Games in the Classroom

A problem:

Games teach, but they don’t come that much into most classrooms.

Game-making is one of humanity’s long-term projects — we’ve been at it for thousands of years. Along the way, we’ve invented games that teach numeracy, verbal dexterity, strategy, and socialization under stress. And games teach by tapping into deep human emotional reservoirs. Doing well in a game brings flow. A great win brings fiero — that rush of fiery joy that makes you want to throw your arms up in the air and scream in jubilation!

How often do you see that in a school?

A great loss, on the other hand, brings an opportunity to learn to lose gracefully. Games teach, but schools don’t make that much of them.

Our basic plan:

On occasion, kids can elect to play games. Not dull, self-consciously “educational” games — real games, enjoyable games, especially ones that many kids don’t get the chance to experience anymore: checkers, poker, Balderdash, charades, Yahtzee, solitaire, crossword puzzles; bocce ball and handball and heaven knows what else. (Forgive this entirely non-representative list!)

The goals:

Kids gain skill in verbal dexterity, numeracy, and strategy. They also gain interpersonal skills when tensions are high. Additionally, we hope to introduce kids to games that they can enliven their non-school hours with.

If you walk into our classrooms, you might see:

A small group of kids intensely focused on a group game.

Some specific questions:

  • Any especially good collections of old-fashioned games we should use?
  • How should we prepare the inevitable parent question: “Isn’t this a waste of time?”
  • Are there any concerns about bringing games into the school day?
  • What’s a favorite game that you’d love to see introduced in a school, and why?