Classroom Games for Children

Children in a classroom

Whether you're a substitute teacher or you simply have a bit of extra instructional time to fill, classroom games can be a nice activity that keep students engaged and their brains active. Although there are dozens upon dozens of different classroom games, ones that are both educational and fairly quiet are a favorite with educators everywhere.

Silent Classroom Games

Are You on the Ball?

What You'll Need:

  • Soft foam ball, such as a Nerf ball
  • List of questions to review for test or quiz

What They'll Learn

This is a great game to use to review for a test and can be used for absolutely any subject. You can make the questions anything from reviewing history facts to spelling words or even the times tables.

How to Play

  1. Have the students stand.
  2. Explain to the students that they will be given a question off the sheet and that you'll be going in the order the questions are listed so as not to play favorites.
  3. If the child answers the question correctly, he tosses the ball to someone else and is still in the game.
  4. If he answers incorrectly, he must sit and is out of the game for this round.

Have small prizes for the last student standing each round. These can be something as simple as a large candy bar. At the end of the game, have small snack size candies for all the children as a thank you for participating.

This is a good review game, because even when they are not answering a questions, students will hear the questions and the correct answers of other students and thus review facts for the test in a fun and interactive way.

Word Battles

What You'll Need:

  • Chalkboard, Dry Erase or Smart Board
  • Writing utensil (chalk or dry erase marker, etc.)
  • List of words and all their possible anagrams

What They'll Learn

Anagrams can be used to learn sight words, spelling words and to enhance vocabulary. The better the students become at spelling words, the more anagrams they'll be able to come up with for any given word.

How to Play

  1. Choose words that are appropriate for the age group of the students. If you're teaching beginning readers, you'll want to stick to one or two syllables. You could adapt this and tell them you are giving them a word like "cat" and want them to come up with rhyming words rather than anagrams. That would work best with very new readers who need short words. Older students can work with more complex words.
  2. Ask each student to take out a sheet of lined paper.
  3. Write the word up on the board in big enough letters for all the students to see.
  4. Set a timer for two minutes and tell the students to come up with as many words as possible that can be made from the letters in that word (or rhymed with that word for young readers).
  5. Read the possible words that can be made and tell them to add one point for each correct answer.
  6. Move on to the next word.
  7. Repeat until out of time. The student with the highest points wins. The prize can be getting to lead the class the next time the game is played or a small prize.

What's in Common

What You'll Need:

  • A piece of painter's tape in a bright color, such as yellow, blue, green. Painter's tape works best because it is colorful and easy to remove without causing damage to the floor. However, you can also use masking tape in a pinch.

What They'll Learn

There are many variations out there of this style of game. In this version, your goal is to get the students to see what they have in common with one another. This can be a particularly useful game if you're studying DNA in science and want to see how many people have blue eyes, etc. It can also become a simple ice breaker to get students in a new classroom better acquainted.

How to Play

  1. Push all the desks and chairs back to create an empty space in the center of the room.
  2. Place the tape in a straight line down the center of the room.
  3. Have all the students line up on one side of the tape.
  4. Tell the students that you are going to ask a series of questions. If the answer is yes, you want them to step across the tape to the other side and turn back around and face the other students.
  5. Ask whatever questions tie into your lesson. For example, if studying DNA, you could say, "Do you have blue eyes?" All the students answering yes will step over the tape. Or, if you are studying history, you might say, "Do you think the Federalists or Anti-Federalists were right in what they wanted for the United States?"
  6. Play for the allotted time and then inform the students you have one final question and if the answer is yes that you want them to return to the spot where they started. Try to end on a question that most if not all of them will have in common.

Classic Classroom Games

  • Heads-up Seven Up: This classic classroom game is sometimes called Thumbs Up, Seven Up. Everyone in the class puts their heads down and the leader picks seven people. Everyone has to guess who they are. Simple to play and no equipment or preparation needed.
  • Around the World: This game works the best when you have a set of flashcards on hand. The goal is to say the answer the fastest until there is only one person left standing.
  • Mafia: This has been a popular game with teens for years. It is a bit more complicated, so is best to play with grades six and up. You may also want to come up with a variation other than mafia where people are criminals and are murdered. There are many variations on the Internet or you can come up with your own. For example, if you are studying early American history, you could have Red Coats, Minutemen, villagers, etc. The key is to be creative with the stories and get all the students engaged with their roles.
  • Four Corners: This game is good for any size group and helps students with decision making. Students are divided equally into four corners. Students move quietly around the room, a corner is chosen and those players are then out of the game. This game gets kids moving, but in a somewhat quiet way, so is great for indoor recesses.
  • Elephant, Palm Tree, Boat: This game is listed over on Responsive Classroom and is another great option for indoor recess activities. Students sit in a circle and three items are named. The student has to do charades of the objects. It gets students moving but within the controlled confines of the game. The teacher controls the movements that are chosen.

When to Play

Classroom games are an excellent choice for that last ten minutes of classroom time when the lesson is completed and students are getting chatty instead of focusing on their work. You can also use these fillers when substitute teaching and no lesson plan is provided or during indoor recess time. Some educators use classroom games as a reward for good behavior out of a classroom. If the students work hard and get their lessons completed, they are rewarded with a few minutes at the end of class to have fun and unwind.

Whatever reason you wind up using classroom games, your students will come to look forward to this time to just be kids. The fact that they are also learning can be a secret you keep to yourself and a bonus for them.

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Classroom Games for Children