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The Best 6 Games to Play with Your Students

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Show Notes:

This is going to be SUCH a fun episode!!!

Before we get into the games themselves, let’s talk about a few quick tips to ensure that playing games with your students is safe and effective: 

  • Make sure the space is safe – move back furniture & ensure your students have enough space to play.

  • Pay attention to how animated everyone is getting...if they get a little nuts, you may need to stop and have them take a few deep breaths before continuing.

  • Make sure nobody is left out or will feel “stupid” or publicly shamed. We sometimes don't think about how difficult it can be for students to come to the front of the room, for instance, so they can participate in a game. 

  • Close your door to make sure you don’t disturb your neighbors - and you might want to check with them to make sure they aren’t testing or doing something that requires quiet during the time when you are planning to play.

  • Teach and encouraged your students to do “silent cheers” so that they won’t be disruptive to other classes – and explain to your students that you will be able to play games more often if they aren’t super loud! 

  • After they play, have your students rate the game. What did they like? What did they not like? How could we improve the game for next time?

  • Pay attention to how much you think your students are actually learning when they play. We shouldn’t be using valuable instructional time to play a game that isn’t actually helping our students to learn.

I LOVE teaching, and I HATE wasting time - and as you know, I’m all about working smarter, not harder, so you can be sure that whatever I share with you is going to be quality, it’s going to be kid-tested, and it isn’t going to take you hours of precious time to prepare.

Let's get started!

Game #1: SLAP!

To play this game, you will need two or three fly swatters in different colours (and I like to add a bit of sparkly ribbon tied to the fly swatter for some added magic and pizazz), and your whiteboard.

Now to play, for ease of explanation, let’s assume you want to review basic addition and subtraction facts to ten.

You would then print random numbers from zero to ten on the whiteboard, or if you have a projector, you would project them onto your whiteboard.

Be sure to print the numbers not in a row, but kind of scattered all over the space.

Divide the class into two teams with a piece of masking tape on the floor to indicate the starting line.

You then call out a math fact (3+6=), and the first person to ‘slap’ the correct answer with his or her flyswatter earns a point for their team.

(We often don’t even keep score - it’s just too much fun to play and nobody seems to care who wins anyways).

Again, this game can become quite noisy, and so I encourage ‘silent cheers’ as we play.

I love this game because it is fun, versatile, so quick to prepare, and oh so motivating for the students! I've used it to review for science and social studies tests, to review math facts, and even to review facts about a story we have read to do a quick comprehension check. 

I’ve linked to some really pretty, brightly colored fly swatters you can grab on Amazon right away if you like this idea. Just click on the image below:

Game #2: Student Jeopardy:

There’s a reason that you’ll find this game on pretty much every teacher’s list: It not only works, but students absolutely love it.

You can prepare review questions in advance, or you can just keep your teaching notes or lesson plans open for whatever subject you are using to play this game to make up questions as you go, or use a student’s notebook who you know is a little smarty pants and will have most of the answers written correctly to create quick questions from. 😊

Then, place three desks at the front of the room with one “buzzer” placed on each (see below), or you can use tamborines from the dollar store instead of buzzers and just lay them flat on the desks flat-side-down because when the students slap them, they give the same feeling buzzers do!

I divide my class into three teams and number my students.

So for example, if we have three teams of seven students, every student has a number between 1 and 7.

This way I can randomly call up groups of students and they never know when their number is going to be called, so it keeps everyone on their toes.

When I call a number to the front of the room, one student from each team stands behind each desk, facing the class, with one hand behind his or her back and the other hand over the buzzer/tamborine.

Now, to keep it super simple, I don’t even prepare categories.

I just project a row of $100 or $200 increments on the board up to $1000 behind each of the three students.

Then, I elect one student to be in charge of keeping score for the game, and have them use a magnet to keep score of where each team is.

As soon as you ask the question, they get one “buzz” to try to answer the question.

If they get the question correctly, their magnet gets moved up $100 for their team.

If they don’t answer it correctly, the correct answer is offered by the audience (this keeps everyone involved!).

To make things less chaotic during the game, I have found it works best to allow only three questions for each set of students, and mix up the order of the numbers called so that students stay on their toes!

Again, the beauty of this game is that it is very versatile - I have used it to reinforce skills and concepts in a variety of subject areas across the curriculum.

You can download a free, customizable Jeopardy game here by visiting Teachers Pay Teachers: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Jeopardy-Template-Review-Game-PowerPoint-842331

And, you can just click on the pic below to grab the super cute “buzzers” I got on Amazon to play this game: 

Or you can get tamborines (which sometimes can last a little longer than the buzzers and don’t require batteries) - just click on the image below to get yours on Amazon:

  1. Whiteboard Winners:

    Students LOVE this game for its simplicity - and so do I!

    If you don’t already have a class set of whiteboards, it is well worth investing in some because you will quickly find that they are very versatile and you can use them in SO many ways.

    For reviewing content, just call out a question from the front of the room and have your students write their answers on their whiteboards (I often have students do this in pairs so they can help each other, with students taking turns doing the writing for each question).

    They hold up their whiteboards when they have their answer, and the first correct answer wins a point for their team.

    Variation on this game if you don’t have whiteboards: Call pairs of students to the front of the room (so that nobody is left feeling stupid) and have them write their answer on the whiteboard.

    If nobody has the correct answer, call the next two pairs and ask the question again.

    By the way – it’s really quite hilarious to ask the same question several times in a row every now and then. It not only reinforces important or especially challenging content, but because students don’t expect it, it really throws them off. They love it!

I’ve linked to packs of 12 whiteboards here that you can grab on Amazon by clicking the image below

  1. Small Group Challenge:

    For this game, each small group in your class is competing for some kind of small prize (like these adorable little fidget toys I found on Amazon)!


    Give each group of 4 students a list of review questions that they need to work together to answer, and the first group to finish puts up their hands to let you know.

    But here’s the kicker: They need to say their answers out loud (and of course, in doing so, may give a clue to other groups about answers they are stuck on).

    If they have ANY of the answers incorrect, you don’t tell them which ones are.

    You simply tell them that they don’t have them all correct yet.

    The next group to put up their hands then reads out their answers – and this continues until one group has finally figured out all of the answers and gets the prize!

Check out these little fidget bracelets I found on Amazon - they are pretty adorable as prizes for games like this with your kiddos:

  1. Whole Class Snakes & Ladders: My students LOVE this one.

    First, prepare some review questions in advance.

    To play, project a snakes and ladders game onto the board (though you could do this with pretty much ANY game board you have), and divide your class into small groups.

    Each group gets a different color marker, and each group member takes turns rolling the dice when it’s their group’s turn.

    Each time they roll the dice, they need to work together to answer a question correctly before they are able to move their marker. Of course, the first team to reach the end first wins a small prize

You can download a FREE snakes and ladders game by clicking here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Snakes-Ladders-FREE-Printable-Math-Literacy-Smartboard-Version-2682943

Or, you can buy a traditional game board by clicking the image below:

I really like playing this game because just like the last game I showed you, it really gets kids working together and you don’t even have to have them move spaces (though I usually ask them to stand up when it’s their turn to keep them actively involved).

  1. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire:

    I came up with this take-off on the popular game show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” one day when I wanted to review a tricky science unit with my class.

    Many versions of this game are available for classroom use online, but I’m going to offer a word of caution here.

    You do NOT need, nor should you, spend hours preparing a review game just because it looks cool.

    Don’t fall into that trap! Work smarter, not harder.

    On a beautiful spring evening or weekend, please do not spend precious hours of your life making a customized game for a subject you will only use for a half hour.

    Instead, I found a cute and simple template of this game that you can use for only $1.99 on TPT (see below) – but don’t spend hours typing in all of the questions so they come up as beautiful displays for your students.

    The point of this game is to review content, and you can just as easily ask these questions out loud from your textbook or from student notes as you play the game. 

I’ve linked to that $1.99 version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for you here:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Who-Wants-to-be-a-Millionaire-Game-Template-for-the-SmartBoard-55353

For students who make it all the way to one million dollars, I give them a pretend (but that looks really real) Million Dollar Bill, which you can get on Amazon. Seriously, what did we ever do before Amazon???

Just click on the pic below to grab yours now:

Okay, so here’s how to play:

I place two chairs just below the game display, and I use a magic marker as my microphone.

I have all students put their name on a small piece of paper to be put in a draw.

In the real game show, the audience is to answer a "fast finger question," so I have the students imagine they have a keyboard in front of them.

They pretend they are punching in an answer as fast as they can while I draw out a student’s name. 

Using my very best “Regis” impersonation, I welcome my new guest to the show (are you guys even young enough to remember Regis? I hope I'm not dating myself too much here - lol!)

The student is free to become anyone they would like to for the game show, and from wherever they wish to live. (I find that this helps to alleviate some of the stress of being in front of their classmates - I have had martians from California and astronauts from Greece on my show - those are some creative students!)

I then use a student scribbler, notebook, and/or experiment write-ups (if you are reviewing science concepts) to ask questions of my guest.

I begin with very simple questions to help the student gain confidence, and then move on to some of the more difficult concepts and/or vocabulary ‘as the stakes get higher’.

One of the things that my kids love most about this game is successful and supported they feel, knowing that they have the assistance of the three life lines should they get stuck.

If the student answers all questions correctly, (s)he earns the million dollar bill.

I also have a small reward for anyone who does not reach the million dollar mark.

And of course, because I have all of the students’ names in a bag that I keep especially for this game, everyone gets a chance to compete by the end of the school year.

Now if you’re coming to this game towards the end of the school year, you might want to add your own special twist by allowing students to compete in pairs so that you can ensure that everyone gets a chance to play.

My students used to ask to play this game whenever they could, and so I was sure to fit it in about once every two weeks to review spelling words, phonics, science, social studies, or challenging vocabulary in all subject areas. The possibilities are endless!

And those, my friends, are my favorite six games that you can use in any subject area and at any grade level to review content not only at the end of the year, but throughout the year. 

On that note, if you are thinking about what you want to get for your students as an end of the year gift, be sure to check out my FAVORITE thing to do for my students at the end of the school year.

It’s called The Best End of the Year Student Gifts: A Week of Special Celebrations.

I know your students are going to love it as much as mine have! 

I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember, just because you are a beginning teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one.

My goal is to give you the best tools, tips, and resources so that even experienced teachers come to you and ask, “Where did you get that fabulous idea?”

 See you again next week – by for now!

❀️ Lori

P.S. Just click the image below to check this out on Teachers Pay Teachers now:

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.

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