Top 12 Classic Games That Teach

Looking to liven up your centers? Let your students play games!

That’s right, games have educational value. They provide opportunities for students to develop both social and academic skills. Just like working on a project in cooperative groups, interactive games require that students communicate, stay on task, take turns, and rely on higher-level thinking skills.

Games can also be used in the classroom as a behavior incentive. Students are motivated to earn a “Fun Friday” afternoon of game playing by listening and following directions all week. The best benefit is that they are having fun and learning at the same time. Here are twelve classic games and reasons to incorporate them into your curriculum:

Organized from youngest to oldest skill level

1. Candy Land

builds color recognition and counting skills, supports turn-taking and patience

2. Chutes and Ladders

aids in counting, number recognition, and handling disappointment

3. Red Light, Green Light / Simon Says

enhances communication skills such as listening and following directions, bolsters impulse control

4. Twister

boosts gross motor skills and balance, strengthens directionality (right/left) and color identification skills, elevates auditory memory

5. Boggle / Hangman / Scrabble / Upwards

develops and reinforces literacy skills such as ability to learn new words and their definitions, learn word combinations, and spelling.

Customize: You can even offer bonus points to students who use spelling or unit vocabulary words.

6. Clue

advances attention to visual detail, visual discrimination and deductive reasoning

7. Checkers / Chess

relies heavily on analytical skills and strategic calculations, improves critical thinking skills and self-discipline, expands pattern development

8. Jenga / Operation

fosters coordination and manual dexterity

Customize: You can create a study guide game by writing numbers on the blocks. Numbers correspond to study guide questions. A team's turn isn’t over until the player or team answers the question correctly. If they can’t answer the question the other team or player would have the option to steal the block by answering the question correctly. The winner is the player or team that has the most blocks when the tower falls.

9. Yahtzee

provides practice with quick addition skills and visual perception

10. Scattegories

cultivates classification skills and word recall

Customize: Use subject-specific categories to personalize to your curriculum.

11. Monopoly

promotes math skills including money management, requires reading and reasoning, emphasizes social skills

Customize: Econ classes can have students justify their moves based on economic principles for extra credit.

12. Trivial Pursuit

assesses general knowledge, increases quick recall of information

Customize: Create your own trivia or jeopardy questions for a review game. Want to lesson the workload? Have your students create the game questions to challenge the opposing team.

Author: Krista Sadlers is a freelance writer for and K-12 Teacher.

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