Classroom games are some of the best tools a teacher has.
And while Apples to Apples has its place, I’m talking games that ratchet understanding of daily objectives. In other words, games will transform your classroom.
Why use Classroom Games
Students learn better when they’re laughing. And classroom games get them there like nothing else.
But let’s look closer at WHY games work so well.
We all know — when a child has something on their mind (an argument with a friend, a sick pet) they don’t learn. Not long-term, anyway.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
As the psychologist Maslow pointed out, people need their basic needs met before learning can happen.
First and second levels
First the Physiological needs. Clothing, shelter, warmth, sleep, air, water and food. Without these, they’re just surviving.
The next — Safety. Knowing they won’t be hurt, either physically or mentally. A child that doesn’t feel safe doesn’t learn.
Kids who lack these fundamentals can appear listless, depressed, or angry.
At this point, games won’t help kids succeed. Games might distract them, but basic needs must be met before the child has any chance of learning.
Third and Fourth Levels
The third level is Social Belonging. Knowing people care you’re there. Whether it’s friends, classmates, teachers, the principal, teammates.
Then you happily bounce up to Esteem. Self-esteem and knowing people respect you.
This is the fun one: Self-Actualization. When the kid reaches their potential.
How classroom games bounce you up the hierarchy
Games are the diving board that spring then from level 3 and 4 to self-actualization, a stuffy word for a wonderful thing.
Classroom games are huge for social belonging. In fact, I have my kids play games in week 1, because it breaks down the shyness barrier.
Students make natural connections with each other. The pressure’s off because the focus is on the game, not directly on each other.
As they learn the rules and skill together — with some fun competition thrown in — the kids feel a friendly intimacy with each other. Suddenly they belong!
It’s fun to watch. Their body language change within minutes. They look looser and giddy!
And while all the fun’s happening? They’re mastering the skill you’re teaching.
Which leads to Esteem. Now they feel smart. They’re owning the skill. (And they have a witness in the other player.)
The how of classroom games
So that’s the why. The how requires experimentation until you find your sweet spot.
You can start off a lesson with a short game to reinforce a skill you taught earlier. Or you can let kids play after their other work is done.
Picking a skill
You know your kids and you know what they need. If you want them to practice the skill you just taught, do that. But if they need to revisit an earlier lesson, dust off that standard with a game so it’s fresh in their minds.
Differentiating the levels need not be a chore. Give them choice when you can. For example, when my kids practice their state with State Bump, I’ll let them choose whether or not to use the answer keys with no penalties or not.
Organizing classroom games
First print the games.
Then laminate and cut.
Finally, glue one of the gameboards to the front of a 2-pocket folder.
And throw the game pieces inside. Done!
It can be helpful to color code by subject, so you can find what you need faster. So blue for math, for example, green for social studies, etc. That way you can find what you need even quicker.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- How have you noticed games change your class?
- OR … How can you use more games in your class to bring kids up Maslow’s ladder?
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