I have a student teacher. Last week while planning his lessons, he decided that he really needed to engage the students in order to heighten their excitement and attitude toward his learning goals.
And what did he create?
Because playing games is fun. When we are having fun, we tend to stay focused and engaged on the activity at hand.
He incorporated every academic objective and goal into the plan but organized the learning activities into a simple yet fun game that involved the attention of all the students. The enthusiasm and the energy among my students that resulted from playing a game were enlightening. It reminded me of how too often as we find ourselves trying to meet state and district requirements, we fail to grab and hold the attention of our children for long periods of time.
There are practical and sensible reasons why we may not turn to playing a game during our school days. One is the lack of time we have to even complete what is required. I believe that with finesse, we can manage a game or two into our schedules each day.
A teacher does not have to create his/her own games to achieve this goal. The games do not have to be elaborate and there are many excellent educational ones on the market that fit right in with academic standards. Simple guessing games, such as Thinkit Linkit, which involves solving riddles using rhyming words, can be played while waiting in line or can be written into morning language work. Portrayal, a game involving one person giving details while others draw, can be modified into a quick, five minute play with the teacher doing the describing. It can be played at the end of the day after backpacks have been loaded or just before lunch if everyone cleans up quickly. Amuse Amaze, a spelling tile-type of game, can be set up and played and then remain in place for a future time just as Chess can.
We teachers are very resourceful and often arrive at ideas simply out of necessity. It is my hope that many fellow educators will remember that children stay focused and engaged when they are enjoying an activity, and incorporating games into learning is one way to achieve that high level of interest, focus, and engagement.