Bill MacKenty

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Board games in the classroom?

Posted in Games in education Practical Advice on 30 - December 2008 at 11:22 PM (15 years ago). 296 views.

Another beautiful question:

Hello, I am a fifth grade teacher and would like to use games to help the students learn. My school, though, does not have the resources for computer
based games. I was wondering if their were any simulation board games that I could use. I was thinking something similar to Avalon Hills Blitzkrieg. I
have heard of some that teach the pioneer life. I have been scouring the internet for help but have come up with nothing. I thank you for any help.

My answer:

Hey Craig!

Nice to meet you.  Actually, board games have more educational value than computer games, in that players often see the mechanics behind game outcomes, whereas computer games people only see outcomes. 

Any teacher can make anything education (almost.) The key thing is to ask the kids to think about what they are doing.  So you can play great games, but if you don’t ask the kids to reflect on the experience, then while minimally educational, they won’t get as much out of it.  I hope this makes sense - it’s the basic “how games in education work” message I’ve been pushing for years now. 

Create essential questions about XYZ. Teach the kids about XYZ, play a board game, reflect on the experience, build assessment tools. This is bread and butter teacher stuff.  The game will get your kids very excited and involved. Make sure they know all the rules, and ask them how this game is (and isn’t) like your topic of study.  Ask them to simulate certain scenarios.

I love that you are looking at war games - fun and exciting. Here’s a list I think you can use with 5th graders:

1. Diplomacy
2. Axis and Allies (there are different theaters - all work)
3. Risk

There are more, of course - but as long as you use strong instructional design, you’ll be fine.

Good luck, and please keep me in the loop.