Using games and game boards for phonics instruction is now an integral part of my teaching. It’s old school, it’s not original, but it’s just so reliable and engaging that I keep going back to it year after year. If you’re not using game boards like these ones, for phonics and math, consider it a no-prep present to yourself!
Board games are one of the very best ways to practice math every day in a fun way. My students quickly become independent workers with various board games – my job is to keep things interesting and make sure I am maximizing the learning going on.
Keep it seasonal. Keep it simple.
I often change up the theme of a game, but keep the basic rules the same. Once the skills are learned, I can change the rules a bit to make things slightly harder; however I want this to be an independent math center, so I don’t make too many demands that require explaining.
Teach skills for sportsmanship, fair play, and conflict resolution strategies. Model and role play different ways to resolve conflict that will most definitely arise while students play. While the focus is math, there is also a LOT of work being put into getting along, dealing with conflict or different ideas, and different personalities. Another important part of the success will be making sure the rules are simple and clear so there is less arguing over how to play. Demonstrate each new game with the class to ensure that everyone knows the rules.
Keep it open ended and differentiated.
Some students will need a partner to help with the math, so teams are allowed so long as they aren’t too noisy! In my split-grade classroom, I am always mindful of avoiding situations where math becomes stressful rather than fun, which turns the learning off.
Same Game, Different Theme
With primary students, they are quite happy to play a familiar game, but love things that are seasonal. They feel like it’s a “new” game, but feel comfortable with the familiarity. One of our favorite games is Snakes and Ladders, so we made some seasonal board games using that idea. Since we work with numbers up to 120, we added to the usual 100 chart, and made the “snakes” more seasonal.
Using dice, students jump, climb and slide along these “snakes and ladders” type of boards.
Differentiated Levels of Play
There are usually many ways to differentiate board games to meet the needs of each student. For example, when playing the games above, students could:
*Roll 2 dice. Write and solve the equation before jumping.
*Roll 3 dice, or use 8 sided dice.
*Keep a running total in their equations. Example: Start on 10. Roll 5. Write 10+5=15
*Missing Addends: Land on 15. Climb the ladder to 8. Count to solve 15-?=8. Write 15-7=8
I’ve made a new board for each month of the school year so my students will get lots of practice, and hopefully begin to make predictions and notice patterns on the 120 chart that will help to develop a great math sense.
If you’d like to try these seasonal board games in your class, you can click here to download the whole set. They’re free!
We also use board games to support phonics and sight words. This is a game-changer (no pun intended) in my phonics program because students are highly engaged, practicing with motivation, and completely independent. The fact that I can print and laminate a year’s worth of literacy centers in one shot is a nice, no-prep detail as well.
You can see all 70 of the phonics game boards in one bundle by clicking HERE.