Time is always an issue at school. There is not enough time in the day to everything you want. Playing a game is often near, or at the bottom of the list. When do you play? How can you make play meaningful (curriculum connected)? Why does play have to me meaningful? I struggle with these questions, and others all the time. For example; if I make time during centres for play, but I also expect students to write about their play, does writing about play justify the time I give to playing, or just take away from the benefits of playing?
One 'freebie' for play in the classroom is indoor recess. Indoor recess, is great for introducing games and just playing. During recess I give my students choices of games to play in the class. Some choose to play on the computer while others choose table top games. These games are all chosen by me, so, while there is choice, it is still controlled by me. We teachers are a controlling lot. The challenge in building a collection of games for recess is finding ones that will only last 10-15 minutes, to make transitioning back to class work easy. Here are the games I have in my collection currently:
Uno, Chess (not really a fast game), cards, Dominoes, Story cubes, Spot it, We didn't playtest this game at all. Almost all my games are easily found in book, games shops, and department stores.
Spot it, and Story cubes are the current favourite of my class. These games are quick, and allow for many players. I have watched half my class choose to play story cubes and create the funniest, strangest stories I have ever heard. I have also used this in class as a fun oral activity, and a way to talk about units of organized thought i.e. paragraphs.
Spot it is a favourite because it is fast paced and very visual. My ELL students in particular liked this one, as it does not require reading English text. The last game on the list is my favourite, because there is a lot of thinking, and luck in a 5 minute -or less- game. Students have to quickly read their cards and make a plan to ensure everyone else loses. My students in grade 4/5 are a bit hesitant to play 'We Didn't Playtest this Game at All' because it requires a lot of reading when you are first learning to playing it, but my former students who are in grade 6/7 do come by my class to borrow it occasionally.
My latest game Duple I haven't yet introduced to my students. For now it is sitting on my desk, driving my students crazy. It is from the makers of Anomia. I can't wait to play.