Techniques for Teaching Cooperative & Group Games

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Cooperative and group games can be a great way to build community and get to know your students. This lesson will introduce you to some good games and give you techniques for teaching them.

Why Play Cooperative Games?

Do games have a place in school? Is there such a thing as a game without an obvious winner or loser? Are there any benefits to incorporating games into your classroom practice? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes! Children learn through play, and people of all ages can benefit from ice breakers and stress busters. A cooperative game is one that relies on cooperation over competition. Playing cooperative games with your students has so many benefits. Cooperative games can:

  • Relieve stress in the classroom
  • Help students get to know one another
  • Help you get to know your students
  • Build a strong sense of community
  • Give your students a bank of fun mutual memories to draw upon

Cooperative games can go a long way toward building a sense of community in the classroom.

In this lesson, you will get some ideas about how to teach a cooperative or group game, as well as what games you might want to use with your particular group of students.

How to Teach a Game

Teaching a game can be strangely challenging when you are used to teaching more academic content! The first step to teaching a game is to be sure you understand how the game works. If you get a chance, you might even want to have a practice round with friends or colleagues. This will alert you to any particular challenges or snafus that might arise.

Once you feel familiar with the game, make sure that you have the right materials on hand as well as access to an appropriate space for play. More physical games usually work best in a gym or outdoors, but there are plenty of games that you can play within even the smallest classroom.

You will want to explain the game to your students as clearly and concisely as possible. Avoid complicated vocabulary and excessively long explanation. At its base, play in the classroom is meant to be fun, and you don't want to overwhelm your students with information. At the same time, you want to make sure you have explained clearly. With older students, you might also want to be explicit about why you chose to play this game. This helps them build metacognitive awareness so that they can think about what they are learning via play.

If the type of game allows for it, try modeling a round of play for your students or asking two or three students to model a round of the game so that you can ensure a clear understanding.

With literate students, it can also help to have a chart with written directions. Younger students can benefit from pictures or diagrams. Providing this scaffold will help your more visual learners assess the game and will also allow students to return to it over time.

Finally, once the directions are given and you have incorporated practice sessions, let your students play! You should expect a certain amount of chaos at the beginning of the play, but don't let this dissuade you. Once your students grow accustomed to cooperative games, they will be able to play more independently and in a more organized way.

It is important to build in an opportunity for reflection after a cooperative game. Ask students to write or talk about what went well and what was more challenging. They can draw on these understandings the next time.

Games to Play

The Internet, teaching resource books, and magazines are full of ideas for cooperative play, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these games are good ones to get you started.

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