Game Tournaments in the Classroom
By Leah Sugar
Game tournaments aren’t just for gamers! They can be a great classroom activity as well. Setting up a game tournament feels like a break for students, but it is also a great way to reinforce math and language arts skills and to develop positive interpersonal communication, cooperation, and healthy competition in the classroom.
The key to a successful tournament is selecting a game that has a structure that will work for a large group as well as promoting the desired academics skill. Games for tournaments need to be easy to learn, quick to play and have a definite winner. There are spelling, vocabulary, math, visual arts and geography games that can be excellent tournament games. Lengthy games should be avoided as well as those where players are 'out' before the game ends.
Setting up a game tournament is easy and can be a great exercise for the students. Here are three formats that work well in classroom: single elimination, round robin and points system.
In a single elimination tournament, each player plays one game, the winner or winners move on to the next round and everyone else is out—think of the NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets. The upside to this type of tournament is that it is easy to set up and there is a clear winner. The downside is that students may only get to play one game and may be out long before a winner is determined.
In a round robin tournament, everyone plays everyone else and the player with the most wins is the overall winner. A round robin allows everyone to play an equal number of games, but can take a very long time if you have a lot of students. Round robin style tournaments are often used when there are an odd number of players for the game, for example, if your game is a two player game and you have three students.
The last tournament style is a points system. This is the most flexible style of tournament. It can be set up in any way that is conducive to the situation. Some examples are: two points for a win, one point for second place, or first place gets one point, second place gets two points, etc. with low score being the winner. This type of tournament works very well when you are not sure how much time you will have, and you want all of the students playing all of the time.
Once a game is selected and the tournament set up, it’s important to set the tone. Displaying a good attitude toward both winning and losing is a given, but students should also be encouraged to take risks. Leader boards are a great way to encourage students and to build excitement. To add even more fun, choose team names or nick names. Finally, having a small prize for the winner is always fun. It could be as simple as a paper crown or something to display on their desk.
A game tournament in your classroom is a great opportunity for your students to develop social skills, reinforce academics skills, and have fun. Even better—if a group of students has the opportunity to set up a tournament, they will enjoy the challenge and feel proud to bring this experience to the rest of the classroom.
Here are some of my company's games that work great in tournaments:
- 7 Ate 9 (Mathematics)
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! Players add, or subtract, 1, 2, or 3 to the number on the top card on the pile to determine if they have a card that can be played next. Sounds simple, but with everyone playing simultaneously, the options are constantly changing. The first player out of cards wins!
- Word on the Street (Spelling and Language Arts)
On each turn, one team flips over a category card. Team members frantically brainstorm words that fit the category while the opposition tries to sidetrack them. The team must agree on a word and pull each letter of that word one lane closer to their side of the street, all before the time runs out.
- 10 Days in the USA (Geography)
Another destination in the 10-Days Travel Series. You have 10 Days in the USA – Travel the country by jet, car, and on foot. Plan your trip from start to finish using destination and transportation tiles. With a little luck and clever planning, you just might outwit your fellow travelers. The first traveler to make connections for their 10 day journey wins the game.
Leah Sugar is VP of Marketing for Out of the Box Publishing, based in Madison, Wisconsin. She has been in the game industry for eleven years.