“Games greatest potential is that they’re worlds in a box. They allow you to create a world that somebody can be in and take on an identity. People learn most deeply when they take on a new identity that they really want.”
James Paul Gee, University of Wisconsin- Madison
When I was growing up, I loved playing all kinds of games. I’m pretty sure Red Rover and Hi Ho Cherry-O were tied for my favorite, but my enthusiasm for different games only grew throughout time. Games were a way to bring a group of people together on an even playing field. I led a service trip to a homeless shelter in DC a few years ago and this was the first real experience working and interacting with the homeless for most participants. Many were scared, nervous, unsure how to act or what their place was. So what did we do to remedy the anxiety? We played charades. Teams were divided at random so each team had students on the trip and adults who were in the shelter. The socio-economic divides that people were nervous about seemed to disappear when someone was trying to act out rainbows or toe jam.
Besides bringing people together and creating memorable experiences, games are also beneficial to the learning process. Your students will be putting what they learn to practice. Students increase math skills by rolling a dice and counting spaces. Word games encourage building vocabulary and other literacy skills. Overall, students enhance their problem solving and critical thinking skills by playing games.
Here are some ideas for games. Remember, games are meant to be played together, so join in the fun!
Scrabble is a tremendously educational game that fosters literacy and language skills. I get anxious and only can remember small words when I play, which might be the case for some of your learners. If this is the case, try scrabble junior first. Scrabble junior has large yellow letter tiles and players match letters to words already written on one side of the board. The other side has an open grid where your learner can create his or her own words. Feel out what is best for your student. Once your student gains confidence, encourage them to bring it home to their family for practice and fun!
Boggle is a great tool for teaching letters, words, spelling and matching skills. is played with a tray of 16 letter dice, which is shaken to get 16 random letters. Players have three minutes to find as many words as they can in the grid, according to the rules listed in the game. In Boggle Junior, the game comes with six-sided letter cubes and numerous picture cards that have the name of the object spelled below. Players place a card on a blue tray and use 3-4 letter cubes to copy the items spelling or they can hide the written words and spell the word just using the picture.
This is a new game that is a combination of Bingo and a matching game, great for enhancing quick thinking skills. It relies on a player’s ability to spot pictures and match them quickly to the words and pictures on his or her play card. The first player to complete a line wins. This would work well if you are working with an ESL student. Feel free to create your own game with words/pictures you are learning!