Reading, Strategies

5 un-Bored Games for Your Classroom

This summer has been all about games for our families! Traditional, unplugged, games. (In fact, as this post is being written, there’s a mean game of Uno being played downstairs.) Why? Because everybody loves games! They’re fun. They’re engaging. And… they’re easy enough for anyone to play. You don’t have to be the most talented athlete or the smartest kid in the room to be successful at a typical board game. Jenga? You only need a study hand.  Twister? A little flexibility goes a long way! Operation? Well… you get the idea.

Think about your own classroom. How can you take your favorite games and transform them for your students to harness the excitement of competition and the power of student engagement and team-building?  Try these educational twists of our best-loved childhood games to bring the fun to your classroom instruction:

5 unBORED Games for the Classroom

Scattergories. Create a game card with a number of different categories related to the unit you are studying.  For example, in English class, a card might feature the following list for a vocabulary unit: Noun, Adjective, Verb, and Adverb.  Now, roll the letter die that comes with the game or simply choose a random letter of the alphabet. The twist is that students must complete their lists using only answers that begin with the selected letter. Use this simple Scattergories template to create your own game cards using Google Docs!

Jenga. Number all of the blocks in your Jenga stack.  As students select a block, they must answer a question from a list that corresponds with the number on the block they removed.  Answer the question right, and the block goes back on the top of the stack. Answer the question wrong, and the block is removed from play. The winning group is the team who creates the highest Jenga tower with the least number of blocks removed from the stack.  Want to make a real crash? Try using Giant Jenga- but be careful- those blocks fall hard! 

CandyLand.  Think about a current classroom unit and come up with FIVE basic categories. (Reading a class novel? Categories like Characters, Plot, Conflict, Setting, and Random work perfectly!)  Assign each of your five categories a different color from the Candy Land game board. Then, create 5-10 questions per category. Students spin the provided spinner and advance their token to the color indicated.  The student is then asked a question from the corresponding color. Answer correctly and the student stays on that space. Incorrect? The student moves back to their previous spot on the board. For added fun, keep the other rules from the original game in tact.  Come on…who wouldn’t want to cross a rainbow bridge to sneak to a further level in the game?

Memory.  Use index cards to recreate this old time favorite.  Select 8-10 vocabulary terms. On one card, list a vocabulary term.  On the other, print the term’s definition. Place the cards face down and have students try to find the matches. Find a matching pair?  Keep the cards. No match? The cards are placed back into play in the same location on the “board.” Short on time? Check out Filppity’s newest feature for creating a digital version of this childhood great.

Cup Stacking.  (Yes, it’s a thing!) Grab a sleeve of solo cups and label each with terms that need to be placed in order.  In English class, you could try the elements of plot: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Rising Action; Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. This also works great with any sequencing exercise!  Students must work together to stack the cups in the correct order with only a half sheet of paper between each one. As a bonus, have them remove the sheets of paper in order to get the cups to fall into a neat stack.  Confused? Maybe this image will help.

Need even more ideas to gamify your classroom and recycle long-forgotten board games? Just ask your students!  Give them a voice and have them transform a classroom concept using a game from their own childhood. You might be amazed at their “outside the (game) box” thinking when it comes to gamifying their own learning.


Bringing Summer Magic into the Classroom

Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of parents celebrating as school supplies are being purchased and first-day outfits are being picked out. That’s right… for many districts around the country, the first day of school is fast approaching!  Now, whether your summer was spent poolside, beachfront, or in your minivan chauffeuring the travel team from tournament to tournament, summer always brings with it a feeling of magic. The warmer weather. The freedom from lesson-planning. The vacation from essays screaming to be graded. 

And with the end of this summer magic in sight, the first day back to the classroom tends to bring with it a mixture of excitement and sadness. But what if this year, we carry that summer magic back to school with us? What if we were able to hold onto that magic for a little bit longer? 

10 Ways to Create Summer Magic in the Classroom 

  1. Wear your sunglasses. That’s right. Sunglasses. Start off a lesson wearing shades and don’t say a word. Then jump into how you have a bright idea. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, the fact that you were wearing sunglasses will hook the kids and get them excited for what’s next. Heck, go all out and play a little 80’s rock to show them just how bright the future will be! 
  2. Visit somewhere new. Whether it is an impromptu journey to read outside under a tree or a virtual field trip somewhere they haven’t been before, it doesn’t matter. New experiences equal new memories. Let’s make them in our classrooms.
  3. Go “All-Inclusive”. Give your students problems and challenges that require them to tap into everything they have learned the previous year. What you’ll gain at this all-inclusive: a clear idea of where your students are, a map so you can meet them there, and snapshot of the personalities in the room!
  4. Crank some tunes. A little island music can help make anything seem a bit more fun. Fractions? No thank you. Island fractions? Why, yes please! 
  5. Forget about homework. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. One of the best things about summer is the fact the families don’t have to worry about spending countless hours on homework; they just get to spend time together. The start of a new school year can be stressful for our littles, so ease into the year with a homework hiatus, and watch your students’ attitudes about school change for the better.
  6. Do something active. Whether it’s getting up and going on a nature walk as part of a lesson or simply employing GoNoodle to get kids out of their seat, make an effort to get them up and moving. Part of the magic of summer is the fact that we are always on the move!
  7. Open the windows. Let the sun shine in. Let the warm breezes and summer smells fill the classroom. Winter weather will be here soon enough. 
  8. Read a book. Put time aside to just read. And let your students read what they want. Even in core subject classes, you can build in opportunities for student choice regarding reading. Historical fiction and nonfiction can help give students a better understanding of what they are learning in class. Plus, when students can empathize with a character and her situation, you have a better chance of making a topic more meaningful and relevant. 
  9. Make time to share. All summer long, my social media feeds were filled with pics of my friends’ summer adventures. What does that tell me? People like to share! It makes them feel good. It makes them feel empowered. Allow time for your students to share what makes them happy. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. 
  10. Visit the bathroom freely. Oh, wait. You’re a teacher. Never mind.