Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites - Try Games Instead!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

It's time for Chapter Four of the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites  book study, and the topic is one of my favorite teaching strategies!

I love to use games for teaching, and this quote from the chapter nails the reason why:

"When students are engrossed in game playing, the stress is lessened and memory for content is increased!"

And taking that a step further, when students are engrossed in game playing, the teacher's stress is also lessened. You can circulate, observe, comment occasionally, and be confident that your "sneaky teaching" is working. You know, "sneaky teaching" ... your students are learning but having such a good time that they don't even realize it!

One of my favorite ways to use games is to have students create their own games, especially as a review.

"When students develop a game's content as well as play the game, the amount of time they are exposed to and involved with the content is doubled." (Allen, 2008)

Early on in my teaching experience, I once or twice tried just giving my first graders an 18"X24" paper, a topic, and had them go at it.  I quickly learned that most of them need more structure than that. One thing I tried that worked pretty well was supplying my students with sticky dots and precut skills cards. That also cut down on the (sometimes ridiculously long) amount of time it took to make the games. After all, we needed to have time left to play the games, too!

When it was time to play, we had a rotation. It was a bit complicated ... I think of those diagrams for tennis, I'm pretty sure it is, where everyone gets to play everyone else... but worth it, because there's huge benefit both in skill/fact mastery and self-confidence when you get to teach your classmates to play the game you designed.

If you're thinking about having your students create their own games, I do happen to have this freebie in my store that might save you some time. It's a set of blank board games, along with some suggestions for ways that you or in this case your students can program them for practice at your own grade level. If it's something you might like to give a try, you can download it here.

I've really been enjoying reading everyone's posts about this book, and would also like to thank you for your comments here. It's so nice to have a conversation! This week's host is Katie King, The Queen of the First Grade Jungle. Click here to see what everyone else is talking about!

Happy Teaching!


  1. Oh YES, I love that quote too about the stress being lessened....AMEN! I hate to think of a young one under any academic stress - but with the "rigors" and "data collection" that are forced upon us - it's no wonder they feel it.

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

    1. You know what they say, Holly... "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." So sad to be stressing our young learners.
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. I like the "dots" idea for a game board. Thanks for the freebie; I think my kiddos would enjoy making board games!

    A Very Curious Class

    1. Using the sticky dots really does give it some structure, which the little guys definitely need. Thanks for your comment, and enjoy the game boards!

  3. I'm inspired by your idea to let your students create games. That was one area I really need to give a try. I always used a lot of games but the students rarely got to create them. I love this idea especially since you've used it with younger students!

    Sara J Creations

    1. One suggestion for the youngest game makers, Sara ... model putting the biggest part of the info on the cards (they are also in the free download, or just use index cards) rather than on the board. For example, put the number model on the card and the answer on the board. Or, put the number model on the card and leave the board unmarked -just use dice or spinner to determine how many spaces to move ahead if the player is correct. When little guys try to squish a lot of info into a small space ... well, we all know how that can go! :)


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