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I remember when I was little I loved to play board games. Growing up as an only child though, it was difficult to find someone to play with. I drove my parents crazy with Monopoly, Hi-Ho Cherrio and Sorry, then I moved on to checkers and chess as I got older.
In the age of iPads and tablets though, the art of board games has somehow been lost, along with the important social skills that go along with them. Students very rarely get the chance to sit down with family and just enjoy spending time together while being taught these skills.
Upon arrival to school, my class has some ‘directed free time’ where they choose a board game off of my classroom shelves, get a group together and begin playing. I love to watch the autonomy that goes along with this activity. Since we’ve been doing this from the beginning of school they are pros at working together, including different students in their groups and getting started.
With crazy busy family schedules most of my second graders never get the chance to play board games with their families. They are usually playing Minecraft or on a tablet, which doesn’t give them the satisfaction of winning, let alone helping them with sportsmanship, playing fairly, dealing with losing, sharing, communicating with peers, being responsible or collaborating, which are crucial skills to have as adults, but that need to be learned as kids, and all to often are left to us teachers to instill in them.
As an adult, I still love to play games so the way I introduce this activity is by playing with them. On the first day of school I will choose one game, and split the kids into teams, with me being on a team, and demonstrate how it’s played. We do a different game each day until the students have a good repertoire of games under their belts, then I start our game time during arrival. Every few weeks I will introduce a new game so they have something different to add to their choices. This last week I taught them how to play Chess, which they picked up fairly quickly and now love to play.
While the kids are playing in the mornings, I walk around and praise them for following the rules, showing good sportsmanship, problem solving, participating and taking turns. It is a very rare occasion that I have to mediate between students. I love to see how actively engaged my students are in this activity.
This is also a great transition time for kids coming into class, especially late arrivals. It also gives me time to visit with parents about anything they need and it warms up brains for being ready to learn. Once our morning game time is over, the kids take responsibility for picking up their pieces and heading back to their seats, awake, communicating and ready for our next activity.
How do you use board games constructively in your classroom?