Home Questions Answered Favorite Games?

What are your favorite playground or free time games? I know that classes don’t have much free time, but maybe you’ve seen the kids playing some at lunch. I’m an out of school hours care worker.

First of all, I love games! So I play quite a few in my classroom, I simply find a way to make them educational (or kind of educational) to justify playing them and using them as part of a lesson rather than just an extra activity if there is time at the end of the day.

  1. Pictionary

Now this might seem like it can’t be done in a big class but it can! I’ve played with 36 students at a time and it works really well you just modify the rules slightly.

  1. I break the class into groups of 4-6 depending on the class size. You just have to make sure you have an even number of groups.
  2. I take my dry erase marker and divide the board in two.
  3. I give each student about 5 small sheets of paper. (I’ve used index cards cut in half or simply copy paper it doesn’t matter) They are to write out words to be drawn BUT they have to be something we have learned about in class. See, I told you it was educational ;)
  4. Then they fold them in half and bring them up and I have a big plastic bowl we put them in.


  1. Each round lasts 60 seconds and the timer starts the moment one of the team members reads off a card. (This gets them motivated and out of their seats a lot faster)
  2. I set it up so that each round the same team plays against the same team (so if I have 6 teams, teams 1 and 4 would go at the same time, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6). That way they always know when their turn is coming up.
  3. EVERYONE HAS TO DRAW AND EVERYONE HAS TO GUESS. If I notice it’s been awhile since someone has gone I call them out.
  4. Only the two teams who are drawing can speak. If another team shouts out the answer the team drawing automatically gets a point. If they shout out anything else they start losing points.
  5. They select one person to draw and one person to guess so the artist can hear the answer if it comes up.
  6. 5 is an important rule BECAUSE if their team guesses the answer they can draw again and again and again as many times as possible in their 60 seconds. (For younger students you might need to give 90 seconds)
  7. If I run out of cards and we still have time to play I have them quickly make up new cards to keep it going. For this game I usually give a prize (an inflatable crayon or a giant pencil) they both are big hits and students love them!
  8. If you get a word and you don’t know what it is you have to look it up. I keep a textbook on the desk for them to use.


  1. Fish Tank
    1. This is a lot like Pictionary and started the same way except students only make one card, same rules except you do more than drawing (and you only can draw one card)
    2. 3 Rounds: Charades, Pictionary, and the last round the student can give one word to describe their word and hope their team guesses it. The last round is always very funny.
    3. But they’ve been through every card twice so they should know what the words are by the third round so it gets really silly.
    4. I picked up a fishbowl at a craft store for this game.


  1. The Black Death (better known to most as Mafia)
    1. This game is great. My students go nuts over it and I love it. We read about medieval times and the Renaissance and discuss plague and how it affected life. I look forward to the day we get to play this game. So it could be changed to fit another lesson
    2. If you have ever played Mafia it’s the exact same game with a few educational modifiers.


  1. I start by writing The Black Death in giant letters across the board and just sit at my desk as students arrive not saying anything.
  2. I explain that we have entered medieval times and are now at great risk for contracting the plague.
  3. I have everyone lay down on their desk and close their eyes and walk around the room. I select two Harbinger’s of death by tapping them on the shoulder.
  4. At “night” the two harbinger’s of death silently select a victim to contract the plague.
  5. Then I tell everyone they can wake up and I walk up to the person who was selected and give them the bad news.
  6. However, I’m a healer and am able to provide medicine if they can answer a simple question. (About what they’ve read about and we’ve learned about in class) Their medicine is a piece of candy. If they answer correctly they are saved, given some medicine and warned that though they survived they aren’t immune unfortunately and could possibly be chosen again.
  7. Each day the group gets to discuss who they think the Harbinger’s of doom are. If half the group can agree on a name then the person is stoned to death. This is the fun part as a teacher! (Buy lots of candy) No one expects it for the first stoning but I walk over and say “I’m sorry but it’s decided, you’re to be stoned.” Then I grab a handful of candy and throw it at him/her.
  8. I always let them know if they’ve killed an innocent person. Their goal is to find the harbinger’s of death before the plague annihilates the human race. Some classes guess right away, others only have a couple people left so I don’t usually give a prize. Once there is candy all around the room students start helping me stone other students. It’s a lot of fun. But I sometimes give out Beach Ball Globes if I only have a few survivors since they survived the end of the world.


  1. Cards Against the Humanities
    1. I love this game. I teach in the humanities so it works for me. Your play on words might not be as good for math or science. But this one is really good. Students enjoy it and it’s a fantastic review of information. This also might not be as appropriate for younger students but I take out answers that I feel are inappropriate
    2. So I use this game as my review for the final. Rather than me rattle off information they are sure to forget this really helps. Online you can get a free copy of the traditional Cards Against Humanity. I only use their answer cards and again take out the ones that aren’t appropriate for a classroom.
    3. My big cards I make myself and are all based off of things we’ve learned (i.e. The Egyptians are best known for[blank]) I made a big deck using 11×17 paper for the main card and then regular sized paper for the answers. I printed them on heavy cardstock on my own printer.
    4. The kids work in teams (just like the Pictionary game above) and select their answer and put it on the board answer facing back so the students can’t see nor can I. I then read all the cards aloud and after some laughter from all I select the one I think is best or funniest. That team gets a point. I keep track on the board.
    5. You are wondering how this helps them review I bet. Well, the team who wins gets a bonus point if they can tell me the real answer. If they can they get the point if not then I tell the class the answer. Sometimes I have to explain things a little deeper but that’s okay, we may not have time to go through every single card but that’s what studying and preparing for an exam is for anyway. My review tries to ensure we hit all the main points and because they are enjoying themselves they tend to retain more information this way.


  1. Gumdrop and Toothpick Sculptures
    1. This isn’t really a game, it’s an activity that I’ve done in both groups and individually. I first came across this game when I was working in the corporate sector and was sent to a team building workshop. When I became a teacher this was something I knew I’d be doing with my students!
    2. You don’t have to teach art for this to be a suitable lesson. It can be used to explain DNA sequencing or how germs are spread. It could be used in Geometry when you are considering gravity and engineering and how important structural balance is to ensure something won’t fall down. It could be implement as a lesson in gravity in a physics class. The possibilities are endless really.
    3. You need gumdrops, toothpicks, a big bowl, and cups


  1. Deciding on how many gumdrops to get can be tricky. My class has anywhere from 24-36 students in it at a given time. For 36 students I’ve found about 20lbs to be a sufficient amount for people to work alone, 10 lbs for people to work in groups of 2-3. I always buy way too many toothpicks and then somehow lose them every year and have to buy them again. But 4 boxes of the 800 should be more than enough! (But knowing me I’d buy 6 just in case) I do buy the flat toothpicks rather than the standard ones. It really doesn’t affect the sculpture but you don’t get a student accidentally stab their finger if you get the flat ones.
  2. However many students you have, take out that many cups and start dividing the gumdrops. You should hopefully have spares and students can get up and get more if their cup is empty. That way you ensure that everyone starts with about the same number and no one is struggling because they didn’t get enough to start with
  3. Their task is simple – to build the tallest tower they can. (Obviously you can modify this for your lesson) I use it to teach balance, structural balance, open volume vs closed volume, mass, scale, etc
  4. As their towers get taller and they start to struggle we talk about what would happen if the toothpicks were thicker or the gumdrops larger and discuss how changing the elements we are working with could with help or hinder the project.
  5. I bring in a tape measure for the end. Their structure has to stand on its own for 5 seconds before I measure it. The winner gets a free homework pass which in my class is called a “My Dog Ate My Homework” pass because I have a special notebook that has a bite taken out of the page their certificate is on. It’s perfect.

question submitted and answered through reddit.com/r/teaching by TeacherAffairs

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