Monday, May 7, 2012

Using Games in the Classroom

by Rosshalde Pak

Related Teachers Pay Teachers Storefront: Rosshalde Pak 

Who doesn’t like to play games? Games are fun, interactive, and social. Being able to bring games into your classroom is a fantastic way to break up the monotony of reading textbooks, or they are great closing activities at the ends of units. However, when there are so many demands placed on educators, who are standards-focused, it can be tricky to incorporate games into your classroom lesson plans. 

Many teachers shy away from games completely because they don’t want their principal to walk in and ask why students are playing instead of learning. Yet, games reinforce concepts, skills, and curriculum materials. Below are some ways to integrate games into students’ learning: 

1. Flashcards
Every teacher has a set of flashcards in their classroom. They are a fast time fillers or quick ways to review concepts. Along the same lines are cards with images on one side and words on another. These are convenient for younger students, specialized learning needs students, or high school students learning foreign languages. Students can create their own flashcards for whole class use, in centers, or with partners. 

2. Math
Making a game with math concepts is fun, and easy. Any of the basics can be used: numbers to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, or fractions with images, geometric shapes or concepts, variables with algebra. There are a variety of games that can be played with math, such as flashcards, memory, bingo, and fast facts. 

3. Spelling and Grammar
Having students correctly understand pronunciation of words or how to spell those words is very important. Furthermore, understanding grammar and parts of speech is equally as valuable. Give students sentences then time how long it takes to correctly identify the parts of speech. These are helpful ideas when working with English language learners or students with specialized learning needs.

4. Vocabulary
Learning new vocabulary is easier when flashcards or bingo games are used. Also, try using words or images placed onto boards with clues or definitions on opposite sides. To challenge advanced students, draw or give examples of terms that are not definitions then see if students are able to guess correct terminology. 

5. Time Filler
Have an assembly today and just 20 minutes to do a lesson? Why not play a game? Finished the lesson early with ten minutes before the end of class? Games as time fillers have to be fast activities that take little to no prep time. A time filler game is a fun and easy way to use up minutes yet accomplish meaningful learning.

6. Substitute Teacher
Having a few, detailed, lengthy games prepared for a substitute to use can be a huge sigh of relief for everyone. A bingo game is so packed with educational tidbits that teachers say it’s a lifesaver when they have a substitute. Jeopardy is another perfect example of meaningful learning when you have a guest teacher.

7. At the End of a (Thematic) Unit
Why not take a whole class period (or two) to have a game day and review bits and pieces of a thematic unit? Jeopardy and bingo are great games to integrate a lot of in-depth material into classroom learning time.

8. Science Experiments
Think about games and science experiments, such as in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. In Potions class, Professor Slughorn gives students chances to compete to win Liquid Luck. Obviously, we aren’t working with witches and wizards, but the same game rules apply. Give students chances to compete by using science topics, such as the best and safest experiments.

9. Speak to Strengths and Weaknesses
Play games with concepts and skills that students struggle with. The same games can be used to challenge advanced students, too. By having games and activities that allow students to work individually or in pairs, the pressure of having to ‘perform’ in front of classmates disappears.

Games can be used with kindergartners to high school students. It’s the subject matter and the level of materials used that make the difference to students who are playing the games.

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