Board games such as the popular Mayfair The Settlers of Catan make very useful tools in the classroom. They teach students social skills as well as decision-making, probability, planning, and adaptability. Below are some tips for making the most of your game playing experience.
• Adapt the game rules to fit the needs of the students. Perhaps they are a bit too young and need a simplified version of the game. Maybe their attention span cannot handle a full-length game.
• Engage the students at all times. If the game has too much downtime, a child will lose interest. Choose games that keep players engaged or adapt the game yourself.
• Be willing to adapt and compromise. As you begin a game you may notice that certain concepts are difficult for students, or maybe you’ve actually simplified it too much and they are bored. Be flexible and willing to adapt, even mid-game. Don’t be so worried about finishing the game that it begins to drag. The whole point is to take an enjoyable break from traditional homework.
• Make connections. Some related lessons will be obvious, but take the time to look a little harder to see what connections you can make between games and the lessons. You may not need (or want) to directly point the lessons out to students. However, knowing about them yourself will enable you to make the most of the connections.
• Keep it light and fun. Don’t let competition become too fierce. Although it has its place in game play, competition in a classroom setting can cause upsets and negate any of the learning experience. If the students are not having fun with the game, they certainly will not be learning.
Different games will be useful depending on your purpose, age group, and number of students. Search around for games or adaptation ideas that fit your goals. And always remember to have fun!