It’s not always easy to find games that fit the unique needs of your students for specific lessons. However, it can be easy to create some of your own games using a few simple classroom tools. Take a look at some of my favorite items for turning any lesson into a game.
Spinzone Magnetic Whiteboard Spinner – Not only does this include three large spinners (each one is 11″ inches long,) but it allows you to easily add a fun element of play to any lesson. The materials are durable, simple to use, and motivating for many learners. I also appreciate that you can use them independently, or combine them to make the task more challenging. For example, for young learners you could put up two spinners. One spinner would point to different categories (vehicles, animals, foods, etc) while the other would point to different letters. The learner would spin both, then have to come up with a word within the that category for that specific letter. You could do a similar activity with older learners byhaving one spinner point to a number, the second spinner point to a symbol (+, -, x, etc) and the third point to a characteristic of the sum, difference, etc such as (odd, even, double digit). All in all, this is an inexpensive tool that is easy to use to meet the needs of your learners.
Jumbo Magnetic Spin Wheel – This one is similar to the magnetic spinner described above, but offers a few more options. I love that this comes with dry erase templates that are easy to use and especially appropriate for upper elementary and middle school classrooms. It’s more expensive, but durable and worth the cost because it opens up so many possibilities for interaction during lessons. While there are similar items you can use on apps or SmartBoards, I appreciate that this provides an opportunity for active movement.
Xyron create-a-sticker – While this is marketed as a fun toy for people who love to craft, I’ve found it to be incredibly useful with my students. This simple tool allows you to turn any printed material into stickers within seconds. It’s easy for even young learners to use independently. I’ve used it for math activity by having learners cut out pictures from sales circulars and match them to index cards with hand written numbers. (For example, the learner cuts out a picture of two cans of tomato soup, put it through the sticker maker, and attaches it to the index card that says “2.”) I’ve also used it in teaching adjectives by cutting out strips of paper, having learners look at pictures from a magazine, write one word that describes an item in the picture, put their word through the sicker maker, and then attach the word to the picture. Many learners are highly motivated by stickers, so I’ve found this tool invaluable in boosting motivation for tasks a learner might not enjoy when presented in more standard ways. The sticker maker is also fast enough that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the lesson.
Colors & Shapes Activity Mats – This is another tool that’s great for early elementary classrooms. One of my favorite things about these mats is that it makes it very easy to differentiate to meet each learner’s unique needs. You can create an obstacle course, allowing learners to move to the next mat after responding to questions. Again, it’s a great tool for getting kids moving while learning.
Differentiated Instruction Cubes – I bought these a couple years ago and have been surprised by how much I’ve used them, and by how durable they are. These three cubes have clear plastic pockets on each side, allowing you to create any questions or prompts to use for games. There are cube templates included in the package, but it’s very easy to make your own. For some students, I’ve had them participate in creating materials for the cubes. This is something I’ve used with kids from preschool through fifth grade for every subject you can think of.
These are my five favorite tools for turning any lesson into a game. What would you add to the list?