In October 2020, I shared a blog called “8 Games to Play Virtually with Elementary Students.” Now that we are back to in-person learning, I have discovered a few additional content-driven games to add to the list. These are games that you can use to teach a variety of topics and will add movement to a lesson. None of these games takes very long to play and most do not require a lot of materials. These are all games shared and collected from a variety of sources and from many different educators. I like to call them borrowed from borrowed ideas. Most of these games are designed for in-person learning; however, I am sure there is a creative librarian who could modify them to work with any learning environment.
Here are six games that can be played with elementary students:
Never Ending Word
For this game, you would show students an image related to the topic or book you are going to discuss. Have them share one word to describe what they see or what the picture makes them think of. The challenge is not to repeat any words.
For example, use the picture below from the book Truman by Jean Reidy. Students might say home, colorful, turtle, couch, etc. This is a great game to introduce a topic or story to students to get them thinking before you start the lesson.
This game does use several sheets of paper, so it may not be a game that everyone loves. To play you would either have students write a sentence or draw a picture that relates to the topic you are discussing. You can also provide the picture or sentence to students depending on their age and reading and writing abilities. Then you crumble up the papers and throw them around like snowballs. After a minute or two have each student find a snowball, open it up, and share.
I recently played this game with my junior kindergarten students when learning about book care. They were given a picture of something they should do with their library book or something they should not. Then they had to identify what picture they had, crumple it up, toss it around, and then find a new snowball. When the time was up they found a snowball and shared with a partner if their new picture was something they should or should not do to a library book. This was a great quick assessment for me to see who understood the lesson and who needed a bit more attention.
Drumming Up a Question
Create a beat or rhythm, such as clap, clap, stomp. Have students repeat the pattern three times. Then have one student create a question to ask the class. Have another student answer the question. Then create a new pattern and repeat the process. The questions can be about the story or topic you have been learning about.
Having students create the questions can be interesting, especially with kindergarteners, but it does help them to understand how to ask and answer each other. It teaches conversational skills and how to respond to a topic. Additionally, I find that if a student can ask a question and stay on topic that they have a deeper understanding of the material. This often has to be modeled the first few times you play so students understand the goal.
Find the Odd One Out
This game can be played with words, characters, settings, or categories. After teaching a concept or reading a book you can check students’ understanding by giving them pictures where three things fit together and one does not. You can see if students can identify which one does not belong and why. This game helps students explain their reasoning and make connections to what was shared.
The Name Game
Give students a topic or category. Then have them name three more things that go with that topic. For example, in second grade we just learned about how to use the library catalog. As a reflection after the lesson, students were asked to name three words that went with the catalog. One response was Canvas, call number, books. This was a quick way to see what they took away from the lesson.
This website has a variety of Google Slide games that you can download for free! Many of these are created by educators and can be found under the games section. Included are several templates such as digital board games and choice boards. Here is a Build a Snowman game that I was able to play with preschoolers. After reading All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle they were able to build a snowman together as a class.
Bonus: Canva Games
I have not been able to investigate this yet or try it out with students, but it looks promising! Canva now has game presentations. Click here to see all the templates they have available!
Do you have any games that you like to play? I would love to hear about them!
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).