When I was teaching in the classroom full time, I was always afraid that my principal would walk in when students were playing a learning game. Why? Because sometimes when students are playing games, it can get a little...shall I say...rowdy? I was afraid that my principal would walk in on one of the rowdier moments and think that I didn't have control over my class.
The reality? Sometimes learning is rowdy. I wish I would have spent less time being worried about what it looked like, and spent more time feeling proud of what that rowdiness actual meant. It meant that students actually cared about what they were learning through that game. If they didn't care, they would have no reason to get rowdy.
Do you ever feel that same way? Sometime we focus so much on making sure our classroom looks picture perfect, and we forget that as long as learning is happening, it's a win - even if a pair of dice does find their way being "accidentally" tossed across the room. :)
Here are 5 things I wish I would have focused more on when I played games in my classroom:
1// Students learn not just about a concept when playing a game, but they learn through the process of playing a game.
- Games give a new concept a whole new perspective. You take the concept off paper and you put it into action. By actually DOING the concept students LEARN the concept.
2// Games provide an environment for learning to be engaging.
- Put a bunch of vocabulary words and definitions on a piece of paper for students to memorize and you *might* get 75% retention. Put a "mystery" vocabulary word on a headband (like I described in this guest post) and have students walk around playing a game asking yes/no question to help them guess their word - Now you've got engagement. Meaningful engagement.
3// Games give students lasting positive memories that learning can be and should be fun.
- Students WILL remember how they learned. It will either be a positive memory or a negative one. They WILL remember that they hated math because all they did was worksheet after worksheet. They will also remember that Mrs. So-and-So in the 4th grade was the first teacher to make math fun because "all you did was play games" (teacher translation: you tricked students into doing work because you disguised that work in the form of a fun game)
4// With games, you're not just teaching a learning skill, your teaching life skills.
- In the primary grades these life skills might include simple things like how to take turns and learning that it's OK to not win a game. In the intermediate grades, students learn the life skills of encouraging each other in their learning, thinking critically, and learning how to be strategic.
- I mean, think about it. The instant you say you're about to play again, students perk up and start looking around the room for who their partner is going to be :) You get their instant attention and they want to know more. Try getting that same reaction when you say "please get out your workbooks."
Now - let's talk reality for a moment. Can every activity in your room be replaced with a game? Of course not. But boy there sure are a lot of ways to sneak them in!
And when you do, be proud, my teacher friend, be proud! You're that teacher that is making positive learning memories for that one child that used to hate math.