19 Mar Gamify Learning
In light of COVID-19, many parents are finding themselves suddenly in charge of education their children. For some, this is an exciting opportunity and a chance to spend more time with their children. For others, it is a daunting task. You may find yourself wondering how to teach, how to maintain your child’s focus and interest levels, or even how to keep yourself from going crazy. Education doesn’t have to be draining. By adapting their educational materials to feel more like a game, you can ease your own stress while also deepening your relationship with your child. This can be done many ways that I’ll break down below.
Many classic games include educational components already! When they don’t, I’ll give you a few ideas for adapting them to become educational.
Boggle, Scrabble, and Bananagrams
These games inherently include spelling and reading. You can play the classic way, or you can adapt them to meet your child’s specific needs.
- You could have your child write or speak sentences that include the words they have used in the game. You could award bonus points for complicated words or for using multiple words within one sentence.
- If you made complicated words in your own game, you could make a sentence with that word. Your child could practice using context clues to figure out the meaning of that word.
- In addition, you can always remove letters from the game or tell your child to create words using specific sounds (such as long vowels or consonant blends).
- Perhaps my favorite way to use these games is to play using only nonsense words. You and your child cannot create any real words. This allows the child to be creative and gives them a chance to practice reading different sounds (phonics). For an added layer of fun (that often gives them the giggles) have them create definitions for their made up words.
This game is perfectly set up for geography and history. Based on what your child is learning, create trivia questions that correspond with each region. If your child wishes to conquer that region, they must first answer the trivia question.* If they don’t know the answer, work with them to find the answer before making their move. For additional questions outside of the grade level content, Trivia Plaza offers many geography trivia questions (https://www.triviaplaza.com/geography-world-quizzes/).
Similar to Risk, require your child to answer a question before buying a house, hotel…This game also includes some addition and subtraction, possible of large numbers. For added practice, have them add your money as well.
Pass the Pigs
This game is great for addition practice and estimation. You can also use subtraction if you add up to 100 then subtract back to 0 before ending the game.
Blockus, Set, Kanoodle, Spot it, Chess
While these games don’t have direct academic correlations, they are great for mental stimulation, patterns, memory, spatial awareness, and many other skills. Use them as breaks from electronic time, or even as breaks between longer educational activities.
*This strategy can be used for any board game. Create specific questions your child must answer before completing a move. These could be tied to any academic subject or skill, but could also include related arts tasks such as completing specific exercises for P.E. or completing a short art activity.
Growing up, my mom created a board game she called “Violopoly”. It was a twist on Monopoly that she used to encourage my brother to practice his violin. While you can always make your own complex board games such as this, here are several simple ways to create your own games at home.
Tic-Tac-Toe and the Dot Game**
The games work great for math facts and equations, reading sight words, reading nonsense words (phonics), and quick skills (naming colors and shapes, P.E. activities). Simply write a fact or word in each box. To claim that box, your child must complete the activity in the box.
**The dot game includes a grid of dots. I typically draw out rows of 7×7, though this depends on how long I want to play for. You and your child take turns drawing horizontal or vertical lines from one dot to another. If you draw the last line to make a box, you claim that point. You get an extra turn when you complete a box. Use this link for a How To video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQdQWxQk8_A
Cards and Dice (use D10 dice when possible)
There are many ways to use cards and dice for educational games. Here are just a couple examples. For all of these games, you can add in practice with number comparisons (greater than, less than, and equal to) by comparing your score to theirs to determine the winner. You can also practice subtraction/finding the difference by seeing how much the winner won by.
- Roll dice/draw cards. Lay them out in a line to create a large number. Have your child practice reading the number, identifying the place and value of each digit, or even practice expanded form (i.e. 5,324 = 5,000+300+20+4) with the number.
- Roll dice/draw cards and create math facts. This can be done for any operation (or even for complex equations such as calculus) and with single- or multi-digit equations. You can also practice adding more than two numbers.
- Create numbers and practice rounding.
- Create order of operations problems. Write out a problem, then fill in the number by rolling dice or drawing cards. For example: _____ + ______ X ( ____ – _____)
- Fraction wars: Roll two dice each. Whoever can create the bigger fraction wins. This could include comparing fractions, changing improper fractions to mixed numbers, and simplifying fractions/finding equivalent fractions.
“Would you Rather”
These make great writing prompts. Just ask a “Would you rather” than have your child complete a writing task based on grade level standards. This could be practicing writing a single sentence, creating a 5-paragraph essay with evidence for your opinion, or even a longer essay that include addressing the counterpoint. You could even turn this into a debate!
“Would you Rather” examples:
~Only eat chocolate the rest of your life or never eat chocolate again?
~Play football or soccer?
~Live in space or under the sea?
Perhaps most fun is to create scavenger hunts. This can be time consuming, but it can also be highly motivating and occupy your child for extensive periods. Having a prize is also helpful. For a scavenger hunt, create several activities your child completes around the house. These could be writing activities, physical activity, math, reading, assignments sent home from your teacher…there are lots of options. When your child completes the activity (you can also determine a level of accuracy required), they can receive a riddle or clue to find the next station. If your child needs added motivation, you can always include small prizes.