We’re all coming back to school after the holiday, which we probably spent catching up on marking and other chores but also enjoying our leisure time. I’ve spent quite a lot of time playing Xbox and my Nintendo DS. I think my game playing has transferred into my teaching brain, which shows in my planning for the first couple of weeks back. I’m particularly interested in the thoughts of secondary colleagues from a number of angles. Do you have time to plan and prepare games? Do you have time in your curriculum to take time ‘off’ to play games? What games do you play? I’ve split my games into two types. Firstly there are the simple, non-electronic games that don’t need a lot of preparation – see below. Secondly, there are the games that use the latest technology, including software, hardware and the internet – which I’ll talk about in my next post. Bingo – with numbers and words I’m a great fan of bingo. As a maths teacher, I often use multiplication bingo. Here’s how: 

  1. Students draw a 3 by 3 grid of boxes 
  2. They write in numbers that are in the x-times table (I normally chose 2 or 3 sets) 
  3. I then call out the questions and they cross off their answers.

There’s room for debate about the justification of the sweets I give as prizes – should I reward a student for choosing the ‘correct’ numbers? Should I be giving out sweets anyway now our school is a ‘Healthy’ one? There’s also keyword/definition bingo.

  1. Get students to choose their own keywords, OR produce a list with the whole class and then ask students to choose from the list 
  2. Read out a definition and they cross it off if they have it.

A variation of that is to pick students to read out their own definition to a particular word. Yes, it means they’ve crossed one off their grid, but it also helps them to communicate their understanding of a skill or concept. Literacy cards The other ‘simple’ game I like is Taboo. If you’ve got the commercially available game at home then you’ll know how to play. I like to use this in my SEN teaching and Maths lessons.

  1. I have either a keyword or a key picture on each card, plus three other words. So an SEN card might look like this: CAT – pet, milk, whisker 
  2. Give one student a card. That student then tries to get the others to guess the keyword, without using it or the three other words on the card. So, can the pupil communicate ‘cat’ without using the words cat, pet, milk or whisker?

Again this is good for assessing understanding, as well as dispelling myths in particular topics. Students play this in their own small teams and rarely ever cheat; there’s something about this game that motivates students to ‘guess’ rather than just grab the card. Within a subject team, set up a template for teachers, start this off in a department meeting and then invite staff to add to the set so that the resource grows. It can also be useful to ask students to make up their own Taboo cards – which words will they put on the right hand side? More about games in my next post, but do you know any other good ones? Add them as a comment below.