How to Incorporate Fun Classroom Learning Games into Your Program

Over the past 30 years, the Box Car’s authors and the Box Car’s consulting team have provided many easy to implement ideas and ways for teachers to incorporate fun classroom learning games into their programs. 

This blog will feature our favorite ways we have helped teachers do this. After reading this post, you’ll have tangible methods to incorporate fun classroom learning games!

Why Are Classroom Learning Games Effective?

Classroom learning games create a fun, engaging environment where your students are excited to learn. Unlike with paper and pencil practice that can frustrate students, learning games foster a setting of productive problem solving, where your students are inspired–not frustrated.

In addition, games allow for a range of different learning styles to access the learning, including visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic learners. You will see your students are able to focus for longer periods of time and long-term retention rates improve.

Learning games are beneficial for increasing participation, mainly for afterschool and summer school programs. Because students (and teachers) are often tired of traditional classwork, learning games can bring a fun, engaging, and highly productive energy into the afterschool and summer school classroom. 

Now that you know the benefits, how do you incorporate fun classroom learning games into your program, curriculum, or teaching strategy? Below, we’ll explore eight methods. 

It’s important to keep in mind that learning games shouldn’t be a simple add-on element to your teaching strategy. They should be an instead of practice. 

01. Math Warm-Ups

Use classroom learning games as quick math warm ups or to practice and review concepts already taught. Many teachers start every lesson with 5 to 10 minutes of play, which is a highly effective way to engage your students, welcome them into Math class, and set a positive tone for the entire class.

In addition, many teachers also use learning games to end their class instructional period. This method helps to facilitate learning, enhance end-of-class participation, and improve applied knowledge.

Teachers use our games to keep concepts ever present for students by using them in centers. For example, say you teach Place Value early in the school year. Keep PV games going in centers throughout the year, or use them in small group work so that students don’t lose touch with what they have already covered. 

We carry a wide variety of award-winning learning games for math and literacy, including class kits. We can also create custom kits in relation to your students’ needs. We’ve also included some of our best-selling products for classrooms, centers, and afterschool/summer school programs!

Shuffling Into Math Class Kit

This class kit contains an extensive games resource that uses regular spotted dice and playing cards. A staple for all primary classrooms and especially suitable for 1st and 2nd grade whole class, small group or center instruction.

Purchase the kit!

Deluxe Elementary Kit

This Deluxe Upper Elementary Math Kit contains all of our best selling 3rd – 6th Grade resources and is meant to be shared between classrooms. It is also perfect for an upper elementary afterschool program.

Purchase the kit!

02. Math Game Backpacks

Many teachers copy our games and send them home in Math Game Backpacks.

We encourage teachers to rethink homework practices to include HOME PLAY. Students receive a tremendous amount of practice using and playing the games at home. 

We tend to focus on the use of cards and regular spotted dice for the games we send home. Some teachers use the Shuffling into Math for Families and All Hands on Deck for Families as a starting point, but the larger more comprehensive teacher resources are great for providing a year’s worth of Home Play.

Shuffling into Math for Families

This resource provides 20 games for families to use in a home setting for practicing early numeracy concepts. Integrates the use of regular spotted dice and a deck of cards. This is the resource we typically use during our Primary Family Math Nights. Suitable for Pre-Kindergarten – 2nd grade.

Purchase the kit!

All Hands on Deck for Families

This resource contains 20 games for families to use in a home setting for practicing basic math concepts. Integrates the use of regular spotted dice and a deck of cards. This is the resource we typically use at our upper elementary family math nights. Suitable for 3rd to 6th grades.

Purchase the kit!

03. After School Programs

When students have completed a full day of school, they are more likely to engage with a math or literacy game than complete paper and pencil work. By planning out games that will work easily into your staff members’ schedules, you can seamlessly incorporate fun classroom learning games into your afterschool program. 

In addition, use simple, easy-to-find materials, such as cards and dice. Afterschool programs are one of our biggest supporters, because students respond remarkably well to engaged practice through games that they love to play. Dice trays and shakers are afterschool favorites. Both students (and teachers) have stated they don’t feel like they had to do a bunch of math work; they just played!
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of including classroom learning games into your afterschool program, check out this past post! We can also train your summer school staff so that they are armed with our student’s favorite games. 

Dice tray classroom learning game

Bulk Stratedice: Box of 36 Dice Trays

A box of 36 Dice Trays. This dice tray is exclusively made and supplied by Box Cars. The tray contains 18 white and 18 blue regular dice, and is far more than a storage container. Box Car has created two full teacher resource books of games and activities to be used with this dice tray. Ideal for regular and afterschool programs.

Purchase the kit!

Math Shakers Grade 4-8 Deluxe Kit

This best selling kit comes with the Grade 4 – 8 Math Shakers resource, shakers and the dice to fill them. Easy to integrate into your 4th- 8th grade whole class, centers, and small group instruction, as well as after school programs.

Purchase the kit!

Primary Math Shakers Deluxe Kit

This best selling kit comes with the Primary Math Shakers resource, shakers and the dice to fill them. Easy to integrate into your Pre-Kindergarten – 3rd Grade whole class, centers and small group instruction, as well as after school programs.

Purchase the kit!

04. Cross-Graded Math Buddies

Box Car’s consultants have used this strategy when they taught full-time. Once a week, they would have their class of Grade 1 or Grade 2 students play with their older grade buddies (usually Grade 5 or 6) for about 30-40 minutes.

For the older students, teaching simpler concepts helped rebuild learning gaps they may have had, while the younger students received 1-on-1 monitoring with their older grade buddies. In addition, the older students learned important leadership skills and strategies, and a sense of community was established in the entire group. 

Once the older students returned to their classroom, they were taught harder differentiated variations, effectively spiraling up from the concepts taught to the younger students. 

This strategy is remarkably effective, especially for post-covid classrooms, where getting students together and rebuilding learning loss is extremely important. And all it takes is finding a teaching partner from another grade (preferably 2-3 grade levels apart) and getting started!

05. Test Preparation

When you have students frequently play games, you can assess the learning gaps and what they might need to continue to practice. Once identified, you can pick a game where you can build in the repeated practice that may be necessary to get them ready for their next test.

Let’s say you are having a test on fractions, play a game that incorporates naming and ordering fractions and have students practice throughout the week. From there, record on the coming Friday to do a check in. This will help you identify any gaps that still need to be addressed before the assessment or test. 

Playing classroom learning games with teacher

06. Math Clubs

Many schools use our games regularly in Math clubs that are held at recess, lunch or after school. This is a perfect way to incorporate fun classroom learning games into your programs.

As part of this club, you can encourage students to invent games, refine rules, and practice and teach other students in the club. Eventually, this can also lead to Math club participants teaching learning games to classroom peers.

We’ve had one school that offers domino math games every noon hour. Before introducing this strategy for implementing math games, the students always rushed through their lunches, then had 15 minutes to wait before the bell let them out for recess. So the school built in math games at lunch time to provide a solution.

We’ve had another school that lets students into the cafeteria 30 minutes before school starts. All students have a math in a bag game and students have constructive play before the bell. 

12 Domino sets with Mesh Bags (Class Kit)

Set of 12 (2 of each 6 colors) double-six dominoes with 12 mesh bags. Suitable for Kindergarten – 6th grades.

Purchase the kit!

07. Math Themes

Many teachers select a math theme, such as probability or graphic. They then use fun  games as the entire focus for an exploration of the concepts within that overarching theme.

Our resources are set up perfectly for this. Each resource’s table of contents lists the concepts covered, so you can pull out a theme on graphing, probability, double-digit addition/subtraction games, counting etc.

It is amazing how many concepts you can cover with good games. We always tell teachers: you teach Kids First, Curriculum Second, then you need to find the absolute best practices and games to support them.

08. Interventionalists & Tutors

Over and over again, we hear our math and literacy games provide a safe, secure place for students to practice and learn challenging concepts. Our games are perfect for 1-on-1 play with interventionists, as well as teacher assistants who may work with a student or a small group.

We want to welcome the student in with games that engage and challenge them, but don’t frustrate them. If you have struggling students, chances are that games will help them much more than paper pencil. Trust that games are “the work,” and you will see progress with the strugglers if you support them through hands-on, engaged practice.

Built BY Teachers FOR Teachers

Our extensive products are backed by experience at 1,000’s of schools and districts across North America. In addition, our amazing team of consultants can help you create effective teaching strategies to effortlessly incorporate fun classroom learning games into your program!

If you’d like to learn more about our products, consulting services, and workshops, contact us!

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