Games at School


Let me start by saying I am not one of those moms who always has a game ready to teach any concept. I like to sit down, do the work, and move on. But that isn’t always the best way to learn, is it?

So sometimes we do play games for school. And usually I find that a little bit of extra effort on my part is rewarded with a great amount of learning.

Here are some of our favorite learning games.

Board Games

One of my kids’ hands-down favorites is Fast Track, a math game we learned from Peggy Kaye’s excellent book, Games for Math.

Peggy Kaye has many titles, by the way, including Games for Reading, Games for Writing and Learning Games.

One of the problems we’ve had with school games is competitiveness amongst the children. Sorting out fights or soothing hurt feelings is not what I want to do when I’m trying to teach math….so I try to pick games with that in mind.

As the name implies, Fast Track is quickly played, allowing for multiple games and multiple winners. There’s always time for another game and another winner. Sometimes someone wins on the very first turn! It’s that random. The kids don’t seem to mind losing because they don’t have a lot of time invested in a lengthy game.

The game board is simply drawn on poster board in an oval shape, with several “start” spaces, go forward two, go back three, stay put, lose a turn, draw a card, and the like. Of course, there are a few “You Win!” spaces, too.

Everyone chooses a place to start and puts their marker there. My kids like to use Pocket Transformers as markers…hey, whatever makes it fun, right?!

Game play progresses by answering flashcards. If the flashcard says 8+2= the child would move 10 spaces if they get the answer correct. Then they follow the instructions written on the space where they landed. They might draw again, and answer another problem, or they might be instructed to “move forward two spaces” only to land on “lose a turn”.

This game is great for allowing me to quiz the kids on exactly what they need. I make the flashcards up on halved index cards in a matter of moments…whatever we are working on at the moment goes onto the flashcard.

Multiple kids on different math levels can play together with an equal chance at winning. I use different colored index cards (one color per child) so that each child can have their own deck.

This week, one child’s flashcards have times tables on them while another has clock dials with minute hands and double digit subtraction problems.

My kids even made a deck for our preschooler yesterday, so he could play. They put shapes on the front and numbers on the back. If he guesses the shape (often they have to give multiple guesses and several hints!) he gets to move the number of spaces on the back of the card. They even set it up so that the triangle card has a “3” on the back, the square and rectangle have a “4”, etc. Shapes like stars have a random number. They made cards with alphabet letters on them, too. If he recognizes the letter he can move the number of spaces written on the back of the card. The possibilities are endless!!

In order to keep the turns from taking forever, we have a simple rule. If the answer on your flashcard is greater than 20, you have to add the digits together to find out how many squares to move. If, for example, the problem is 9×9= you don’t get to move 81 spaces…you get to move 8+1= 9. If the clock dial points to 45 minutes past the hour, you don’t move 45 spaces, you move 4+5=9. If the question is 6×2= then you get to move 12 spaces.

My kids even ask to play this game on Sundays. They love it that much. The math facts I want them to learn don’t seem like boring facts when we play this game. They would play it all the time if they could.

This is just one of the fun games from Math Games. You might try getting it from your library before buying it. Mine had a copy.

Another game which has been a big success in our home is our Bible Quiz game. We play this game as a way to test Bible story knowledge, Scripture memory, Hymn memory, and catechism work. I took an old Bible Challenge gameboard and made a new category for each color (a Trivial Pursuit board would work just as well).

I write questions for each category taken from what the children are learning, and update the list of questions a few times a year. The kids play as a team and try to get a certain number of rings (or pie pieces) before a timer rings.

This game was too competitive when they played against each other. Now they work as a team and help each other with their memory work, which is the goal, after all. If you are interested in learning more, please read my post on Our Bible Quiz Game.

Playing Outside

When the weather is nice we like to play “horse” with our spelling words and the basketball hoop, or a game of Quiz Baseball to check what the kids remember from their history or science lessons.

I’ll try to explain the rules for quizzing on the baseball diamond. Perhaps it will sound a bit confusing, but it isn’t if you know how to play baseball. Just try to picture a real baseball game, where the play follows typical baseball rules, but instead of “batting”, kids answer questions to get a “hit”.

Here is what we do:

We set up the bases outside, just as if we were going to play t-ball. Each child is asked a question. If they get the answer correct, they get to advance to first base.

One benefit to playing games is that our preschooler can be involved. In this game, we let him actually try and hit a whiffle ball with a plastic bat before each question is asked. If he gets a hit, that makes it an automatic double if the person gets the question correct. If the next “batter” gets their question correct, they get to run two bases instead of one.

Of course the preschooler gets an automatic home run and a chance to circle the bases every time he hits the ball, adding his run to the team’s point total!

If the first person got a “double” (because of the preschooler’s hit!) and the second person only got a single (the preschooler struck out), the person on 2nd wouldn’t advance. If the second “batter” did get a double, the person on 2nd advances to home, just as they might in a real baseball game if the batter hit a double. If the batter gets a “double”, all runners get a double as well.

Clear as mud???

Keep track of runs scored. In the above example, if the preschooler gets a hit and the first “batter” answers his question, the preschooler would score one home run and the batter would get a double. If the preschooler hits again and the next batter gets a double, the person on 2nd runs home, the preschooler runs home and the batter goes to 2nd…the score would be 3 runs at that point, with a runner on 2nd base.

Of course, I try to pitch in such a way that my preschooler almost always gets a hit. He is so proud, profitably engaged in the game, and the hero of his whole team for running up the score.

Play continues until they have 3 “outs”, or 3 missed questions as a team. Then you can call the game, start over, or (if you dare) let them ask you questions until you get three strikes. The kids may not realize it, but one mom working alone will rarely score as many runs as a group of kids working together! They enjoy winning, and beating mom seems to be even sweeter!

If bases are loaded and there is no one available to “bat”, the person who is closest to scoring (let’s say 3rd base) gets the question and play continues. The people behind him (1st and 2nd base) don’t advance, just as no one would advance if someone on third “stole home” in a real game.

You could also adapt this game by choosing easy questions for singles, medium questions for doubles and triples and really hard questions for home runs.

Whether you’re teaching math, quizzing Bible memory or checking up on history and science concepts, games are a great idea. They reinforce what the child has learned, and make happy memories in the process.

Comments

  1. I love your trivial pursuit game. We have done exactly the same thing, but with questions from all subjects of school (history, geography, science, Bible, math, and language arts). I just keep adding additional questions each week as we learn new things. I have found that it’s a great way for them to review what they have learned. Even my 4 yr old joins in the fun 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing! We have recently discovered the value of math games and I’m always on the look out for more.

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