Incorporating Games Into Classroom Curriculum

Games are a motivating way to help students practice important skills and reinforce learning.

By Jacqueline Dwyer


Incorporating Games into Classroom Curriculum

Games are a quick and easy way to motivate children, and to foster an atmosphere of friendship and cooperation in the classroom. They can be adapted to suit the age and ability level of your students, and used across the curriculum at any point in the school year. The following games have worked well in my classroom, when both time and space have been limited.

Learning About Order

A popular game that can help students practice organizational and team work skills is called Line Up. Children in elementary school line up many times a day so it is fun to make a game of it. When students play the game Line Up, they arrange themselves in order according to different criteria. Middle to upper elementary students might enjoy lining up according to their age, but you don't want to make it too easy.

Begin by telling students that they are going to line up according to their age. Once students understand the basic idea, suggest that they use different criteria to arrange themselves in order. They can start by lining up according to the year they were born, then their birth month, and, finally, by their birth date. If two children happen to share the same birthday, they should line up according to their time of birth, if they know it. If not, morning or evening will suffice. If you think your students can do this activity without getting overexcited, make it harder for them by giving them a time limit! A variation on this game would be to have students use alphabetizing skills to line up according to the first letter of the street they live on. If more than one student lives on a street that starts with the same letter, they have to work together to figure out who comes first by alphabetizing using the second, or even the third, letter.

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

This is one of my favorite puzzle games. It requires a little preparation, but it's definitely worth it! You begin by laminating pictures related to a teaching theme, and then cut each picture into a number of puzzle pieces, depending on the age of your students. Next, you hand a puzzle piece to each student. Then you ask students to walk quietly around the classroom to find their puzzle mates. As an extra challenge, use pictures that are similar looking. For example, if you’re teaching a unit on plants, you could use similarly-colored examples that had leaves of different sizes or shapes. You might want to invite other teachers to contribute their own homemade puzzles. This way, you can have a collection of puzzles that travels from classroom to classroom around the school.

An Addition Game

Students in elementary grades never grow tired of playing an addition game called Digits. First, you place your students in pairs, facing each other. Then you count to three. On three, students hold out their hands, showing different amounts of fingers. Whoever identifies how many fingers the other person is holding out first is the winner. You can adapt this game for use with preschool students by asking them to hold out the fingers on only one hand. For older students, you can ask them to multiply the number of fingers they see.

It's All in a Phrase

The game Phrases works well when you are introducing a new topic that students might find confusing, or that contains a lot of information. It’s also a great way for students to practice their listening skills. You start by writing keywords or phrases on sentence strips, then you hand them to students. Once you start teaching the topic, students have to listen carefully for the keyword or phrase on their sentence strip. When they hear it, they put it up on the board. Once you are done with your lesson, you can use the strips to play the game again to review what students have learned. This time, however, students are given additional sentence strips, handed out at random, containing details related to the keyword or phrase. When I mention the phrase, both the student with the phrase and the student with the details relating to that phrase put the strips up on the board at the same time. What follows are some more ways to incorporate games into classroom curriculum.

Games Lesson Plans:

Game Shows in the Classroom

Students review recently learned material by following the format of several popular game shows.

Go Fish Card Game for Recognition of Vocabulary Words

Students review vocabulary words using a teacher-made pack of Go Fish cards.

Invent a Great New Game!

Students collaborate with a partner to come up with their own unique games. They write the rules and demonstrate the game for their classmates.