I DO try to make the games a FAIR setting for all students, and I DON’T allow students to be so competitive that they lose site of “fun”. Here’s FIVE of the reasons I like to use games in my classroom.
1-Games feel like “playing”.
2-Competitive Games can foster improved student participation and learning.
3-Games can channel and burn off ENERGY.
4-Games can encourage classroom community and a sense of belonging.
5-Games are easy to relate to-especially for the “sports-kids”.
GAMES FEEL LIKE PLAYING
We’ve all been there–time to “clean the house”, “post the grades”, “do the laundry”. So much fun! Not really–usually if there’s a reward or it’s a game, as Mary Poppins said; “It makes the medicine go down,” so much easier. (By the way–i used to sing that to my kids when we did chores.) There’s a lot of ways to use bean bags in the classroom. Take your simple to play and ever popular “hot potato” and twist it just a bit to add in some excitement for upper elementary students. Instead of the student with the bean bag sitting out–have them answer a question-or read something-or do something. I’ve had students clap rhythms, recite the lyrics to a song, sing a melody, dance and pantomime something. You can use that game for Math Facts, Vocabulary Tests, Informational Text comprehension check, and for Identifying concepts like colors, numbers, letters. Playing games is another opportunity for leaning.
GAMES IMPROVE STUDENT LEARNING
Playing games gives children opportunities to develop their gross motor skills, increase balance and enhance directionality, which is important for reading skills.
Activities that encourage movement across the midline get the Right and Left brain to work together. They also strengthen one side of the body which helps with fine motor skills. I feel like it’s an important part of my job to help students use their trunk to cross that midline. That means that they “twist” and “move” to the other side of their body, and use the body part on the other side–whew–that’s a tough one. Take your right foot and cross over and step in front of your left foot-that’s the idea! When you play card games or with instruments, encourage children to reach across the body to pick up cards or sticks.
How about Musical Twister? You can make a playing area out of an old sheet, carpet or squares. Make it 4 sides with 6 dots on one side and 4 on the other. Place the symbols on the dots/squares. Divide your class into 4 teams. Teams choose a card from the pile and 1 player has to match it by placing a foot or hand on the dot. Teams continue to take turns until it’s a total musical mess!
GAMES CHANNEL ENERGY
I can feel it when they walk into the room. The pent up volcanic mix of emotions and physical energy is ready to explode in my classroom. That’s when I change my game. Yep–I am a huge procedure driven teacher, but changing the procedure and surprising them with something new and exciting will give students an opportunity to “let it go” in a positive way.
Just this year I organized a bunch of Boogie-Woogie, Jazz, Blues, Scat music to use as transition activites. My kids LOVE it! I played a little Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Eric Clapton (You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog) and Scatman, along with a bunch of other material. (And of course danced like a crazy person). There was always a mini-music lesson too- but the main reason I used these songs was to help students channel their energy. Then I went into the regular lesson material.
GAMES ENCOURAGE CLASSROOM COMMUNITY
I like games that foster working together-not winning. Bean bag activities are easy to do on the spur of the moment or to use as an “official” activity. That’s why I think I’ve been inspired to make up several Bean Bag Activity resources. There’s a great need for “games” that foster good feelings between students and also to use as Brain Breaks.
Bean Bags activities are a great way to build classroom unity. Once students have the procedures down, you’ll be able to switch into “playing” mode pretty easily. Practicing making a circle in your classroom, and assigning students to be in charge of the “bean bags” are two ways I’ve discovered that help out in the transition from “seat work” to “game”. Students need the procedures and practice so that they can transition easily without a lot of disturbance.
KIDS RELATE EASILY TO GAMES
I was a sports kid–actually pretty good at softball and baseball, then basketball and bad-mitten–so I get the “sports” kid. I relate a lot of my lessons and ways to learn things to sports-especially when we’re getting ready for concerts. More kids have played soccer than sang in a chorus-so I use it!
So when I talk to my kids about “working together”, I’ll ask them what their coach would say? Or, I’ll ask them if working together is part of being on a team? What happens when someone tries to dominate the game? What happens when someone isn’t fair? What happens when we work together? YAY!
I wrote a great article about 10 WAYS TO USE BALLS IN THE CLASSROOM, if you want some ideas about that-
There are so many reasons to include bean bag activities into your classroom routines and activities. That’s why I’ve created these resources just for teachers! They are easy to use and don’t require a lot of prep. There’s not even any cards or signs to make. Mostly, you’ll just need a CD player, some bean bags and a good attitude! Here’s what Music Teachers are saying about “Bean Bag Activity Songs”: “The end is near – my K classes have music 3 more times – I need to keep them moving and engaged, and they still need to keep practicing steady beat. They will love this! I’ll also do the activities early in the year next fall so I can incorporate this in my sub tub. Thanks!”
Many classroom teachers use bean bags to play games with students and help them learn literacy and math skills. Here’s a free resource you can use tomorrow-
Use this fun “Heart Beat” Song to help students learn to pass on the BEAT! As an extension activity-or what I call LEVEL 2! I divide the class into 2 circles and have Circle 1 play on the beat and Circle 2 Play the Melody Rhythm. Super fun and helps teach the difference between STEADY BEAT and RHYTHM- something I work on ALL the time. FREEBIE “HEARTBEAT”