Are you a football fan? The Super Bowl seems to turn nearly everyone into one, if only for a single day. I usually watch it with a group of friends, mostly for the social aspect and, of course, the commercials. What is it about a game that generates such enthusiasm among us? Games used to be thought of as only occurring on the playground during recess, but they are also useful (if done well) in the classroom. There are many variations on games and game-like activities that can easily be incorporated into your classroom instruction. In today’s post, I’m going to focus on two – cooperative learning structures and task cards.
Games Based on Cooperation
First, using cooperative learning structures will supply a teacher with an almost endless amount of options. I like to use Kagan structures because they are simple, but based on solid principles of what makes cooperative learning so effective. Here are just a few of my favorite structures:
- Numbered Heads Together
- Inside-Outside Circle
For example, when it comes time to teach my grammar unit on types of sentences, I like to use Mix-Freeze-Group as guided practice rather than completing yet another printable. I create a set of sample sentences in PowerPoint and display them on my interactive whiteboard. Actually seeing the sentence helps students who are more visually oriented. Your auditory learners will just rely on hearing you say it, of course. The structure also helps kinesthetic learners since they get to move around during this “game.” Create a code for each type of sentence that determines the number of students in each group. For example, students would form a group of 2 if you show a declarative sentence but they would form a group of 3 for an imperative. Here’s how it works –
- Mix – students walk around the classroom.
- Freeze – call out “Freeze” so the mixing stops.
- Group – show/state the sentence. Students determine the type of sentence and form a group accordingly.
Task Card Games
Task cards also provide a source for games in your classroom. These materials have often been relegated to learning centers, but I’ve recently been using them to play two different (but similar) games with my students – SCOOT and Switch! Use a set of task cards, and distribute one card per student. Students read and answer the question on the card and write their response, either on an answer form or simply in a notebook. After a minute or two, tell students to, “Scoot!” The task card stays on the desk, but every students moves to the next desk. The routine continues until students have returned to their seats. Switch is a similar game, except that it’s the cards that get moved instead of the students. Don’t have enough cards? Pair students up to play the game.
Games inject a sense of fun into the classroom, and fun helps to embed the content/skills being practiced more firmly into students’ memory. It doesn’t have to be complicated or chaotic to be effective.