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 fun and educational games to strengthen your curriculum. Educational games are highly effective at keeping students motivated and engaged. They’re also great at developing skills for communication, dealing with failure and critical thinking.
Here, you’ll discover seven learning games to play in your class and how each game 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
The following detail steps to help Incorporate games into your school classroom:
1. Have a Plan
The first step to incorporating games into your classroom is to have a plan. Without a plan, there’s no telling how the game will unravel. Maintain control of your classroom by deciding the purpose of your game and creating a strategy.
Before designing your game, decide the purpose of your game. This could be:
- Intervention: Some students may have a hard time grasping new information. When you notice weak spots in your curriculum, strengthen students’ weak spots by playing educational classroom games.
- Enrichment: Not every student learns the same way as another. Games allow you to use different media tailored to different learning styles.
- Reinforcement: Students want to play games. Strengthen your curriculum by adding games to reinforce key concepts.
Once you decide the purpose of your game, you can create your own game or consider the games listed later in this post. Games are great because you can manipulate questions or tasks to complement your classroom’s demographic and curriculum.
2. Play the Game Yourself
Identify any of your game’s weak spots by playing the game yourself. When playing, 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 the game?
The last thing you want is to play the game with your class 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 future games. Think about the strong and weak points of your game. Consider asking your students what they thought about the game, as their feedback is extremely valuable. After playing the game 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 students actually ask you to play games. Games aren’t bad. In fact, there are many reasons why you should use games in your classroom, including:
- Higher motivation: Students deserve a break from routine worksheets or quizzes. Taking a break from the routine 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 a part of a group, as most games are group-based with large or small groups. Students can support their groupmates during games. They learn important social skills like taking turns, respecting others, listening and playing fairly. Games initiate a healthy level of competition, too, 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 time. Student engagement allows students to absorb an increased amount of learning concepts from your game. Worksheets aren’t always engaging. But games incorporate different fine and gross motor movements and group-based learning that inspire students to learn.
Benefits of Games for Kids’ Development
Your students can benefit from educational games. Games can promote the following:
1. Lower Stress Levels
Some students can get stressed when working on worksheets, listening to lectures or taking exams. All of these tools play important roles in the classroom. Games provide students a positive break from stressful learning.
Games can promote positivity, gratitude and improved self-esteem — which lessens stress levels and creates a positive perception of learning. They can be equally as beneficial as worksheets, lectures and exams. Games allow students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic, just 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 cause you to 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. Different 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 to your classroom. And, there’s no shortage of games to play. Some examples of games to play in class with your students are:
Jeopardy is based on the popular quiz-style game show, “Jeopardy!”. It’s a point-based question-and-answer game your students will love. To play, you’ll need a computer and a projector. Students can stay in their seats and view the game on the screen projector. You can find a Jeopardy template online that can make preparation easier. The template includes five topics and five questions per topic. 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 boards with 25 different 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.
Students win by completing a five-slot vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. 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 a vocabulary word on a sticky note and place it on the student’s forehead. Instruct students not to look at their sticky notes. This game is best for older students, because younger students may be tempted 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, where both students provide 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 of your students to sit in a circle. Then, before class starts, write multiple questions on each colored section of your beachball.
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 by their right thumb. 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 as well as 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 potentially be a safety hazard, this challenge is suited 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 and toothpick structure. Give them a reasonable amount of time to complete, around 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Once done, allow each group 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 own words on a piece of paper. Along with the real definition, have students come up with two fake definitions.
Once all groups are done, invite one group at a time to share their word. The presenting group should list all three definitions and have the other groups try to guess the right definition. The group who can trick other groups into guessing the wrong definitions win.
Playing dictionary is great when introducing new vocabulary or reviewing vocabulary from the last class.
Bonus — Student-Made Games
If you have a class period to spare, consider challenging your students to create their own game. When students create their own game, they have to deep-dive into the curriculum. This is a great 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 create and present 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 students’ game.
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