How To Use Games in the Primary Classroom

As I blogged about earlier, I believe games are a must in the primary classroom.  {Read more HERE if you want to know why.}  But that doesn’t mean we play board games all day long in my primary classroom.

And just because I know it’s important to play games doesn’t mean it’s easy to squeeze in to my already crammed schedule…amirite??

So how can we play good, meaningful strategy games in the classroom that we know are worthwhile in the middle of our busy day?

Play Games at Math Stations

Whether you use stations or centers during guided reading time or math rotations during guided math, games are a perfect addition here.  Before I got scared of pulling out board games in my classroom, I had a station devoted to puzzles and games.

To sharpen those academic skills I blogged about earlier, I like to model the games together first on our ELMO projector before I add them to a station, or during the mini-lesson in guided math if the skills match our goals for the week.  This way,  I can reinforce the skills I want kids to develop.  So it sounds something like this if we are modeling Checkers…

“When it’s my turn, I’m thinking, ‘If I play move here, what will his next move be?’ and ‘Is this the most reasonable place for me to play?’ I’m always thinking of multiple places for me to play and analyzing which spot is the most efficient.” 

I’m basically doing a Think Aloud using those key words from our math practices and also directly modeling problem solving skills and higher order analysis and strategy.  These skills take practice and modeling to learn well.  Stations and Math Rotations in Guided Math are the perfect place to hone these skills

Play Games for Early Finishers

I soooooo wish I had thought of using games and puzzles for my early finishers when I was in the classroom.

I love having a puzzle table set up with large puzzles at home….Can you imagine how fun it would be when someone finally finished our class puzzle?!?

Plus, strategy games are perfect for early finishers.  Because, typically, our early finishers are hungry for a challenge.  Providing single player games like Jenga and multi-player games like battleship and checkers would be just enough to provide quieter games that engage all learners, but also take time to finish to build their stamina and focus.

I always have multiple choices for early finishers, so this would be just one of the choices and I like to keep the number of board games as choices small (like 2-3) so it doesn’t get all out crazy over there! 🙂

Play Games for Homework

I hate homework.  Daddy always said hate was a really strong word, but homework deserves it.  I hate homework.  As much as I could get away with it, I didn’t send home required homework each night.  I did send home guided readers a few times a week and sight word folders for families to practice at their own pace and if they wanted to.  But nothing was required.

I love all of the ideas I’ve seen for homework choice boards and such!  How fun would it be to encourage families to play games together after dinner one night a week?  Some of my favorite family memories are of playing strategy games with my preschooler at home.  Screens are off, we are talking to each other more, and we are all learning to be problem solvers at the same time!

Do you have parents that want to be more involved with their child’s school work?  Tell them to play strategy games at home using this list of suggestions from this blog post (coming soon)!

Are you a parent wanting to help your child’s focus, stamina, and problem solving skills?  Play strategy games at home.

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