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  • Nancy Radke

Why the Best Teachers Use Teaching Games

"Rejoice young man during childhood, let your heart be pleasant." Ecclesiastes 11:9



So games sound like fun, therefore many teachers don't think playing a game will teach anything. Learning is supposed to be work, right? So why would you "play" at learning? You want your child to know how to handle tough problems, and playing just doesn't sound like the way to teach anything. (Blog #2 has a video explaining this, or just read it here.)


Also, that's not how you were taught. You sat in a classroom and recited the same thing over and over until you learned it. Why do games at all, when a kid can learn from singing memory songs, or writing a verse over and over lots of times, or just having it required of them?


The answer is that games, played correctly with a question box, forces the child to listen intently, more intently than normal. He learns to focus his mind on the material, so that he learns it.


Games provide motivation, repetition, discipline, and reward, while enabling kids to remember facts they would otherwise consider too hard to recall.


MOTIVATION: Kids love game situations, and in a game, will try harder.


Take the same student, and don't use games for a while, and his attention diminishes. Start the games back up, and he's there, willing to learn anything you put out for him. The more competitive he is, the harder he tries to learn.


This includes memory verses. If a child knows that he will be asked to recite his memory verse in a game situation, he comes to class with it memorized. He may have told you earlier how hard it is to learn, or given it a half-hearted effort, but if he has to have it letter perfect to get points, then it will get done.


In games, a kid focuses on the question and the answer to the point that he learns material that he normally can't handle.


I've taken some of the questions from classes I taught fifth grade students, and used it to play a game with an adult class (when I was demonstrating games to them). They said, "What grade are you teaching?" and,"You mean, they're learning this material?"


The answer is "Yes, they can learn this." Now, not all students will learn with games, but if you have a student that you are having a hard time reaching, be sure to try games with him.


REPETITION: Kids don't mind hearing the same material, over and over while playing a game. Be careful to put the questions back in the box.


I start my units with a lot of information, along with a short game, finding out who in my class is listening and who has "zoned out." With each class the games get longer and the material gets harder, but I introduce less material. At the end, I have a class-long review game. Usually the kids know all the answers by then, even the poorer students, who have learned them through the repetition that a game allows.


Kids don't mind hearing the same information, over and over, in a game situation. It doesn't matter how often you ask them the same question, they are delighted to know the answer. They don't get bored because the game is going fast. The game is going fast because you are using pre-written questions and a question box.


DISCIPLINE: You are the referee. Award penalties when the infraction is small, and you'll keep control of the game and of your class.


If you wait ("it was such a small thing"), you will end up having to be much more strict than if you gave the penalties early. This is true in all discipline. Draw the line early, while the class is getting used to you. You can ease off a bit later on. That is the secret of having a well-managed class, rather than one that runs all over you.


In some games, a penalty shot can be awarded to the other team.

REWARD: The points gained, the prize won, the baskets made, the goal met.


The fun in a game is winning. Some students excel in some games, and others in other games. Play enough different kinds of games to give each student a chance to win.


All games and game rules are described in the book, First Aid for Bible Classes, available on this site.