Student Created Learning Games

You got me runnin’, goin’ out of my mind

Life has been busy, as you may have noted from the fact my last post was from the middle of February. As I pondered how to bring some fun into my classroom for my students in my last hour Spanish class (I teach English II, Mythology, Yearbook, and Multimedia Communications the rest of the day), I thought about making a game. Then I recalled how much fun my students in other classes have had creating their own games to help them learn the content, and that settled it for me. I would have my students create the game or games. I also feel like I should add that my students and I have been at school, in person, this entire school year. We have rolled with the changing guidelines. Please don’t be upset when we aren’t pictured as 6 feet apart. Students are masked when closer than 6 feet, our community has had very few cases, and we haven’t had to quarantine since the mask mandate. This has worked for us. Do what you need to for your students, district, and community. I’m sharing in case this will help some have fun while learning and also to disrupt a stressful year with a bit of goodness.

You got me thinkin’ that I’m wastin’ my time

My district is small and serves pre-kindergarten through 12th grade all on one campus, so some of my classes are small, meaning 10 or fewer students. With only seven in my last hour class, they liked the game idea but did not want to create them individually or in teams. They wanted to do it as a whole class. My first instinct was to shut that down, but I paused. A whole group approach meant that we would only have one game to play, but it also meant that everyone would be invested in it, so why not try it. I approved.

Students set up the game to incorporate the entire classroom.

Don’t bring me down

Another thing to consider, besides a whole class approach, when having students create games for your content is the length of time needed to do so. While I like to let go of some control when students are creating, I do also really appreciate creative constraints. An area that you can consider using with game creation is time. Limit the time they have to create the game. Students will use however much time you give them, so to value your instructional time, limit the time they get for the game. You might be surprised at how fast students can put together a fun game. Now, a caveat to using the time constraint or other creative constraints is the need for iteration. Students will need to make adjustments and changes as the game is played. So while you tell them it must be completed by the end of the hour, by the next class period, or in two hours (depending on your schedule and grade level), keep in mind that you will need to play it once to get the kinks or bugs fixed, and then at least once after it is “perfected.”

No, no, no, no, no

Ooh-ooh-hoo

When possible, have students create a game where the content can be swapped out for new content throughout the year. The game structure needs to be flexible instead of fixed. For example, if students create a game where they draw cards for the content questions or a different game element, then that can be a little more complicated than if they create the game to rely on the teacher for the questions/content. That can be another creative constraint too. In case this has confused you, I’ll explain the game, with pictures, that my students came up with and how we decided to run it. The game was improved as we played it the first few times.

There were at least two Go To Jail squares.

I’ll tell you once more before I get off the floor

The candy land, snakes & ladders, and monopoly game:

My students decided they wanted to use the entire room as the board for the game. That also gave me pause, but intrigued with the idea, I let them create the game using whatever they needed, which included the room. Using construction paper, students charted out a Candy Land-esk layout. As they were plotting the path for the game, I asked them questions to help them think through the game elements. They decided they would be their own game pieces, which is great because that means we always have enough when we play the game. I had them think through positive and negative consequence squares to land on, how to determine the number of spaces they get to move, and what we would use as a game piece for how many paces they move, etc. Here is what we came up with:

Here’s the game in action!

Don’t bring me down

Supplies:

  • Colorful construction paper
  • Beach ball
  • Quizizz (content / questions)

I’ll tell you once more before I get off the floor

Instructions:

  • Students (masked if teaching in person during a pandemic) gather at the START square
  • Using the flashcard mode of our current vocabulary Quizizz, student has to answer or provide the correct answer.
  • Beach ball is thrown to student after successfully answering the question, whatever color their left hand lands on determines how many spaces to move. Have your class look over the colors of your beach ball and determine the number of spaces. Ours ranged from 1-7, assigning positive movement forward for each color. Backward movement was built into a few of the squares that students might land on. Also, ours was an actual exercise ball that had a beach ball cover on it. That actually added to the fun.
  • Student moves to appropriate square and next student repeats that process.
  • If the square is on furniture (tables, desks, etc.), then student will sit not stand on the square. šŸ™‚
  • My students added the following types of squares: Go to Jail (to get out of jail, the student just had to answer the question correctly when it was their turn next, and then the student just returned to the Go To Jail square to resume the game), Go Back ___ Spaces, Skip ahead 3 spaces, etc.
  • Students created a bonus card that they placed under an existing square. It was a cream/brown colored piece of construction paper, and it was labeled Skip Question. If a student landed on the square that had that card under it, then they could take that card with them through the game and use it one time. If they were given a question /word that they didn’t know, they could give that card to the teacher (me) and then get a different (the next) question/word.

Don’t bring me down

If you want to try something like this, I highly encourage it. Students were even motivated to pay more attention to the vocabulary work we do on Quizizz daily, so that they would do better when we next played the game.

Their idea here was to be able to ask a classmate for help when landing on this spot, if help is needed.
Why not? If pandemic teaching, this is an “Air High Five.”:)
Because bridge.
Here’s an example of one of the negative landing squares.
Everyone needs a bit of luck!
I display the card on the Smartboard, so think of ways you can display your content questions.

That’s it! Now that you’ve seen what my students created, think about ways you can get your students creating with your content. A game is always a fun activity for everyone, and don’t we need a bit of fun right now? I know I do. My students do. If you are adventurous and let your students create something fun with your content, don’t forget to share out and tag me on Twitter! šŸ‘‡šŸ‘‡šŸ‘‡

Guess what my students and I created! Check this out!

heading titles are partial lyrics from don’t bring me down by the electric light orchestra.

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