Fun and Educational Games to Play in the Classroom
Whether you’re looking for different teaching strategies or ways to keep your students engaged, consider adding exciting educational games to strengthen your curriculum. Educational games are highly effective at keeping students motivated. They’re also excellent at developing skills for communication, dealing with failure and critical thinking.
Here, you’ll discover nine fun games to play at school and how each can benefit your students.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- How to Incorporate Games in Schools
- Why Use Games in Your Classroom?
- Benefits of Games for Kids’ Development
- What Educational Games Can You Play in a Classroom?
How to Incorporate Games in Schools
Take the following steps to help incorporate learning games into your school classroom.
1. Have a Plan
The first step to using games in your lessons is to have a plan. Without one, there’s no telling what might unravel. Maintain control of your classroom by creating a strategy.
Before designing your game, decide its purpose. Some examples include the following.
- Intervention: Some students may have a hard time grasping new information. When you notice weak spots in your curriculum, strengthen them by playing educational classroom games.
- Enrichment: Account for different student learning styles with games designed to play to them.
- Reinforcement: Students love having fun in class. Strengthen your curriculum by adding games to reinforce key concepts.
Once you decide what you want your game to do, you can make one from scratch or consider the games listed later in this post. Games are ideal teaching methods because you can manipulate questions or tasks to complement your classroom’s demographics and curriculum.
2. Play the Game Yourself
Identify any of your game’s flaws by playing it in a walkthrough. Ask yourself:
- How much control do you have?
- How well does the game correspond with the curriculum?
- Is the game easy to comprehend?
- Will the students enjoy playing it?
The last thing you want is to have your students play the game and run into an avoidable problem or realize the game adds little value to your students’ learning. Testing the game before playing with the class can help smooth out any bumps.
3. Assess the Game’s Effectiveness
Once you’ve played the game with your students, consider the results and make changes for the future. Think about the game’s strengths and weaknesses. Consider asking your students what they thought, as their feedback is invaluable. After playing a few times, you may start falling into a rhythm and seeing more student success.
Why Use Games in Your Classroom?
Students want to play games, and you’ve likely experienced moments where your class asks you if they can do something fun. There are many reasons to use games in your classroom, including the following.
- Higher motivation: Students deserve a break from routine worksheets or quizzes. Shaking up the status quo by playing an educational game increases students’ overall motivation. They may be more willing to learn, pay attention and participate in fun games.
- More peer engagement: School-aged students are learning how to interact with their peers. Games help students feel like they’re part of a team, as most games are cooperative with large or small groups. Students can support their groupmates during games. They learn valuable social skills like taking turns, respecting others, listening and playing fairly. Games also initiate a healthy level of competition, which fuels students’ willingness to learn and win.
- Increased learning engagement: Students need to pay attention when playing games, which helps them stay focused and engaged during class. Student engagement allows students to absorb more learning concepts from your game. Worksheets aren’t always interesting. But games incorporate different fine and gross motor movements and group-based learning that inspire students to learn.
- A more welcoming environment: Some students may feel more comfortable in the classroom than others. Having fun at school can put students at ease with each other. Organizing learning games can also help students get used to having you as their teacher. When you reveal a more casual side of your personality during a game, you show your students you enjoy spending time with them. You can also use games to welcome students back to the classroom after being away, like over a holiday break.
- Activities for all learning styles: Some students learn best by listening to a lecture, while others gain more knowledge by participating in hands-on activities. There are four primary learning styles, and most people learn best in one particular way. Incorporating games into your classroom allows you to cater to every learning style and boost your students’ ability to retain your lessons. Include a different type of game in each unit you cover to help students grasp the concepts more readily.
- Greater creative expression: Classroom games also allow students to exercise their creativity and think outside the box. Many classroom games require creativity, whether through problem-solving or artistic skill. Getting kids to work toward a goal that requires them to innovate gives them a chance to express themselves, experiment and find new solutions to problems.
Benefits of Games for Kids’ Development
Your students can benefit from educational games in the following ways.
1. Lower Stress Levels
While tools like worksheets, lectures and exams play a pivotal role in classrooms, they can also be anxiety-inducing for some students. Games provide kids a healthy break from stressful learning.
Games can promote positivity and improve self-esteem — lessening stress levels and creating a positive perception of learning. They can be equally beneficial as worksheets, lectures and exams. Games allow students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in a different format.
2. Increased Memory
Games stimulate students’ brains. They require students to remember details, use their memory to recall lectures and think and act quickly. Brain games — that is, games that make you think — are mentally stimulating and help sharpen processing speed, decision making, short-term memory and planning skills.
3. New Skill Development
School-aged kids are learning many skills, including:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Fine motor skills
- Reading concepts
- Dealing with failure
- Body awareness
- Peer interaction and acceptance
Games help students tap into and develop these skills. Various games benefit students in different ways. For example, group-based games, like Jeopardy, allow students to work on peer interaction. Motor games, like Thumb Ball, strengthen students’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
What Educational Games Can You Play in a Classroom?
Educational games are versatile in the classroom, and there’s no shortage of games to play. Check out these examples of games to play in class with your students.
If you’ve ever seen the quiz-style game show “Jeopardy!”, you’re likely familiar with this concept. It’s a point-based question-and-answer game your students will love. This game also teaches kids how to work together to reach a goal.
To play, you’ll need a computer and a projector. Students can stay in their seats and view the game on the screen. To make preparation easier, look for templates online. Each question has a point value from 100 to 500, with the highest point value being the hardest question to answer.
Divide your classroom into teams — three is ideal, but you can adjust depending on your class size. Display the Jeopardy board on your screen projector. Choose a starting team and allow them to pick a topic and question difficulty. Click the corresponding question and read it aloud.
Give your students 30 seconds to answer the question. If they get it wrong or can’t answer, deduct the points from their score. Then, pass the question to the next team. If they get it correct, add the points to their score. The team with the highest score at the end wins.
Bingo is a single-player game that encourages students to think fast. Preparation for Bingo involves creating individual boards with different or rearranged content. Bingo boards are five-by-five grids with 25 separate slots. Each slot should hold a number, word or image that corresponds with your learning concept. The middle spot is usually a free space.
If you’re a math teacher teaching addition, each slot could contain a number. Then, speaking to the entire class, ask students to mark off the number that solves, “What is 2 plus 8?” If a student has the number 10 on their board, they mark the slot. If you teach a different subject, provide hints for the words in each slot that students must guess to mark.
Students win by completing a five-slot vertical, horizontal or diagonal line and shouting “bingo!” Keep track of which words or concepts you described because if a student marked the wrong one, they have to remove the marker. Reward students with incentives like candy, bonus points or other meaningful prizes when they win.
Headbands is a game requiring students to work with peers and use their critical thinking skills. To play, all you’ll need is a pad of sticky notes and a pen. Write your lesson’s vocabulary words on sticky notes and place each one on your students’ foreheads. Students should not look at their sticky notes. This game is best for older students, because younger ones may be more likely to look.
Though Headbands is a single-player game, players rely on their peers to solve their sticky notes. Students walk around the classroom and talk to other students, and both provide each other keywords to help identify the vocabulary words on their sticky notes.
For example, say your class is learning about U.S. presidents. If one student has Abraham Lincoln, their peer may use keywords like “16th president,” “1861,” “the Emancipation Proclamation” and more. Keep playing until the last person identifies their vocabulary word.
4. Thumb Ball
Thumb Ball is a fun group-based game that takes as little as 15 minutes to play. All you need is a marker and an inflatable beach ball. Prepare your classroom by clearing a space for all your students to sit in a circle. Then, before class starts, write multiple questions on each colored section of your beach ball.
Arrange students in a circle when you’re ready to play. Start by throwing the ball to a student. When they catch it, instruct them to answer the question in the section their right thumb is touching. If a student drops the ball, have them throw it to someone else. Continue the game until everyone has the opportunity to answer a question.
Thumb Ball is especially fun for younger students who are practicing hand-eye coordination and fine and gross motor skills.
5. Marshmallow-and-Toothpick Challenge
The Marshmallow-and-Toothpick Challenge is a great warmup activity to get students thinking critically. For this challenge, you’ll need a few packages of marshmallows and toothpicks. Because toothpicks can be a safety hazard, this game is better for older school-aged kids.
Prepare students for the Marshmallow-and-Toothpick Challenge by separating them into groups of four to five. Pass out an equal amount of marshmallows and toothpicks. The more you distribute, the longer the challenge will take.
Instruct groups to make the tallest, largest or most creative marshmallow-toothpick structure. Give them a reasonable amount of time to complete, around 10 to 20 minutes. Once done, allow students to walk around the classroom, look at other groups’ structures and vote on a winner.
The Marshmallow-and-Toothpick Challenge allows students to practice creativity and social skills.
Casino is a sentence-structure-based game your students will love. For this game, you’ll need a whiteboard and fake money. This game is group-based and competitive, with groups working against each other to have the most money at the end.
Write a sentence on the board with one or multiple errors. Then, give teams a few minutes to discuss their ideas on which part or parts of the sentence are incorrect. Once groups have collaborated, have each team individually identify the errors and make wagers based on how confident they are.
Students who are correct get their money back, and students who were wrong do not. Continue the game until one group runs out of money.
Dictionary is a vocabulary-based game that requires some creativity. To play, all your students will need is a dictionary and a piece of paper. This game will take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, making it great for active warmups!
Separate students into groups of three or four. Give each group a word and have them use the dictionary to define it. Have them write the definition in their words on a piece of paper. Along with the real definition, have students come up with two fake ones.
Once all groups have finished, invite one at a time to share their word. The presenting group should list all three definitions and have the others try to guess the right definition. The group that can trick others into guessing the wrong definitions win.
Playing Dictionary is excellent when introducing new vocabulary or reviewing vocabulary from the last class.
One of the most fun games to play in school might be charades. Charades is an excellent activity for getting kids out of their chairs and moving their bodies. In charades, players take turns pantomiming different words until their team can correctly guess what they’re acting out. All you’ll need to play this game is a stack of index cards. You can play charades as an entire classroom or separate students into four or five teams.
Write a list of words related to your lesson on the index cards. To play with the entire class, place the cards on a desk at the front of the room and have students come up individually to read the card. Then, the student must act out whatever is on the card for the rest of the class to guess. The catch is that they can’t use words while they act!
Students can raise their hands or shout their guesses about what the performer is trying to portray. Whoever guesses correctly gets to act out the next word. If you’re playing charades in groups, you can assign each group a stack of index cards with the same terms and concepts. Then, each team has to race to be the first to guess all the words correctly.
This classic game helps kids who learn visually and challenges all students to connect with their creative side. This game is also an excellent choice for review days and works best with words or concepts that are easy to visualize. This game might also be better for older students with more artistic experience.
Divide your classroom into three or four groups for this game. Depending on the resources available, give each group a pad of paper and a pencil or a whiteboard and marker. Pick one student from each group to be the artist for the round. Make a list of words from your lesson and whisper them to each artist or show it to them on a piece of paper.
Then, start a timer and let the drawing begin! The artist must draw the word without speaking while their teammates try to correctly guess it before the time runs out. The first team to correctly guess is the winner.
Bonus — Student-Made Games
If you have a class period to spare, consider challenging your students to create a brand-new game. This challenge requires a deep dive into the curriculum, making it an excellent exercise when reviewing a chapter or preparing for an exam. Students also tap into other skills, like how to maneuver around mistakes using trial and error.
Making original games takes time. Students have to review class content, create game objectives and roles and determine how to win the game. Because of these steps, dedicate a class period for students to make and share their games. After every student gets the opportunity to present, have the class vote on which game they’d like to play. Plan a day where you can play the winning student’s game.
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