How often do you include games in your classroom? Some people may argue that games are a distraction from doing more academic type activities. But games can be highly academic and serve as a vital inclusive activity option that can help all students connect with content that might be otherwise difficult to engage with. Learning should be exciting for students and what better what to ignite this excitement than with a game! Let us share some of our favourite classroom games that won’t cost you a cent to set up in your classroom and can be used in almost any subject.
This simple but classic game is a great way to encourage your students to get out of their seats and participate in the lesson.
What you will need: a list of people, actions, or concepts related to the subject you are teaching.
Game: Select a student to stand at the front of the room and act out a word from your list (no speaking allowed). The rest of the class must then guess what the student is attempting to portray. Other students can shout out their guesses or put their hands up – depending on your teaching preference! Whoever guesses correctly can act out the next word.
A traditional but interactive game that improves students’ spelling and subject knowledge, but is also enjoyable.
What you will need: whiteboard and pen or interactive whiteboard, plus a list of subject-specific words to inspire your students.
Game: Divide your class into two teams then select a student to stand at the front of the class and think of a word related to the lesson (or you could give them a suitable word). The student must then draw spaces on the whiteboard to represent each letter in their word. The rest of the class then guesses the word, one letter at a time (allow one student from each team to guess alternately). Incorrect guesses result in a hangman being drawn (one line at a time). The first team to guess the word wins, unless the hangman is completed. The game then repeats with another student thinking of a relevant word.
Alternative: If you feel a hangman would not be appropriate then use a different image – either subject-specific or think creatively e.g. a spaceman or snowman.
This fun game will encourage your students to think ‘outside-the-box’ and draw on a range of subject knowledge.
What you will need: pieces of paper, pens/pencils and a list of subject-specific categories e.g. Earth and Space (topic): rocks, landforms, weather, and solar system (categories).
Game: Split students into small groups and ask them to note down the categories on their pieces of paper. Choose a letter (A-Z) at random and give students 1-2 minutes (depending on how many categories) to think of a word for each category, beginning with that letter. Once the time is up, allocate points for unique answers, i.e. if two teams write down the same word for a category then neither get any points. Repeat the game with different letters.
Example: Letter M – Topic: Earth and Space
Solar System: Mars
Alternative: If your class only has a small number of students then they could fill in the categories individually, rather than working in teams.
A quick and simple game that never fails to motivate students in their learning.
What you will need: whiteboards and pen or paper and pen/pencils, plus a list of subject-specific terms or concepts e.g. numbers, phonics, key vocabulary, scientific formulae, or historical figures.
Game: Ask students to draw a 6 x 6 grid on their whiteboards or pieces of paper then select 6 words or images from the given list to draw/write in their grid. You must then randomly select a word from the list to describe, and students must guess the word in order to cross it off on their grid (if present). Continue describing different words until one student successfully completes their grid and shouts ‘bingo!’ (you can also award a prize to the first student who gets 3 in a row).
This creative group game encourages students to work together and visualize academic concepts in an abstract way.
What you will need: images, words, calculations, or concepts printed or stuck on card/paper and cut into random shapes (puzzle pieces) e.g. maths calculations, chemical equations, subject vocabulary, historical figures, etc.
Game: Separate your class into groups (or simply use table groupings) then hand out a puzzle for each group to piece together.
6. Draw Swords
This quick-fire game tests students’ fine motor skills and promotes quick thinking, as well as generating some healthy competition.
What you will need: Dictionary or textbook, plus a list of key vocabulary.
Game: Split your class into small groups and choose a student from each group to start. The nominated student then places the dictionary or textbook under their arm. You then say a word or image which the students must then race to find in their book (like drawing a sword from under their arm!). The first student to find the word/image is the winner. The game continues with different words/images until every student has had a turn.
7. Hot Potato
This fun classroom game encourages students to think on their feet and draw on a range of subject knowledge.
What you will need: a soft toy, object, or item for each group to pass round e.g. bear or ball, plus a list of subject-specific themes e.g. numbers – prime, composite, rational, fractions, decimals, etc.
Game: Divide your class into small groups and hand out an object/soft toy to each group. The person with the object in each group will start. You name a title or theme, e.g. prime numbers, and it is then a race against time for the student to give 5 correct responses, e.g. 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, before the item/soft toy has been passed around everyone in their small group and returned to them.
An old classic but also a great way for students to visualize their understanding in a fun team game.
What you will need: whiteboards and pens or pieces of paper and pencils/pens, plus a list of subject-specific concepts.
Game: Students work in small groups. One student from each group is chosen to start and they must draw the subject-related concept you state, within a given time (30 seconds – 2 minutes). The rest of the group must then guess what he/she is drawing. The first group to correctly guess the word wins. The game repeats until every student has had a turn/there are no more words on your list.
Alternative: Students could model concepts using playdough for their peers to guess.
9. Heads Down, Thumbs Up
Although this game isn’t academic, it is an excellent behavior management tool that endorses hard work amongst students.
What you will need: n/a
Game: 3 – 4 students are chosen to stand at the front of the room. The rest of the class then put their heads on the table and hold their thumbs in the air. The 3 – 4 students at the front then carefully tip-toe around the classroom and gently pinch one thumb each, from the students with their heads down. The 3-4 students return to the front of the room, once they have pinched a thumb, and the class raises their heads. The students whose thumbs were pinched then stand and have to guess who pinched them. If they guess correctly then they swap with the student at the front, and the game continues.
Alternative: To make this academic you could ask subject-related questions to select the students for each round.
This game can help students study lesson content and quickly analyze information, making it beneficial for reviewing test material.
What you will need: White board
Game: You draw two circles on a board or projector screen and label one “Yes” and the other “No.” Separate students into two teams and call one representative from each to listen to a statement and decide if it’s true or false. The first student who taps the circle with the correct answer wins the round for their team.
So there you have it! Our favourite no cost classroom games. Would you add any other games to this list?