3 Reasons to Play Games in the Classroom

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Do you play games in the classroom?
I’ve always enjoyed playing games in my classroom. My kids look forward to them and can’t wait until center time to practice their skills while at the same time playing a game. I play games with my own kids at home and have seen them reason through difficult concepts and use critical thinking skills. Some people think playing games in the classroom is for “down time” or just use it as an incentive.
Here are my top three reasons why I think you should be playing academic games every single day in your classroom:
1) Engagement: The most boring and difficult concepts can immediately create excitement when practiced through a game. Kids get excited at the thought of  “playing” in class. They enjoy the collaboration, getting to talk to one another, and healthy competition.
One of the most tedious and difficult skills I have encountered in  my math classroom is long division. Kids struggle with the steps and often get frustrated trying to solve problem after problem. I have put this skill to work through a variety of games and have seen immediate motivation, engagement, and yes mastery. Because kids want to play, they are eager to get the problems correct.  I’ve had teachers who’ve used the games tell me that their kids have begged them to play again and again. Imagine that! Kids wanting to do long division!!
2) Life Skills: There are many life skills that students can learn trough games: collaboration, communication skills, healthy competition, learning through mistakes, critical thinking, teamwork.
I am always amazed at the conversations kids have when playing these academic games. The way they explain the concepts to each other or correct each other’s thinking is extraordinary. They also learn that in life you don’t always win. I make it a point to teach them what to do when you win. No boasting! And for the loser, I tell them to thank the person for playing a good game and to not make comments about why they lost, such as “I didn’t try hard enough” or “This game is stupid.” Making such comments shows weakness. These are actually one of the 55 rules of Mr. Ron Clark, an amazing educator and founder of the the Ron Clark Academy.
3) It’s research based: Robert J. Marzano has been involved in over 60 studies conducted by classroom teachers on the effects of games on student achievement. The studies showed that, on average, using academic games in the classroom is associated with a 20 percentile point gain in student achievement. How cool is that? Having fun while at the same time increasing engagement and achievement. It’s a win-win situation.
Here are some games I have used in my classroom that have been a total hit with my students.

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