Wednesday, July 10, 2013

3 Games To Make Content Fun & Memorable

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.      - Dale Carnegie

by @schink10 

     I have recently written about my frustration with the education system's "obsession" with content.  It seems to be the only thing that the authority figures in education care about.  School and education is much more than this, though.  We must begin to improve our students 21st century skills, ability to learn how to learn, passion and enthusiasm for learning, and their life skills in order to prepare them for the future.  With this being said, I am not denying that content is important.  Most of it is.  The only way you can problem solve or think critically about something, is if you know some of the background knowledge.  Students do need to get some content, but how? (I still think the most effective way is through Com-Passion Based Learning....please check out my blog on this topic at: - shameless plug....sorry.

In the majority of classrooms that I have been in and observed, there is a "sit and get" format of a teacher lecturing and the students are writing down facts in a notebook.  THE STUDENTS ARE NOT ENGAGED IN THEIR LEARNING.  Most students I talk to say they dislike school and learning.  Most students say they hate science!  Come on!  That shouldn't be possible.  We are doing something wrong.  I have heard many teachers say that the students need to know the information because we "told them they need to".  This isn't good enough for two reasons:  

*  Students have a right to question why they need to know some things.  Honestly, I do not see why they need to know about the phases of mitosis, the Kreb's Cycle, Calvin Cycle, and so on.  Can you give a good answer as to "WHY" your students should learn what you are teaching?

                                 Are you kidding me?  WHY?

*  If students are not engaged, they are not really learning.  They may do well on a test for a specific unit because of our "Carrot & Sticks" method of grading, but they WILL NOT remember that information.  

We need to get students passionate and enthusiastic about the content in order for them to take ownership.


I have three quick games that I think do a few things:

1.  They are fun.  Students will usually have a blast playing these games and ask to play them more often.

2.  They engage students in a deeper form of learning and a the need to be an active participant.

3.  They tap into most students' natural "game-mode" of thinking in which competition exists.

4.  Students will often remember this information much longer because of the connections that they made.

PICTIONARY:  This is not any creative innovation.  This game is very old, but very useful.  Providing students with terms, people, and concepts that are in the unit being studied and engaging them in discussions offers a way for them to take responsibility for their learning.  Since the information is handed out, less time is needed for lecturing.  Instead play Pictionary.

Write down a reasonable number of words associated with the unit (or review words from previous units).  Divide the class into two groups.  Have group #1 send up a person to "draw".  They have 45 seconds to draw the term/person/concept and their teammates (who do not know the word) need to guess the word.  They cannot use any letters, numbers, and cannot act or talk.  JUST DRAW!  If they fail to get it after 45 seconds, someone from team 2 can steal the point by guessing it correctly.  Then team #2 goes and you keep rotating back and forth.  

This is a great way to have the students think about the content in a deeper way.  They have to draw it, so must be able to interpret its meaning.  It is a fun, competitive, quality way to learn the content.

TABOO:   This is another old board game concept, but with many of the same benefits as Pictionary.  In this game, the teacher creates cards with the terms/words on it (very similar to Pictionary).  This time however, the student will talk to their team and try to have them guess the term.  The teacher must list 5-6 words below the main word that the student CANNOT SAY.  Below is an example:


words they cannot say:
*  President
*  America
*  1st
*  Cherry Tree
*  Country
*  Leader

A person from the opposing team stands next to the person talking in order to make sure they do not slip up and say one of these words.  If they do, their does not get any points.

It is also important that you imply the rule that you cannot say "rhymes with" or "sounds like" or any other rules that may become necessary. This game is not fun if the person says "rhymes with Morge Poshington.

I HAVE, WHO HAS:  This game is very fun and keeps everyone extremely engaged.  The teacher  must create a deck of cards (slightly larger than the class size).  On one side the card says I HAVE: (along with a term) ... on the other side it says WHO HAS: (with a question or statement).  The teacher must be sure to create a deck that flows perfectly.  In other words, create the first card with a question only.  On the second card, first do "I HAVE: (and the correct answer)" and then put the question on the other side.  On the third card.....etc..... until on the last card you put the answer on the "I HAVE" section of the first card.

Warning:  Do not # the cards.  I actually had a friend do this!  The students catch on quick and seem to be whizzing through the vocabulary, when in fact they are just going in order.

Because the deck creates a full circle, you can call on anyone to start....and it ends when it gets back to them.  You keep track of the amount of time that it takes the class to get through the entire deck.  If someone makes an error, I collect the cards and hand them back out with the clock running.  The class gets very into this and stares around the room at each other shaking saying "I know this one".  Eventually everyone knows every term and it doesn't take long for this to happen.  After a while you need to create new decks because they just get used to the order.

Take a picture of the class with the best time for that deck.  Post it on the wall.  Make them feel special and then let every class try to beat their record.  This is fun.

Please let me know if you have any questions on these games.  I am not sure I did a great job explaining them, however, I have had a lot of success and fun using them over the past years.

Also, please let me know if you have any fun games that have helped you reinforce content in the classroom.

Oliver Schinkten
Communities at Oshkosh North High School
Twitter:  @schink10

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please engage in the discussion. I would love to hear what you have to say!