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Problem Solving Skills Games & Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As teachers, we can play a meaningful and important role in helping our students learn to solve problems. This lesson gives you some ideas for games and activities that promote problem-solving skills.

Why Teach Problem-Solving Games and Activities?

Sometimes, as teachers, we feel overwhelmed by all that we are tasked with. Academic standards can seem daunting, and there is tremendous pressure on us to teach more than what can fit into a school day. At the same time, we know the importance of students' social needs as well as their academic ones.

One way to help students both socially and academically is by teaching problem-solving skills. Taking the time to help students think about how to be creative solvers of various kinds of problems doesn't need to detract from your academic instruction, since a good problem-solver is a critical and careful thinker across the board. Problem-solving skills matter for social situations as well as for math, reading and social studies!

However, it is generally not effective to simply lecture children on how they can be better problem-solvers. If you are going to teach problem-solving, you want to come up with some hands-on ways to engage students' attention and give them practice doing what you are teaching. One way to do this is by incorporating games and activities into your instruction. The games and activities in this lesson are designed to appeal to students with a variety of strengths and activate their problem-solving skills.

Problem-Solving Games

The games in this section will make solving problems seem fun!

Roll the Dice

For this game, break your students into groups of three or four and give each group a pair of dice you have prepared in advance. To prepare the dice, use masking tape to cover up the numbers on each face. On one die for each group, write the labels of people in your students' lives. For instance, you might write, 'friend,' 'neighbor,' 'sibling.' On the other die for each group, name a typical problem students might encounter at their age. Keep your descriptions vague, like 'broke something,' 'lied,' 'lost something,' 'argued.'

When it is a student's turn, he or she should roll both dice. Then, he should put together the person and the problem and create a realistic scenario. For example, if the dice show 'teacher' and 'forgot something,' the student might say, 'I forgot to give my homework to my teacher in the morning.' The other students in the group should brainstorm different ways to solve the problem this student has created.

The original student gets to choose their favorite solution, and the student who came up with it is the next to roll the dice.

Charades

This game involves your whole class at once and accesses different kinds of problem-solving skills. Have one student, or a group of students, come to the front of the room and select a card from a set you have prepared. Cards could have names of characters from books and movies that you have studied in class. Additionally, charades topics could include daily activities (shopping at the store, washing the dishes, doing homework), or even different animals, professions, sports, or hobbies.

The job of the student(s) is to act out the scenario without speaking at all. Other students in the class have to guess what the original student is acting out, and the first one to guess gets to be the next one to act.

In order to help students understand the problem-solving skills in this game, leave time for reflection. Ask students to consider the following questions:

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