or 4×5 etc.) and arrange them in a line to make a ladder.
  • Split your class into 2 teams and line them up at either end of the ladder
  • On ‘GO’ the first person from each team starts to head down the ladder answering each question as they go
  • When the members from both sides eventually meet in the middle the students battle using ‘rock, paper, scissors’
  • The winner continues down the ladder, the loser heads to the back of their teams line and a new team-mate begins at the start of the ladder
  • The team scores a point if they make it all the way to the end of the ladder

Mixed Up Stories

Another one requiring paper and pencils! Each student takes a piece of paper and writes 1 sentence to begin a story (its fun to set a theme) at the top of the page.  They fold the page so the sentence cannot be seen, and pass the paper on.  The next person adds their sentence without reading the previous one.  This continues until the teacher decides to stop really.  Then you open up the pages and read the stories – be prepared for a lot of laughter!

A to Z

This game is great for building vocabulary and general knowledge.  You simply set a topic and then go round the class taking turns to name something in the category that begins with that letter. For example if your category is animals you may have ‘alligator’ followed by ‘bear’ followed by ‘catfish’ and so on.

That’s it for this mini-series; I hope it has given you some ideas for your classes! If you haven’t already, then don’t forget to check out the earlier posts in this series by beginning at the introduction. Thanks as always for stopping by,


Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

Great Games Part Two: Created/Printed Games

Here goes with post two in this mini-series.  If you haven’t read part one yet I suggest you begin with the introduction here. In the first post I talked about some of my favourite games that have either been purchased and played as intended, or used other games re-purposed to fit a skill or concept to be reviewed. In this post I’ll be looking at games that are either printed or made using either regular classroom materials, or things that are simply to procure. as with the previous post there are games for literacy and numeracy in here and many can be adapted for a wide range of ages.

Great Games Part Two: Created/Printed Games

Strike It Out

My class love this game and its one we revisit regularly.  It’s great for their addition and subtraction skills and improves general number bond awareness too.

How it works:

In teams students have a number line showing 1-30.  The first student makes a simple number sentence within this range e.g. 1+9 = 10 as they do so they cross out the addends (in this case ‘1’ and ‘9’) and circle the sum (10). The second player must then start with the circled number as their first addend, e.g. 10+6 = 16.  Play continues until one player cannot make a new number sentence.

Shake It Up

I first saw this over at Sunny Days in Second Grade (click on the link in the game title to visit) a couple of years ago and have been using it ever since.  The original post uses small cards with synonyms placed inside a jar that is filled with either coloured rice, pom poms or something similar.  The student receives a sheet with corresponding synonyms on it and they have to shake the jar, find a word and record it next to its ‘partner’ on their answer sheet. I’ve since adapted it to use with sets of vocab and definitions, rhyming words, math puzzles and more!

Bottle Cap Toss

This is such a simple game, but a big hit.  We collected lots of bottle caps (we had around 100) and wrote a number sentence on the outside with a permanent marker and wrote the answers on the inside.  Students pick up a cap at random and try to answer the question; if they get it right they then attempt to toss the cap into a cup to score a point.  This can be played as individuals or as teams and you can make the questions as tough as you wish – simple!

Place Value Game

The place value game has helped so many of my students master place value to at least 6 digits.  Print off the grid found here and give one to each student, and one to the teacher.  Then you draw single digit cards (uno cards work well, but you could just make your own on paper) and have to place them on the grid one at a time. The aim is to build the biggest possible number …but without knowing what all the cards will be!

Scoring works as follows:

Less than the teacher = 0 points

Same as the teacher = 1 point

More than the teacher = 3 points

Highest number possible with the cards = Extra 3 points

Teacher beats everyone in the group = Teacher scores 10

Vocab Rock n Roll

This game does require dice but otherwise is pretty low on resources.  Download the Vocab Rock n Roll set up and student sheets.  Students fill in their target vocab words onto the grid (up to 10 words) and then roll their dice and complete the appropriate action e.g. 1 = Spell the word 2 = Make a sentence and so on.  Students work in pairs or small groups to complete their grids through the week.

Door Boggle

Laminated or die-cut letters + velcro = door boggle! Simply make a 3 x 3 grid on a wall or the back of a door and have students randomly stick letters into each space of the grid.  I provide a timer for the students to use and they race against each other to find all the words they can!

Great Games Part Two: Created/Printed Games

How tall is the Mountain?

How tall is the Mountain is a recent find for me, I picked it up over at Deceptively Educational.  Students begin by placing the digits 1-9 at the bottom of the mountain, they then climb up by adding pairs of numbers together.  The winner is the player with the biggest number at the top of the mountain.

That’s all for this post, I hope it has given you some great ideas and please check back soon for Part 3!


Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

Great Games Part One: Bought/re-purposed games

games collage

Thanks for dropping by again! This week I’m kicking off my mini-series on some of my favourite English and Math games to play with primary school students, you can find the introduction to this mini-series here.  In this first post I’m looking at games that I’ve either brought and used as they are, or re-purposed.  Most of these are picked up pretty cheaply and all make a great addition to the classroom.  In general I use these for small group activities to sneak in some extra practice of a concept or skill.  I’ll play with the students a few times until they have the hang of it, then let them take over!


This classic card game is great for general number sense and to encourage a strong bond between maths and fun! It’s also really useful to have around to re-purpose for lots of other games too. For anyone who doesn’t have this in their classroom I do highly recommend grabbing a pack!

Why I love this game: Simply put, the kids love it – and anything that makes maths fun has to be a winner!

Addition Quick Draw

While we’re still thinking about Uno cards a lovely way to reuse them is to play Addition Quick Draw.  Two students split the deck and each draw a card at the same time.  The first student to successfully add both cards together keeps them.  The winner is either the first person to win the whole deck (if you have the time) or has the most cards in a given time period. It’s an easy switch from here to subtraction or multiplication too, and a third student can join in as referee easily too.

Why I love this game: it’s a great way to get in lots of fact practice without heavy and quite boring drilling!


Maths Jenga

My class of 7-9 year olds love to play this (especially at the start of the year).  As you can see from the picture, it’s much like regular Jenga, only when you successfully pull out a brick you also have to answer a maths question.  To make it I used a well-loved Jenga set and printed out some addition and subtraction problems then glued them on.  This process is a little time consuming, but for me it was well worth it as my set has lasted 3 years now!

Why I love this game: it’s fun, it’s a great ice-breaker in the first few weeks.


Story Cubes

I love these! Each box has 9 dice in them, and students roll out the dice then use the pictures to prompt a story.  There are plenty of combinations and imaginations soon run wild!  I now have 3 sets of the cubes and they get used weekly!

Why I love this game: It really helps students who struggle to make up their own stories to get their creativity flowing.

story cubes

Spell Buzz

I have no idea where I picked this up from…but I’m really glad that I did! It’s a cute little box of spelling bees, but if a student pulls out ‘buzz’ they have to put all their bees back! It’s really best for 5-7 year olds, but could easily be recreated if you were dedicated enough! I’ve since tracked it down here in India and you can click here to find it through

Why I love this game: After a quick practice with me, my students soon took this on as their own game with one person being the ‘game master’ for each round.  It turned into a great group word work activity.

spell buzz

Boggle Slam

This little game is great for recognising spelling patterns and is also a lot of fun to play.  You create a word (I usually do a common four letter word) and then divide the rest of the cards between the players (3-5 works best).  The idea is to get rid of your cards by changing one letter at a time to make a new word, e.g. lake -> rake -> race etc.

Why I love this game: It’s just a lot of fun to play, so its a bonus that it is also great for spelling practice!


That’s it for Part One, if you’d like to check out the other posts in this series please keep an eye on the intro post here, and come back soon!


Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

Great Games for Literacy and Numeracy

games collage

During the last week of school I love to round off our year by replaying my class’ favourite Maths and English games from the year.  I rotate our games through the year as ability, preference and focus changes but its always fun to go back and bring out some of the ‘classics’.  The kids love it too, plus its a good demonstration of how far they’ve come.

This got me thinking that I should write about some of my favourites that both offer a great way to practice concepts and skills AND keep my students engaged and happy throughout. Part of the reason I’ve not written this post before is that, to be quite honest, it’s a bit of a daunting task! I mean, there are so many great activities out there and they cover such different topics and skills that I had no idea how to write about them all.  After a fair bit of head-scratching (and don’t worry, it’s not another lice outbreak! … sorry Primary School humour) I’ve decided that the best way forward will be to create a mini-series of posts all connected to the theme of great classroom games, but each with a particular focus. Rather than create a separate post for every sub-section of the curriculum I’m going to group the posts by the materials used – this way I can also discuss how I incorporate them into my lessons. In each post I’ll aim to discuss 3-5 games for both Literacy and Numeracy, although I can’t guarantee I won’t sneak a science or humanities games in there too!

So, here’s the breakdown of the posts I’ll be putting up over the next few weeks:

Part One: Bought or re-purposed games

Part Two: Created/printed games

Part Three: No materials needed!

Thanks for dropping by!