College and Career Readiness Standards require that students be able to apply the knowledge and skills that they learn during academic instruction. One way for students to demonstrate the skills that they have learned, in a safe environment, is through games. Games require critical thought, strategic thinking, and rapid responses. Games motivate students by making learning fun, they promote teamwork that identifies each team members’ strengths, and they encourage exploration of new concepts. These are skills that employers say they need the youth of today to possess, so I would like to suggest some strategies that allow teachers to easily incorporate games into their daily content.
Use old board games as a way to incorporate academic content.
Do you have an old Monopoly board, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or a checker board? Convert these board games into learning games within the classroom by using Velcro to attach vocabulary words, phonics sounds, math facts and formulas to the board. As students move around the board, they interact with the content that they land on, providing drill and practice in a fun way.
Play war with a deck of playing cards.
Use a deck of playing cards to play war for math facts. Students work in pairs for this activity. Each student draws a card, places it face up, and the first student to add or multiply the numbers that are face up, gets the cards. The “winner” is the student with the most cards.
Use choice boards to encourage creativity and exploration.
Choice boards can also be used to create a “game-like” environment for learning. Choose the standards that you want to address, create a theme, and then give students a choice of how they learn the content. For example, if the standards to be addressed are reading for understanding, perspective taking, and understanding historical events, then the theme could be based around Dr. Martin Luther King. Students could choose from activities that allowed them to read and write about Dr. King, read and re-enact an event from Dr. King’s life, create a game based on the life of Dr. King, or conduct video interviews with people that lived in Dr. King’s era.
Use drama as an option for expressing ideas
Have students create a monologue for an historical or contemporary figure and then enact the monologue for the class. Another option for this is to have them use mime instead of a monologue when they present their character. This is a great activity for students that have limited language skills. As students present their monologue or mime, the audience (the rest of the class) tries to guess the name of the character they are presenting. This can be done and points awarded or simply for the challenge. Think of this as a game of charades.
Use video games as learning tools
Mind Craft for the Classroom is one tool that could be used to provide students with elements of choice and exploration. Within the game, students are encouraged to “build” in various environments. When building, students are learning about architecture, proportion and ratios, and programing skills.
By using MAP data, Learning Continuum statements, and Skills Navigator’s Skill Locators to determine the content that students “play” with, teachers can rest assured that students are working on the appropriate skills that are in their zone of proximal development, so that they can make growth.
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