Why Everyone Should Be Playing Board Games

If you aren’t playing board games (home or school), then you are missing out!  I can already hear your eyes rolling as you say something like, “I used to play Monopoly every Thanksgiving with the family, and if I am remembering correctly it was pretty boring.  Why would I want to play board games now?” That’s more than fair, but hear me out. Games have come a long way since 1935.     

Family time helps make lasting connections. 

Let’s start with the obvious reason board games are great for a family activity: it gets everyone around a table having fun. According to a study performed by John Hopkins University, students who have a positive relationship with their parents do better academically.  We know, as parents and educators, the positive effect of showing interest and simply spending time with a child can have.  Playing games and having fun will help to build memories and connections  

You get immediate feedback from other players. 

Personally, I love when you do something amazing and hear everyone at the table say, “ooh and ahh.” Who doesn’t love to hear, “Job well done?”  All of us love to get an “atta boy “ or job well done from time to time. Playing games gives us an opportunity to give earned and sincere praise to our children. 

According to Dr. Dewar, praise helps children feel like they can keep trying after failure, and continue working on challenging tasks.

Gratifications in accomplishments lead to increases in self-esteem. 

Many games are challenging and often take time to become really good at them.  Providing a challenge for your kids to overcome, helps them to build self-esteem through achievement.   Self-esteem earned by doing something that was hard is lasting. 

Playing against other people provides a greater challenge than playing against a computer. 

I love video games. I started playing them on an Atari. Video games have a problem though:  they can get predictable and at points boring. Playing with other people can prove to be more challenging as other players have the ability to adapt, be spontaneous, be irrational, and at times unpredictable.   

Tangibility, it is satisfying to move pieces around.  

Game play helps tap into and builds that kinesthetic enjoyment.  In the world we live in where everything is going digital, there is something satisfying about physical interacting with a game.  This is something a screen simply cannot do.   

Learning from mistakes

This is a hard lesson in life.  Mistakes can be costly and hurt sometimes.

Games provide an opportunity for students to take risks and fail while the cost is  “inexpensive.” Board games allow kiddos to learn how their choices affect their results in a safe environment. 

To quote Micheal Jordan, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.” 

Practice creating a plan to accomplish a goal, and adapting to changing conditions 

One of the greatest strengths of modern board games is the large decision space they provide players.  This forces players to come up with many creative and clever ways to solve whatever problem the game has thrown at them.  Often it takes a few rounds for a plan to come together and as a result this players must think about how their actions will affect them a few rounds down the road.    

But, as the famous philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Every man has a plan, until he’s punched in the face,” and many of our plans will not withstand initial contact with our advisories.  Most modern games require you to adapt under pressure as your initial plan unravels. 

Long term planning, mental plasticity in the face of adversity, and the cause and effect relationship of one’s actions are lessons we all want our kids to learn.  

Strategic thinking and problem solving

As a teacher I have always held the philosophy that teaching children to think is as important, if not more important, than the content in the curriculum.  Years from now, I am pretty sure my former science students won’t remember how to calculate the specific heat of an element, but I know they will still be able to identify a problem and logically work toward a solution.    

Games provide ample opportunity to hone this skill.  Over and over in most modern games, players need to identify the problem standing in the way of their victory, evaluate the options available, and how they are going to execute it while having fun (not that finding the specific heat of an object isn’t fun!).  Furthermore, the difficulty of the challenge often increases as the game progresses, encouraging the child to learn and try new strategies.  

Cooperative game play builds compassion and teamwork.

Many modern board games are cooperative, allowing you to play together with, instead of against, your family and friends.  Playing games like this provides an opportunity to practice their social skills, promote patients, and explore how to interact with others.  Children will need to explain what they want to do, ask for help from other players, and most importantly learn how their choices affect how others react.  

  • Did they demand someone else’s help or ask nicely?  
  • Was their tone angry or kind?  
  • Did they wait patiently for their turn or rush and pressure the others? 

They get to see how their behavior affects their enjoyment as well as the enjoyment of others

Children also develop compassion as they learn to understand others’ struggles with the same problem.  Kids can see someone else not get the cards or rolls they need to succeed and feel empathy because they were just in that same situation.  Showing support and helping to make people feel better or seeing how the criticism they gave hurt someone’s feelings is a valuable lesson. Kids can develop these social skills within a safe environment because at the end of the day, it is just a game!  

Playing games provides of the benefits we look for when we teach literature.  

Children get the chance to live and learn vicariously through the experiences the game provides.  It allows kids to be the brave heroes risking everything to save the world from a pandemic, rush into a burning building to save the residents, or rescuing the king as a tiny mouse knight from an evil scorpion.  Children can learn the elements of an well-developed story and apply those skills both in and outside the classroom.

Ultimately when it comes to board games, just like family dinner, it is less about what is on the table and more about who shares it with you.  

Digital Choice Boards: Game Changer!

I love choice boards!  They are an amazing differentiation tool to meet the needs of all of my learners while simultaneous providing choice and student ownership. 

Choice boards can be integrated across the curriculum.  Check out this Fraction Enrichment Choice Board I used in my own 5th grade classroom:

Each choice board is adaptable to meet the needs of your classroom and/or unit of study.  There might only be enough time for students to complete a couple of activities, so you may choose to have kiddos choose activities in a 3-in-a-row format.  Or you can assign a point value to each activity and learners have to complete a predetermined amount of points to receive full credit (i.e. choose activities total 10 points or more).  Other teachers might assign all of the activities to be completed.  It is completely up to you based on what works best for you and your students!

DIGITAL CHOICE BOARDS

Integrating technology has become an essential element in many classrooms and many classrooms are mandated to integrate more digital learning by their districts or states.  My district has adopted Google Classroom as the primary means to expose students to online learning.  In order to continue to provide differentiated learning opportunities for my students based on their readiness, interest, and learning profile, I created digital choice boards using Google Slides. 

The activities are completely paperless and involve using technology tools for students as they show their understanding of the topic of study.   

In the 6th grade activity below, students follow the hyperlink to an external website where they create their own digital fraction dice to complete the activity!

These boards also allow teachers to integrate activities that tap into each student’s multiple intelligences and learning styles.  Recordings, diagrams, typing, and a variety of digital creation tools allow students to fully maximize their learning potential and finally allow teachers to utilize the amazing technology made available by their districts!

If you are considering using digital learning menus in your classroom but are unsure if it is a good fit, here are five reasons why you should make the switch:

Reason #1

Each choice board can be modified based on your students’ interests and readiness.  Create text boxes for each activity option in your boards so that you can rearrange, swap out, or modify the activities so they are different every time. 

This will allow you to make changes for those students who need enrichment or for those who require IEP/504 accommodations by making quick changes to their assigned menus.  You can also provide additional technology tools or links that will help these students be successful in meeting their individualized goals! Here is an example activity from my EDITABLE 4th Grade Digital Interactive Beginning of the Year Math Choice Board that includes a description of the project, a link to the tools needed to complete the activity, as well as editable text boxes to make changes/adjustments as needed.

In this 5th Grade Math Digital Choice Board activity, students have a link to a specific website to find numbers with decimals as well as the tokens needed to identify the composite and prime numbers.

Reason #2

Providing feedback can be a challenge when students are working on their choice boards.  However, digital choice boards in Google Drive makes giving feedback so quick and easy.  As learners are working on their activities, you can check their progress from your own teacher computer and provide valuable feedback anywhere and at anytime.  You could be in a doctor’s office, at home on your couch, or even during one-on-one student conferences in the classroom:  it doesn’t matter.  You can access their work whenever it is convenient for you!   Check out this scoring rubric from my 6th Grade Beginning of the Year Digital Choice Board.

Reason #3

Of course, digital choice boards allow you to use LESS PAPER!  This is not only eco-friendly, but the time you spend making copies can be used for the hundred of other items on your to-do-list.  In addition, you won’t have to worry about students losing their work, and learners will also have access to their choice boards at home if they have Internet access.  This will not only be beneficial for students but it will also help create a strong home/school connection as students easily share their choice board activities with their families.

Reason #4

Student work is in ONE place!  The boards that I created in Google Slides include the choice boards, graphic organizers for each activity option, as well as the scoring rubrics for both student self-assessment, as well as teacher-assessment.  Students are able to showcase their knowledge using a variety of different tools and resources that are intuitive to use and easy to insert into the slide.   This provides an easy way to keep kiddos accountable all in one place!

Here are examples of two interactive graphic organizers that have helped me easily monitor the progress of my kiddos:

Reason #5

Choice boards through Google Slides is a great way to choose the digital tools and resources students use to showcase their understanding of each standard/skill.  By creating hyperlinks to pre-selected websites and applications, kiddos can safely, quickly, and easily access the most appropriate resources for each activity!  Here is an example from my 5th Grade Digital Beginning of the Year Choice Board:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE choice boards!  Creating digital boards with interactive graphic organizers allows me to continue to meet the needs of all of my 21st century learners in a way that is easy, efficient, and beneficial for everyone.

Take a look at some of the EDITABLE digital beginning of the year review choice boards I have created and are available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

I hope you find these resources helpful and a great addition to your classroom!

Choice Boards – Key to Differentiation

Wouldn’t it be nice if the students who walked through our doors came prepared with all the content knowledge from previous years they were supposed to have? If this were the case, teaching would be a lot easier.

At times our job as teachers can feel extremely overwhelming, if not impossible. How in the world can we possibly be expected to teach 25 to 35 students at different levels and abilities?   I asked this same question to myself over and over again during my first years as a teacher. I had implemented a variety of differentiation strategies just like they taught me in my undergraduate program like leveled readers, centers, and literature circles. However, I still didn’t feel like it was doing enough.

I then started doing research and discovered the world of learning menus and choice boards. Choice boards are an amazing graphic organizer that enables students to choose how they will learn or show their understanding of a concept or topic.

Here is a list of 10 reasons why choice board are a great tool for any classroom.

  1. Effective and Easy

Choice boards are by the far the most effective and easy ways to differentiate that I have found. There are so many wonderful resources available to help teachers plan meaningful activities to learn and showcase their learning like HERE.

  1. All Content Areas

What other resource can you use to differentiate across all content areas?  I have integrated these boards for units on space exploration, the Oregon Trail, measurement, and even as an alternative to standard reading logs. No matter what you are teaching, you can create a choice board to match.

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  1. Empowers Students

Choice boards are an amazing tool that empowers students through choice. Students are able to take ownership of their own learning because they had the opportunity and freedom to choose which activities to showcase their understanding of the content or topic being covered.   I always put in a “Your Choice” option for students. This way if they have the freedom and flexibility to create their own activity if none of the options appeal to them. Before students can begin on the activity they created, they must complete a project proposal graphic organizer to help them plan out their activity. Students then must present their proposal to me for approval. This way I can help them polish their idea or get them on the right track if they are completely off base.

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  1. Highly Personalized

Based on the interest, learning preferences, and readiness of my students, I can create personalized menus that include activities at the DOK levels and learning styles that meet my students’ needs.   This is extremely powerful because I have the power to

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  1. Instant Engagement

According to Morzano, one of the most effective ways to engage students is to give them choice. Students will find more meaning and will be more focused if they are given the flexibility and freedom to choose how they learn.    

  1. Content, Process, and Application

Choice boards can be integrated into the content, process, or application portion of any lesson. The content can be differentiated through accelerated, remediated, or enriched content

  1. Time Flexibility

Depending on the amount of time that is available, choice boards can be used for a single lesson, a whole unit, or even as a homework assignment. I loved using choice board as apart of my Weekly 5 reading centers (my way of adapting The Daily 5). There were choice boards for the writing, vocabulary, and word work centers.   For each center, student had one day to complete one of the activities on the menu. Other menus I have created, students have had an entire month to complete it like my Independent Choice Board Project I created to replace reading logs.

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  1. Set High Expectations

Students can help create the choice board and/or scoring rubric with their teachers so that they are active participants in their own learning and can set high but attainable expectations for themselves. This definitely helps students develop their metacognition, which is extremely important

  1. Many Types of Choice Boards

Teachers can choose from many different choice board formats like learning menus, tic tac toe, 2-5-8, baseball, and many more.   Click HERE to find dozens of examples.

  1. Scoring Rubrics

These menus can be evaluated using scoring rubrics that can be applied to every project imaginable.   I created my own activity and presentation rubrics for the and pretty much use them for everything. You can also give students more ownership by asking them to create the rubric together as a class.

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There is no doubt that integrating choice board project into my classroom has been a huge game changer. All students, especially gifted and reluctant learners, have benefited because they have developed a greater sense of ownership, the ability to work at their own pace, and the freedom to choose or design activities based on their own interests and readiness.

Now that I am the gifted and talented resource teacher at my school, I collect choice boards across all grade levels and subject areas. This way if teachers come to me for help, I can pull out a surefire way to meet the needs of all the students in their classrooms that is both effective and easy to implement.

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Biography Research Project

I was so utterly impressed with my students hard work this year creating their Biography Research Projects.

This project is unique because students created authentic artifacts (primary sources) to represent the major life events of a historical figure instead of writing a typical research paper. Students made birth certificates, awards, diplomas, portraits, letters, postcards, wedding invitations, photographs, birth announcements, and so much more! To make each piece, students looked at student samples from the past as well as real examples. This way they could make their artifact as authentic as possible.

Here are some examples of their amazing work:

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Post Card
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I assigned each grade level a different continent in which to choose their historical figure. My third graders were assigned Europe, fourth grade was given Asia, and my fifth grader had Africa. My only other criteria was that their figure be deceased and had made a positive impact on the world.

After creating their artifacts, students had to create and store all of their artifacts in a container that represented their historical figure.

Here are some of the cases students brought in this year:

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Students displayed their projects at my school’s annual Fine Arts Night and created beautiful and integrate banners for each of the continents represented.

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All of the projects and containers were displayed on tables for parents and students to enjoy.  Take a look at the great projects students created:

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This project is great for strengthening higher order thinking skills and giving children a sense of ownership because they definitely feel a deep connection to their historical figure.

If you are interested in doing this project with your class, you can get it here.

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Multiplying Fractions

I love teaching fractions.  I remember years ago when I would teach my students a jiggle to remember to the steps to multiplying fractions.  They would chorally sing the chant together and then solve the problem. What could be better, right? All my students got the answers correct and could do any problem I threw at them as long as they sang the song. However, after taking a life changing professional development workshop, I realized that my students didn’t understand the REASON behind the steps they were singing.  They couldn’t visualize what they were actually doing. WOW! ! !

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Teaching this concept using visuals can definitely be challenging.  My gifted learners often wonder why they need to draw a picture when they know how to solve the problem using the standard algorithm (often times in their heads).  I always explain that it is important to know WHY the steps work and to be able to PICTURE it in their minds.  This way when the problems become more complex, they will have a better understanding of what they are doing.

20151123_131307 I have been working on a unit that teachers could easily implement into their classroom to help students grasp these sometimes challenging concepts.    After months of working them, they are finally available!

You can grab each of these practice packs by clicking on the links below:

20151208_212950 Each unit includes

  • Pre and Post Assessments with Keys
  • Objective Poster
  • Interactive Notes and Foldables
  • Student Samples and Instructions
  • 3 Different Practice Pages and Games with Answer Keys

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  These practice packs are also available in a bundle. You click here to find it on TPT. Slide01

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