There are three types of games that may useful in helping students develop different skills in problem solving/critical thinking as well as knowledge and basic skills. They are:
- Commercial games;
- Specially designed and commercially produced educational games; and
- Teacher devised games designed to fit into a particular topic.
All games have some advantages:
- Obviously, fun, as the children learn;
- Learning by stealth, i.e. the children think it’s a game rather than school work;
- Learning through cooperation with others;
- Learning by observing others;
- Often hands-on, i.e. tactile and visual; and
- Often discussion between participants can lead to further learning.
There are disadvantages/difficulties especially with commercial games and some educationally produced games. They include:
- They are expensive.
- They often take too much time to get a result.
- Teacher must be extremely vigilant with collecting all games and checking all parts have been returned. Otherwise, an expensive game becomes unusable.
- Storage and borrowing practices may present usage problems.
- Time can become an issue in organising distribution, collection, return and storage of games so they are put in the too hard basket.
- Some of these types of games take many hours to learn to play well.
Therefore, games need to be:
- Relevant to the learning required in the topic;
- Easy to learn to play effectively in a short time;
- Time friendly in the busy environment of the modern classroom;
- Easy to store, replace and check;
- Played by as little as two people and up to four to be effective;
- Can be whole class ones as well; and
- Not too reliant on their own consumable items or have consumable items that are easy to copy (with a licence to do so, if necessary).
Teacher Designed Games – Learning By Stealth
In my experience, teacher designed games are the most effective in the classroom. Some have evolved from well-known games such as Bingo and other games of chance.
The advantages of teacher designed games are:
- They are topic specific.
- Cheap to make. Often only photocopying is required.
- Few resources are necessary, e.g. dice and counters.
- Rules can start in a simple form and be enlarged or made more difficult to suit the class’s development.
- Rules can be changed to suit the situation, i.e. flexibility is an advantage if the game does not work successfully initially.
- Time needed is determined by the teacher as necessary.
- Results can be related to the topic you are teaching.
- New ideas can be deduced from the games to enhance the students’ learning, especially in games of chance.
- All students can have success. It does not depend on their achievement level in the subject.
- The games can be used to strengthen understanding in your topic.