Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spark Student Motivation: Games in the Classroom

Saturdays are a perfect day to reflect/think about how to Spark Student Motivation. After a decent night of sleeping and getting to sleep in past alarm time, it is a perfect time to reflect on what is working to spark student motivation. Thrilled to be linking up again with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching

I am going to talk a little bit about games in the classroom. I remember fondly playing Upwords, and Scrabble as an elementary student, so why wouldn't word games work with my own students? 
I have an eclectic group of kiddos with a wide range of dislikes and likes. Some are avid readers and others are avid at avoiding of reading. Some are excited to learn and other are excited to talk. Some are confident and others are afraid to fail. This creates a tough recipe for success. It also means I need to try to find all of their carrots. 
My readers will read without being pushed but even my avid readers avoided reading at dismissal when I watch over 2 classrooms while my teammate walks the group out to buses. I need my room somewhat calm and allowing them to talk just did not work. I would love to allow free talk time, but it always leads to loud and many times teasing or inappropriate talk. I needed a solution and turned to games. 
Pulling out Upwords and Scrabble did not work, those games are not cool enough for my crew. But, Words with Friends, that is a whole new level and is cool because it can be played on an electronic device. Now, I know that seems silly reasoning, because it really is another version of scrabble, but I am not going to argue with them! 
At first I thought about using the games during literacy centers, but honestly, that hasn't happened due to time constraints! I wanted them to practice word work and playing together, so allowing them to play during dismissal is working. They get to interact, do not have to stay at their desk in their seat, and the environment is slightly relaxed and still controlled. I do have to monitor for appropriate play and behavior but I really have found that I am disciplining a lot less than before. And that keeps this teacher happy! (Seriously, when I was enforcing the you must read rule, I was grumpy and burnt out by the time the last round of buses showed up.) 
Since games are working during dismissal I am constantly checking clearance shelves and will watch for the great sales during the holidays of board games to add to my collection. They will bore of WWF, so having more games will help out a lot. I also have Sorry and will include that in the dismissal selection.  I would love some math and logic games for my classroom and plan to add those too. 
Getting my crew up and around also helps a lot, so this week we played find the antonym and find the synonym using one of my newest TpT products.
I designed it for a small literacy center, but once again with out schedule that did not happen so I adapted how we used it (sorry no pictures of them playing because I played along with them.) Each person received a card and they had to find their match. The antonym play was easier for them (was surprised!), but both games led to excellent review of the vocabulary. They loved getting up, finding their match, and then sharing their words with the class. It was fun playing along with them. I need to get a class set of headbands like the ones in the game Hedbanz, so we can all wear the card on our heads and search for our partners. The kids really like the cute apple decor. 
The words I used are from the Wordly Wise Book 5, but they are excellent words as they are used in grade level reading materials. The kids love seeing "their" words in social studies, science, and math texts. Turns out some kids even spotted the words on the ITBS. We encourage the use of the vocabulary in their writing so the more they are exposed to them and have to think about them the more likely they remember to use them. They are motivated to use them because when we spot their use we always brag about them to the class. 

Because it was a fun activity, the kids thought of it more as a game and were a lot more engaged! Their learning certainly improved! Since they liked the vocabulary activity, I will add the game to some independent centers and even let them play during dismissal. 
I already mentioned this in my Five for Friday post, but the kids had so much fun playing, that I have to mention it again. We played Swat 2 times this week and the kids were begging me to play again on Friday. To spice things up a little I quickly threw a power point together with parts of speech and figurative language words. Then I read sentences aloud and they had to identify the part of speech or the figurative language. Wow, they got real serious and competitive. They also were thinking a lot. And of course, got a little too loud! During the loud game I encouraged silent celebrations by awarding bonus points for quiet play. 

Because they had so much, I think I will create more slides with 5th grade skills so I can reward great behavior or review with a fun game. Who would have thought flyswatters and language terms projected on the board would excite my learners? So glad to have found something that is motivating to them and helping me review grammar! 
If you need some great ideas check out the other posts. Joanne has a super cute idea about shout out cards for student papers!  
Thanks for swinging by on this super Saturday! I have scored myself some alone time; the boys are off playing with their Dad's best buddy and his boys; so I am off to shop. Have a super day!  (By the way, think I taught a little too much about alliteration this week!)


  1. I really enjoyed reading about your games in the classroom. One that I use a lot is Bananagrams which can be used is so many quick to use ways, plus it is pretty easy clean-up. Plus it is cheap to buy.

    Digital: Divide & Conquer

  2. Thank you Matt! I have banagrams and the apple game too, but too often I find that they end up playing parallel instead of cooperating together. Funny how they play together so differently in the game. Maybe after some more time with WWF I can reintroduce banagrams and they will alter their play. Thanks again for stopping by and following my blog, great to have a new friend :-)

  3. My kids love playing word games...although I haven't had much time to let them play this year. I will have to look for Words with Friends...I know my kids would love that.

  4. LOTS of fun in your class with all your games! Very motivating! I like that you have something for everyone! Thanks for sharing and linking up!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. Laura; When we go for walks I play word games with my kids but as a corporate training guy I'll share that 'game theory' is more than just for running probabilities in negotiations or business models. I've used it for onboarding, motivation, etc. and agree that if kids are enjoying a game that they learn from, like WWF you've mentioned, that the learning happens and is very organic. Good for you and good luck. If you have a need for a game, shoot me an email and I'll help. Keep it up, Teacher.

  6. What a great idea to use the projector for Swat! That's much faster than taping them up, and the words won't get ripped!


  7. These games seem like fun! I did some fun games to teach the 50 US States and Capitals, and our math program (Everyday Math) has sooo many games. I like to incorporate them on days when I need to lighten the load a bit :)
    To motivate, I give kids choices for a lot of what we do. I wanted to teach how to do research so I let them choose what state they wanted to learn more about. Guided work with choice works best for me!


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