Thursday, October 09, 2008

Board games...the perfect teaching tool

Sometimes running a program that requires reporting and "results" makes me forget some of the best ways of learning. I suppose I didn't realize how much my own mother was teaching me when we played cards and board games at home.

Yesterday I saw some of the kids opening up the Chutes and Ladders game. Because I've always played Chutes and Ladders...and it seems like such an easy and self-explanatory game...I figured at least the older kids probably already knew how to play. As I sat down with them I realized they didn't know...and I realized I needed to re-read the instructions to refresh my own memory! I explained the rules to them and we began to play.

Halfway through the game I realized the squares have pictures...a boy taking out the trash gets to go up, up, up the ladder to a picture of a boy eating ice cream...A girl pulling a cat's tail goes down, down, down the slide...things that allowed us to have a conversation about why they got to advance or why they slid back. Life lessons that we were able to talk about in pretend nature... Me: "Quindalyn...why did you pull the cat's tail??!!" ...to which the other kids responded, "You need to apologize to the cat!" ...and allowed Quindalyn to sheepishly look at the board and say, "I'm sorry" to the cat on the board.

As we played, the kids had to count the squares (which are labeled 1-100). The kids had to gain an understanding of how to wait their turn. They had to work on moving from one space to the next without skipping around the board (which, for some reason, seems to parallel the problems the often have with the way they do their math problems). They also learned about concepts of addition by helping a kid understand that if they are on square 53 and move 5 spaces, they advance to square 58. They had to learn good sportsmanship because I wouldn't allow them to quit the game because they were behind...and when Tyrese won, we each reached across the board to shake his hand and say, "Good game, Tyrese."

Overall, though, it allowed me (an adult) to have personal interaction time with the kids...which a lot of our kids, these days, don't get enough of.

As soon as I was finished, a few kids who saw me playing Chutes and Ladders quickly asked me to show them how to play Monopoly. I knew I was on to something when I explained began explaining how to buy property on the Monopoly board and Eddie, a kindergartener referred to the checkbook system we've been using for discipline...which allows the kids to earn or lose money based on their attendance, participation, and behavior...and then allows them to "buy" activities and field trips. Eddie immediately made the connection of buying the property on the monopoly board to saving and spending money from his checkbook: "It's like our checkbook! It's just like when we can choose to buy a camera or a voice recorder!"

Sometimes I think we try so hard to make sure we have "results" that we forget these natural and fun ways of learning. And we forget how much it means to kids that someone sits down with them, focuses solely on them, and teaches them lessons they can carry with them.

Anyone have any children's board games they would like to donate? If so, call/email me!

note: photos taken by Melvin, 5th grade
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