When most people think of a classroom, they imagine students sitting at their desks and quietly reading textbooks or writing on worksheets. While these are certainly a part of classroom learning—and an important part at that—there are plenty of exciting learning opportunities for your students hiding in these fun classroom games!
Top Benefits of Classroom Games
Beyond being a fun way to break up the day, wake up your class from a mid-afternoon slump or work out some end-of-day wiggles, games can also have a myriad of benefits you’ll get to watch develop over time!
Create a Classroom Bond
One of the best ways to bond with your students (and for your students to bond with each other) is through positive, affirming interactions like playing games together. An enthusiastic, improvisational atmosphere will lead to funny moments and happy shared memories!
Present New Learning Opportunities
Students have different learning styles, and classroom games are one strategy you can use to give students the opportunity to try out new learning methods and find out which ones work best for them. Games also give you another way to reach out to reluctant learners and others who may be struggling with specific material.
Establish a Routine
Games are also an effective way to help students readjust to their classroom routine at the beginning of a new school year or after spending time away during a school break (or even a weekend!).
Most classroom games will have an element of creativity, from artistic games to word games to puzzle and problem-solving games. Even team challenges can include a bit of creativity by having students give their teams a name.
These are games that focus on different ways of thinking, from puzzle-solving to recall. “Brain” games are ideal for introducing new lessons, refreshing information that hasn’t been reviewed for a while or studying in preparation for a test.
1. Quick Answer
First, set the topic of the game (like “times tables for 7’s”). Next, have students answer one at a time starting at one side of the room and ending at the other. Repeat until you’ve been through the entire room a few times or you’re finished with the information you want to review. This works best with counting (by twos, fives, tens, etc.), times tables and other information that can fit into a big list!
2. Spelling in Line
Similar to Quick Answer but with spelling words! First, announce a spelling word; next, have the first student give the first letter, the second student the second letter, the third student the third letter, etc. until you get to the last letter of the word. Then, announce the next word and repeat.
3. Creative Problem Solving
Tell your students you need to solve a problem. Give them an abstract problem (like “travel to the bottom of the ocean” or “set up a farm on the moon”) and a list of three random objects (a paper clip, a rubber band, a magic key, a gallon of ice cream, a pool float, headphones, etc.). Then, give everyone 5-10 minutes to write out a solution to the problem that involves each of the random objects in some way. After time’s up, ask for volunteers to share their creative solutions!
4. Making Up Words
Put 2-3 vowels and 4-5 consonants on the board. Then, give students 2 minutes to write down as many words as they can think of using the letters on the board. Award one point per letter per completed word. Remind your students to try to beat their own personal best every time.
5. How Does It Work?
Show students a picture and ask them to brainstorm what the image is and how it works. This can be a fun way to introduce a new lesson (macro shots of plants to lead into a botany lesson or photos of satellites for a lesson about the solar system are both good options). Encourage students to verbalize their thought process and build on the answers given by their peers to form a complete hypothesis.
6. 20 Questions
For this classic game, you have to think of a person, place or thing, and your students have 20 questions (or however-many-students-are-in-your-class questions) to guess what it is! Students can only ask yes-or-no questions, and you’ll probably want to add rules about when and how students can make an official guess versus asking a yes-or-no question. This is another fun way to introduce young learners to a new topic!
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These are games that mostly focus on movement or use movement to signal an answer. “Moving” games are ideal whenever the classroom gets to feeling a little too rowdy (or paradoxically, too sleepy) to pay attention to the lesson at hand.
1. Who’s Missing?
Choose one student to be “it,” and ask them to sit at the teacher’s desk with their eyes closed and ears covered. Choose a second student to hide somewhere in the classroom (like behind a bookshelf or under a table). Next, all the other students switch desks. Once everyone is sitting somewhere new, the “it” student opens their eyes and uncovers their ears and tries to figure out who’s missing. After they get it, choose a new finder and a new hider and go again.
This game works especially well to help everyone memorize each other’s names and faces faster at the beginning of the school year!
Divide students into two groups. Have one student from the first group come forward and choose a slip of paper or a card with a word or phrase written on it. Their task is to act out the word or phrase for their team to guess within a set amount of time.
If their team guesses right, they get a point. If they don’t guess correctly or have no guess, the second team has one guess to try to “steal” the point. Either way, one student from the second team comes forward, chooses a slip of paper and tries to act their word or phrase out for their team.
Label each corner of your classroom one, two, three and four. Have your students all walk around the perimeter of the room while music plays. When you stop the music, everyone needs to get to one of the four corners of the room. Next, use a die or a random number generator to pick a number from one to four.
Everyone standing at that corner goes back to their desks and either sits down or dances at their desk if they want to keep moving around. Play the music again and repeat until you only have one student left standing.
4. Freeze Dance
If you need to help your class burn off that after-lunch energy or get a little wake-up boost when the mid-afternoon slump sets in, throw on some music and Freeze Dance. All you need is some classroom-appropriate popular music to get started!
Put on the music and encourage students to dance in place by their desks or come to the front of the room to show everyone their best moves. After 30 seconds to a minute, turn off the music and yell “Freeze!” Everyone needs to strike a pose and hold still until the music starts again. Repeat until the energy level of the room is where you want it.
5. Thumbs Up, Seven Up
Choose seven students. Everyone else puts their head down on their desks with eyes closed and one thumb up. The seven students walk around the room, each one tapping one student’s thumb down, and then go to the front of the room.
The seven thumbs-up students who had their thumbs tapped down each get two guesses to figure out who tapped them. If they guess wrong, they sit back down. If they get it right, they replace the student at the front of the classroom for the next round!
6. Sleeping Lions
Call out “Sleeping Lions!” and all your students pretend to be sleeping lions. Choose the sleeping lion who’s sleeping the best to keep watch. Now the watchful lion watches to make sure the other lions are sleeping and when they’ve decided which sleeping lion is sleeping the best, they can choose that lion as the new watchful lion. Repeat until all is calm.
This game has dozens of different names, including “Sleepy Sheepies,” “Chill Penguins” and “Lazy Llamas.” Choose a new one for your class by incorporating a school mascot or a class mascot to make it even more fun.
“Team Building” Games
These are games that focus on collaboration and teamwork, and the fun of the game depends on full participation. “Team building” games are ideal for creating bonds between smaller groups or refocusing the room onto smaller projects.
1. Don’t Say It
Divide your class into groups of 5-10 (or you can play with the full classroom on one team if you have a small class size). Give each group a stack of cards or slips of paper that have vocabulary words or other lesson-related words or phrases on them. One student in each group picks a card, and their challenge is to describe the word to their teammates without accidentally saying the word. Their teammates have to guess the word on the card.
2. Guided Drawing
Hand out paper and drawing implements to all students and take them through a guided meditation, instructing them to draw the things you “see” along the way. Something like: “You’re walking through a forest. The sun is shining bright in the sky. You see a tree at the end of a path …” From there you can describe the tree, the path and any animals or birds along the way, all with increasing levels of detail. After the “walk” is over, have students share their art.
3. Collaborative Drawing
Another way to improve creativity while building on what others have made is with collaborative drawing. Give a simple prompt and let students begin a drawing for 1-2 minutes. When the time is up, everyone passes their paper to the person on their left.
Then, that student continues the drawing for the next 1-2 minutes. Keep going until all the drawings have gone at least all the way down one row. At the end, make sure each drawing goes back to the first person to finish up for 1-2 minutes. Look at all the different ways each drawing went!
4. No-Talk Line-Up
Instruct your students to line up at the door in a particular order (by birthday, age or height are good places to start) without talking! This game builds nonverbal communication skills and helps students learn something about each other. Plus, it’s a great way to use that last 2 minutes of the day after everyone’s packed up and ready to go, and you’re all just waiting on the final bell!
Sign Up to Receive Your FREE Classbook Publishing Kit
Another way to make the school day more exciting is with a class project that turns your students into published authors! Simply sign up for your FREE classbook publishing kit, and we’ll help you through the entire process, from planning to publication. Classbooks are a meaningful keepsake for your classroom and a time capsule of your school year. Parents can order copies, too!
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. Now that you’ve got some fun classroom game ideas, get ready to redirect the end-of-day classroom chaos into excitement for learning!