Building Game Play into the School Day

The following guest post is by Sherry Olfert, a middle school math and science teacher in Abbotsford, British Columbia.  The other day, I received an email from Sherry, writing to share her excitement in discovering ThinkFun’s free printable resources online!  Sherry was excited to use these resources with her students , and when I asked her to share how she uses games in the classroom, she had this to say:

I love to use math games and puzzles in the classroom, whether they be logic, brainteaser, visual, manipulative, strategy, easy, challenging, competitive, cooperative, single, group …  I regard them as an essential component to my math and science curriculum, but also beneficial to their oral language requirements, social responsibility objectives, and work habits development.

I use games and puzzles as warm-ups, closers, energizers, breaks from routine, and rewards. But I also, perhaps more significantly, plan at least one block per week of Math Games class where I lead a game or set of games. Sometimes they play that same game the whole class, other times they mingle freely between a variety games or rotate game stations at a signal.

Games time keeps them in pairs or small groups for structured interactions, and while they feel liberated because they’re playing games, there’s always a clear purpose with clear criteria for reaching that goal. Through games and puzzles they exercise and develop their brain in ways that cannot be simulated (at least at their age) otherwise, safely.

The students learn to problem solve, to work respectfully with others, to follow instructions and rules, to care for materials, and to record their thinking. They also learn how to persevere and keep puzzling even when it’s challenging. And they learn to play a game or puzzle over and over again (often with different partners), to develop better strategy rather than play each game just once.

My students rarely have “free time”. Instead, they have Game Time. It may be spontaneous or planned, noisy or quiet, but it’s definitely highly educational!

How do you use games to encourage deeper thinking and problem solving, whether at home or in the classroom?!

2 thoughts on “Building Game Play into the School Day

  1. Robin Zaruba

    I teach 7th grade math & every week, my students look forward to Think Fun Thursdays where we spend 7 minutes at the beginning of class puzzling with various Think Fun Puzzles. The rules are simple: don’t tell me it’s hard, it’s supposed to be; you may get the same puzzle week after week, but once you’ve solved it, you never have to get it again (your picture will go on my school website); no talking – play hard, work hard. I find my students develop spatial skills, problem solving abilities, and most important – persistence & a willingness to enjoy hard work.

  2. Charlotte Post author

    Fantastic! Thank you for sharing this.
    I would love to be a student in your classroom, any day of the week – but especially Thursdays!

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