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Tips for Using Modern Board Games in the Classroom – 129

Episode Overview

In this week’s VideoCast Episode of Board Gaming with Education, Dustin gives tips for integrating modern board games into your classroom to create an engaging, rewarding, and fun learning experience. You can enjoy our usual audio experience by pressing play on the player above, or tune into our show in video format on YouTube!

  • Episode Topics (timestamps are for podcast episode | video time stamps are available on YouTube)
    • Board Gaming with Education Introduction: VideoCast and YouTube Channel – 00:38
    • Framing the Topic – 1:36
    • Tip #1 – Modifying the Game – 2:56
    • Tip #2 – Scaffolding the Game – 4:39
    • Tip #3 – Extra Activities – 7:15
    • Tip #4 – Gamify the Content with a Board Game – 9:41
    • Tip #5 – The 3 Pillars of Board Games for Game-based Learning – 11:17

Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contribution of their song “Retro Gamer” for our transition music on the podcast. This song can be found in full on this music archive.

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Board Gaming with Education VideoCast Preview and Coming Soon – 00:00

This episode is a VideoCast episode which is a preview of things to come for Season 12 of the Board Gaming with Education Podcast. Season 12 will include a visual medium, as well as, the usual audio experience our podcast listeners are familiar with. Be sure to subscribe to the Board Gaming with Education YouTube Channel to stay up-to-date on all of our content!

Framing the Discussion – 01:36

First, I want to start off by framing our discussion. I am going to break down three terms here:

  • Board Games – Using the term board games tends to include games that do not have a board. For the sake of our discussion, we are looking at analog-based games.
  • Modern Board Games – We will be framing our tips based on board games that have come out in recent years. This is because a lot of these games have been able to build on old board game mechanics to make for a more engaging experience.
  • Learning – In the Board Gaming with Education community, we talk about all aspects of board games for learning, both positive and negative including soft-skills development. For this discussion, we are going to hone in on the learning aspect and using board games to target learning outcomes.

Tip #1 – 6:39

I put this tip first because I think it really helps to reiterate the idea of using games for learning. The game doesn’t have to work perfectly as a game to still create an engaging and fulfilling learning experience to arrive at your targeted learning outcomes.

Do not be afraid to modify the game rules to meet your students’ needs or to cater it to your specific learning environment. For example, and this is a simple modification, you can set a determined time as a part of your lesson, or ask students to end after a certain round in the game. Another example, and a lot of games actually come with this, is using “beginner” rules. A perfect example of this is the game Evolution by North Star Games. They actually designed an entirely separate game, called Evolution the Beginning that eliminates a couple of mechanics to make the game more accessible to new players. There may be opportunities for you to do this with certain games. You can eliminate an entire aspect of the game, and it will not take away from the learning!

Tip #2 – Scaffolding the Game –

Scaffolding! You are probably already familiar with this technique, but for anyone who needs a refresher, according to Edutopia scaffolding is “breaking up the learning into chunks and providing a tool, or structure, with each chunk.”

We can do this with a game in a couple of different ways. One is asking students to do some pre-work before coming to class on the day you plan to play the game in class. This pre-work could include watching a how-to-play video about the game (almost every board game that comes out these days has a how-to-play video) or ask students to read the rules before coming to class. With both of these examples, you could group the activity with some comprehension questions.

Another thing you can do is introduce the game in pieces by introducing the core mechanics of the game one at a time.

Tip #3 – 5:51

Create additional activities structured around the game. I mentioned in the previous tip how you could ask students to complete comprehension questions on how-to-play the game. You could pair this with a fairly popular technique called stations. In stations, you divide the class into different groups and ask them to travel from one station to another. For example, in your first station, you could ask students to watch the how-to-video and answer questions on how to play the game. The second station is where they actually play the game, and the third station is where students complete an additional activity that can be tied into the content you have been covering in class.

At Board Gaming with Education, we’ve developed additional resources you can pair with playing a game. An example of this is our Element Poker learning resources. Element Poker is an innovative take on a 52-card deck that you can play a number of card games with. An additional activity we have developed is the periodic practice handout. Students can complete this handout to help solidify their understanding of the periodic table.

Another more involved activity you might ask students to do is design their own version of the game by changing cards or items in the game. You can do this with a number of games, and some we have created activities for and work really well is the Fluxx Education line of games, like Nature Fluxx, Math Fluxx, or Astronomy Fluxx.

Tip #4 Gamify Content with Board Games – 14:58

Some games can simply be used as a gamification tool. An overly simple, and easy example of this is playing a game like UNO. You can ask students to answer a question in order to play a card. I have seen teachers do this with Jenga too. And this is something you might already have laying around your house. Create a Jenga game by labeling each Jenga piece with a question, and in order for the student to add the Jenga piece to the top, they need to be able to answer the question. Happy Salmon is another fun game that can be gamified in this way. It is a silly game where you have to be the first to complete silly tasks. Adding quick questions to this game is another way to gamify your content.

Tip #5 – The 3 Pillars of Board Games for Game-Based Learning – 17:42

I usually look for these three things when I want to use a board game for learning in my classroom. They are not necessary. However, I think if you are just getting started and have a limited amount of time to experiment with game-based instruction, then I would highly recommend looking for these three things.

First, the game is easy to explain – a game like Happy Salmon is a perfect example of a game that easy to explain. The how-to-play video is only a minute and a half long. You want to aim for games like this. One that is easy to explain and great for every content area is Codenames because you can adapt the game by including your content-specific vocabulary. Codenames is a word association game where I give you a clue and you have to connect that clue to other words. See! That easy! There are a few more minor rules, that will take another minute or two to explain, but the core game can be explained in just a sentence or two.

Number 2, it is a quick game to play! Not only should the game be easy and quick to explain, but it should also be quick to play. A round of Codenames can be played in 20 minutes! Usually, we are limited in the amount of time we have in our classrooms, so this is fairly critical. Unless, and there is nothing wrong with this, you want to devote multiple days to one game. You need to keep tip #3 to heart though and make sure additional activities are provided so the gameplay is heavily based on learning.

And finally, the third pillar, I look for is that it involves everyone almost all the time in the play and the learning. One great example of this is Trap Words. I use the first tip and modify the game. In Trap Words, there are two teams, I have modified it for my classroom to be a three-team game. That way I can ensure that all teams are involved in the learning process and accommodate a larger class size. In Trap Words, you are trying to get your team to guess a clue, like Apple, but there are certain trap words you cannot say when trying to get your team to guess a clue. Well, team 2 decides what those trap words are, and you have no idea what they are! And finally, I team three also knows the trap words, so they are also listening for any trap words to catch team 1, and they are also in charge of keeping track of time, and the number of guesses team 1 makes (because they are only allowed 5 guesses).


Tips for Using Modern Board Games in the Classroom – 129

Transcript automated and provided by otter.ai. [Using this link helps us continue to use this transcription service for future episodes.] Disclaimer: This is an automated transcript and may have errors in grammar, wording, and/or word choice.

Dustin Staats 0:00
What’s up big gamers? Today we’re going to look at some tips for using board games in your classroom. I’m going to go over five tips and give you some concrete examples how you can use games, or board games for learning to create a more engaging and playful learning environment. Let’s do it.

Board Gaming with Education 0:19
For games Gaming with Education, a podcast for anyone curious about how games and education mix, we explore various topics like game based learning, gamification, and board games and the impacts they have on learning. here’s your host, Dustin Staats.

Dustin Staats 0:37
So I’m Dustin from Board Gaming with Education. This is a video cast Episode video cast, you have a podcast Yes, if you’re listening to this on the podcast, you already know that. But if you are on Youtube, be sure to like and subscribe. If you’re listening to the podcast, come on over to YouTube and be sure to subscribe to our channel, we are going to be releasing content like this moving forward into season 12 of Board Gaming with Education. So this is kind of a preview of what the podcast will look like. or in your case, if you’re listening on the podcast, what it will sound like moving forward, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, or keep listening on the podcast, you’ll still get a lot of great conversations, great interviews and discussions about games for learning. Alright, so let’s jump into the topic for today.

So let’s frame the discussion. For today’s topic. We’re looking at modern board games for learning. So let’s break down three things. First, let’s start with board games. When I say board games, I don’t necessarily mean games that have a board, could be a game with dice can be a game with cards, it could be a game with boards, but these are analog based games. Number two I want to look at is modern. So when I say modern, I’m not talking about games like clue, or monopoly, or sorry, these are games that have some value and can be used for game based learning. However, we’re gonna really look at some modern board games that came out in the last 10 years or so because I think they really build on those mechanics in the past and make for a more engaging experience. And then number three, is we’re looking at modern board games for learning. So when I’m talking about learning, I’m talking about specifically targeting learning outcomes. You can subscribe to our channel, you can check out our podcast go to Board Gaming with education.com we talk about all the positive aspects that board games in games for learning half with also we look at some maybe challenges or negative aspects as well. So if you want to hear conversations around that, be sure to subscribe to our channel, or follow us on Board Gaming with Education COMM But we’re gonna look at targeted learning outcomes and tips that we can use for using board games in our classroom. So tip number one modifying the game. First, I want to iterate again, why I put this as the first tip because we’re looking at games for learning. So if we’re changing the rules of the game, don’t worry too much, because the ultimate goal of using board games in our classroom is targeting learning outcomes. So if the game experience changes a little bit, that’s not a big deal, because we can probably still create a fulfilling and engaging learning experience through the board game. So an oversimplified modification to the rules is you could set a time limit on the game. So you don’t have to have your students play through the entire game, or you can have them stop after a certain round. Another thing that a lot of games do, and you can check some of your games, they might have some beginner rules. So these are ways to make the game more accessible to new players. A game company that actually has an entirely separate game is evolution. So Northstar games created an evolution and they also developed a game called evolution, the beginning. So it’s a modified version of evolution that eliminates some of the game mechanics in evolution, and still creates a very engaging game experience. And it’s also a game that’s more accessible to new players. So look at some games that you have and look at some of the mechanics or game rules you can maybe eliminate in the game, and see if the game still plays pretty well. Again, though, going back to the main idea of using board games in our classroom is for learning so if it changes the game experience, it may still be very engaging game experience, but it might be a different game, but that’s okay, we’re looking at games for learning. Tip number two scaffolding the game so a lot of us who are teachers are probably familiar with this term. But for anyone that’s not or still learning the teaching practice, while scaffolding is breaking learning down into chunks and providing a tool and structure for those learning chunks. So we can do this with teaching the game. So we might be able to do this in two different ways. There are a couple different ways there’s probably more, but one way is to give our students a pre practice or pre activity before they come to class. So we do this with a lot of stuff already. We might ask them to watch a how to play video of the game or read the rulebook. And then after they had done one of those two things, they can answer comprehension questions about how to play the game. What we can also do with scaffolding is to break the actual gameplay down into different pieces. So we might introduce a part of the gameplay, and then have students played that part. And then after they get that part down, we go into the next part of the game. I do this with the game trap words. And this is something I’ll mention later. In this topic is trap words is a game. Like the game taboo. If you’re not familiar with taboo, you have to ask your team to guess your word. So the word might be Apple, and you have certain words, you cannot say, to help your team guess your words. So maybe you can’t say read you cannot say Washington you cannot say tree cannot say fruit. So you have to think of ways to get your team to guess the word Apple without saying those words. So that is taboo. I have my students play around a quick round of taboo as one demonstration, an example of how to play that game. And then afterwards, we move into trap words, we learn a mechanic for the game trap words. And that’s where the team, the other team is coming up with those words you cannot say. So then I introduce that idea to them. And then we move a little bit further into the game of track boards. There are a couple other rules in that game that I go over as well. Another game that does this, and it’s kind of scaffolding through the game of learning as well as monitors. So monitors is a really cool game, you get a stack of cards, and you try to work through those cards, the first thing you can do to get your team to guess that cool you can say anything related to that clue. The next round, you can only say one word. And then the last round is you can act out the the actions to get them to get your team to guess the clue. So with monitors, it’s kind of cool, because it’s looking at that scaffolding process for memory of those content or those contents specific vocabulary that you can use it in the game. Tip number three, tie in additional activities to the game. So one popular technique that you could use to be able to do this is introduced stations. So stations is where you divide your class up into groups. And students go from one station to the next to the next to the next. So out of those stations, three of them can be tied into the game so like my previous tip Station Number one, you can have them watch a how to play video, have them read the rulebook, and answer comprehension questions on How To Play Station Number two is where they actually play the game. You might also ask them to preview station three activity as a part of station two. And then station three is where you have them do the additional activity. So you can develop a lot of different activities comprehension questions based on the game, you can develop other content. For example, at Board Gaming with education.com, we develop learning resources for different board games we carry on our website, one game we look at is element poker element poker is pretty cool. It’s a innovative, I guess, change of 52 card 52 card deck. So in element poker, there are 52 elements from the periodic table of elements. And we’ve developed a learning activity to help them practice with the periodic table. So you could do some sort of activity that ties into the game. Another activity, you can have them do that as a bit more involved. But I encourage you to try this out because it really taps into your ability to see if your students are understanding the content that you’ve covered in class. And that’s by creating a game based on the game they played. So again, Board Gaming with Education comm we have a game, or we carry the educational line of games of flux. So this is a very simple card game. It’s draw one play one very much like an uno style game. But the game is always in flux. There are rules changing. I’m recommend checking out the game at our website if you want to learn more about how to play. But what we have on the website for an extra activity is asking students to develop a game based on some of those educational line of games. So there’s chemistry flux, astronomy, flux, nature flux, anatomy, flux and developing cards based on the game that they already played. So really great activity you can tie into the game as well.

Tip number four is gamifying the content through the game so this is kind of getting into technical difference between gamification and game based learning. If you’re curious about the difference, or what game based learning is specifically, there’ll be a link down below to check out what is game based learning but so looking at what this means so taking a game an oversimplified example of this is taking a game like Uno, and asking students to answer a question before playing their card. So the content is not where they are learning. It’s the overlaying of these questions on the game. So you can do this with a lot of different games and clever ways. I’ve seen teachers do this with Jenga. Really cool, because it also taps into those learners that really need to be a bit more mobile and move around a bit. But they come up to the classroom, they grab one of the Jenga blocks, and they have to answer a question. And if they answer the question, correct, they can put the Jenga block on top, and they’re safe. So playing Jenga and gamifying the content through the game of Jenga. So another example is the game Happy Salmon. So Happy Salmon is a very silly game where players have to do certain tasks, like high five pound. The last one is Happy Salmon, but really cool, clever game, and you can gamify that. So you can ask students to answer maybe rapid fire questions that are very much in recall memories and content you’ve been covering in class very often, and have them to brush up on some of that while they play the game Happy Salmon. So that is Tip number four, using board games to gamify the content I have for tip number five, and this is actually kind of three parts to it. So they’re what I call the three pillars of a good board game for game based learning. So first, number one is make sure the game is easy to explain, it should not take 15 minutes to explain the game in your class. I would say more for the most part, we don’t have that time in our classrooms to explain only to explain how to play the game. So I mean, if you have a cool enrichment program, and it’s all about board games for learning, then you can devote some extra time to explaining the game. But really, we want to drill down into being able to explain the game very quickly, very succinctly in our class, and that heavily relies on the game we choose. So for example, Happy Salmon. If you go to play how to play Happy Salmon on YouTube. The video is a one and a half minutes explains the game how to play in one and a half minutes. Another example codenames. So codenames is a word association game. So you have a five by five grid of words, you say a word that’s not on that grid. And people have to associate your word with the other words on the grid. And you can give multiple clues. So you could say, three words are on this grid, and my clue is.dot.so it’s that simple to explain that game. There are some other nuances in there, but you can explain those. It should only take about five minutes to explain the game code names in class to get your students up and playing the game that goes into pillar number two, the game needs to be also quick to play so codenames is another perfect example around of codenames. And actually around as a game, you could play multiple rounds and do best of five or whatever. But a round of the game is only 20 minutes about, it could be less, it could be maybe a little bit longer, I wouldn’t say you would go more than 2025 minutes for a game of code names. But there is one mechanic in the game where you can end instantly. So that is something that can make the game a lot shorter, but codenames is very quick to play. And that’s important because we don’t have a lot of time usually to devote to using a game in class. And again, this is something I recommend looking into if you are first using game based learning because you want it easy to explain quick to play, so you can try it out and see how it works in your classroom. Now, I know there are some people that can probably devote a game to play in multiple days. And that’s something I also encourage and if you can do that lean into our tip number three, which was providing additional activities to really focus in on the learning.

pillar number three. And this one is, I think, pretty important. Maybe my most important pillar is making sure everyone is involved in the learning in the play almost at all times of the game. So for example, I mentioned the game trap words, trap words is only a two team game. So I go back to rule number one, I modify the game, I make it three teams. Now team number one, they have the clue. They’re trying to get their team to guess the clue. Team number two, creates the trap words. Team number three also knows the trap words. So they’re listening for the trap words. And then team number three is also in charge of keeping time and counting the number of guesses team number one has. So team number one in the game of trap words, you only get five guesses. So they’re team number three is listening the whole time. They’re not really even part of the contest right now. But they’re also paying attention. Because they’re thinking about the trap words. They’re keeping track of the time, and they’re counting the guesses. So that’s a way that I’ve been able to modify the game, make sure everyone’s involved in the process and going back to codenames. Again, everyone’s kind of involved. Even the team that’s not playing is still kind of thinking through what the words can be because they have the visual of the five by five grid to look at. So that is tip number five, the three pillars of a good board game for game based learning. So check out Board Gaming with education.com. We have in we curate our selection of board games, for board games for learning. So all those games on our site are ones that we’ve looked at that make for excellent, either game based learning resources, or great games for at home learning or games that you can play with your family that are have some sort of educational angle. And as always, if you have questions, reach out to me, podcast at Board Gaming with education.com. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have. And we’ll be back next week for the podcast. The video cast won’t come back until season 12. That will be April. This was just a preview to what it might look like when we do have season 12 Board Gaming with Education and the video cats. All right. So thank you and we’ll see you soon and I will or you’ll hear from me on the podcast next week.

Board Gaming with Education 16:05
Thank you for listening in this week. If you like what you heard, be sure to let us know you can find us on social media as Board Gaming with Education or big games or email us at podcast at Board Gaming with education.com. If you want to support our podcast Be sure to check out our support page on our website. As always teach better learn more and most importantly, play more. Thank you for listening and until next time

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