My students need high quality games like Stratego, Connect 4, and cooperative games like Engineering Ants that give them a fun way to practice essential skills like strategic thinking, pattern recognition, planning and flexible thinking.
I have the priviledge of serving a diverse group of students from all over the city of Boston. Our school sits at the intersection of several neighborhoods, resulting in a rich mix of students from various ethnic and ecomonic backgrounds. In my class alone, I serve first generation students from Haiti, Vietnam, Palestine, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, as well as students of long-time residents in the neighborhoods of South Boston and Dorchester. We are also a full-inclusion school, meaning that students with disabilities and English Learners are included in mainstream classrooms to learn alongside their peers. These students’ various experiences make for a rich classroom experience in which multiple perspectives inform our learning. Our students love to connect our learning to their own experiences and share them with their classmates and schoolmates. They are eager to learn more about each other and the world—both its promises and its problems. To our students, nothing is impossible. They understand that using their rich learning experiences, along with some hard work and perseverance, leads to innovative thinking and finding solutions to overcome any problem—all while having fun!
My students are obsessed with games. Lucky for them, I am too (and not just video games)! Rather than battle games for my students’ attention, I want to use games to engage students in the content and skills they need to master.
Games-based learning is the idea that traditional games like UNO and checkers actually teach us skills that we need to succeed as students and adults.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the games I played as a child were teaching me essential skills like forming a plan of action, thinking strategically, adapting to changing circumstances, recognizing patterns, weighing the potential rewards and/or penalties for certain actions, winning and losing with dignity, as well as providing opportunities to add, subtract, divide, and read in meaningful ways. Games-based learning also encourages students to think about rules as part of a system that they interact with. This is a big idea for little students, and playing games like Connect 4, Stratego, and Engineering Ants encourages them to engage in meaningful discussions about equality, fairness, honesty, teamwork, and perseverance. The practice I got from these games helped me be a successful student academically and socially.
Unfortunately, most of my students do not get these extra hours of practice because they do not have access to games, or do not have anyone to play with them. That is why we need games in our classroom! My students deserve to have the opportunity to develop these skills in a fun and meaningful way that connects to what they are learning and practicing as part of our traditional curriculum. Help us make our classroom a fun place to play and learn!
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