Games for Learning

Games for LearningNeed a quick idea for class tomorrow? Try one of these classic games with a learning twist. I’ve included links for regular game play.




Spoons: Recommended for middle/high school as the game can get physical when students are grabbing for spoons. [Supplies: 4-6 spoons, deck of cards you create]

How to Play:

How to Play for Learning: Create your own deck of cards. Choose 10-15 words or phrases related to the topic you are studying, such as the top ten events that led up to Civil War. Write each word of phrase each on four index cards to create your deck.

Teacher Tips: Purchase decent index cards. Thinner ones are harder to use. If you think you’ll use them more than once, you may want to have them laminated. You can also purchase blank decks of cards for the serious gamer.

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Hole in One (or Two)Remember this game from The Price Is Right?  I played this game using 20th Century American History events but you could use it for events or anything that could be a challenge to put in order. [Supplies: Set of timeline events for each student (see below), putting green (see below), ball, and putter]

Set-Up: Create the putting green. I simply placed six lines of tape a few feet apart and at the end of the course, I cut a large cup in half and set it against the wall for the putting hole. Prepare a set of six events for each student on slips of paper. Do not include the dates on the slips of paper. Have a master copy of events and dates for your own keeping.

Game Play: Students are asked to place six timeline events in ascending order. Starting with the event furthest from the hole, the teacher reveal the event dates. The student makes their putt from a line closer to the hole for each successive event that is more recent than the previous event. 

After the dates have been revealed and the line from which the student will putt is determined, the student receives one chance to putt the ball into the hole. If their first attempt is unsuccessful, the ball is replaced on the same line and the contestant receives a second and final putt.

M&M’s: Before you tell students what you’re going to be doing, send a bag of M&M’s around the room. Tell students to take as many M&M’s as they think they will need for the game (they will have to guess). Once everyone has their M&M’s, students must tell you one thing they remember (from their homework, or from last week’s lesson, or whatever you want) for each M&M they have. For shock value, use a roll of toilet paper and tell students to take as many squares as “they would need (for toilet paper’s normal use).” [Supplies: M&Ms or roll of toilet paper]

Scavenger Hunt: Recently, I was teaching Personal Finance (Dave Ramsey) and I wanted the students to memorize the seven baby steps. At our homeschool co-op, there are plenty of Moms around who aren’t in class so I was able to give seven of them a slip of paper with a hint about one of the seven steps. I told them that if a student asked them if they had “paid a stupid tax” (Dave Ramsey term) that they were to go with the student. When class began, I told the students they had to go and ask Moms if they had paid the stupid tax. It was their job to find the seven Moms who said yes and bring them back to the classroom. Once the Moms and the students returned, one by one the Moms had to read their hints. The students’ job (as a team) was to figure out which step each Mom represented and to put them in order. They did great and it was alot of fun! [Supplies: Slips of paper with the hints]

Who Is It?: If you’re studying a list of people or even events, write one name or event each on index cards. Make enough for each student to have one. In class, tape an index card to each student’s back. Students must guess who (or what event) is on their back but they can only ask yes or no questions. [Supplies: Names or events on index cards, tape]

True or False: Create several game cards. Each one should have 3 true facts and 1 false fact about a person or event. In class, the four facts are read aloud. Students (or teams) have to guess which is the false fact. This works even better as an assignment! Have kids bring in their own True or False game cards and see if they can stump each other. [Supplies: Game cards]

Bingo: Make a list of 25 people, dates, events, words, or phrases that you want to review. Make a copy of the list for each student (or plan to write them on a board where students can see them). Cut up one list into 25 slips of paper and place in a bag, hat, or other container. Print blank game boards (5 x 5) for each student. Bring M&M’s, pennies, or other small items to mark the boards. Let the kids make their own Bingo boards using the 25 terms you’ve given them. Play Bingo! Teacher’s Note: It takes some time for kids to make their own boards. If you’re short on time, make them before class – be sure the terms are in a different order on each board. [Supplies: Copies of the list of 25 words or phrases, one list cut into slips of paper, container for paper slips, blank Bingo cards, pencils or pens, Bingo markers (M&M’s, pennies, etc.)]

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt (Individuals or Teams): Choose a category related to the topic your studying that would have several answers.Have students write the letters A through Z down the side of their papers. At your signal, the students think of a word in that category for each letter of the alphabet. After the time is up (you decide how much time to give them), give each student a point for each valid answer. To make it more challenging, have each student read off their answers. If anyone else has the same answer, everyone with that answer crosses it off. Students only get a point if no one else came up with the same answer. Teacher’s Note: Depending on your topic, you may consider allowing students to use a book or resource on the topic. [Supplies: Choose your category, paper, pens or pencils, optional: textbooks]

RiskA Risk board can be played when you’re studying any country, continent, or geographic area. It’s a great way to introduce the area you’ll be studying. You’ll need to be a little creative with the rules but it works great. I used this with my Vietnam War class (which was all grade school boys) and they loved it. I’ll work on pulling my game rules together so you can see what I did. [Supplies: Create your Risk board, Risk board pieces or small items that can be stacked such as pennies]

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Other Classic Games You Might Try

Jeopardy (Individuals or Teams): Create your own answers/questions and create your own Jeopardy board to play in class. There are even websites that allow you to create your own. Here’s one: [Supplies: Jeopardy board/questions, timer]

Charades (Individuals or Teams): Write down some people, events, words, or phrases students can act out. A great game to have ready when you have a few minutes left in class and nothing to do. [Supplies: Charade words, timer]

Hangman (Individuals or Teams): Another great game for those last few minutes in class. Keep a list handy of people, events, words, or phrases related to your topic and you’re ready to go! [Supplies: Hangman words, whiteboard or other large drawing surface, marker]

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Teams): Create a list of questions each with the correct answer and three wrong answers. Divide the class into two teams. Ask a question to the first student. If he or she does not know the answer, the student can use one of the team’s three lifelines: “phone a friend” (ask one teammate), get a 50/50 (teacher eliminates two of the wrong answers), or “ask the audience” (ask the entire team). Take turns asking each team a question until a team misses a question. [Supplies: Quiz questions]

Checkers: Divide the class into two teams. Ask the first student on the first team a question (or ask the first team the question). If the answer is correct, the student or team gets to move a checker on the board. Next question goes to the other team. I would suggest setting a timer for this game. When the timer is out, the team with the most checkers on the board wins. [Supplies: Checker set, timer or watch]



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