Kids love games, and games are a big part of their lives outside of the classroom. They regularly play games all day long on their cell phones, computers and the internet. Now many teachers with access to an interactive whiteboard are finding ways to capture students’ attention by incorporating games into their lessons. Academic games played on a smart board allow students to interact with the content, and engage them in practicing and applying skills they’ve learned while working collaboratively to solve problems. But in addition to increasing student attention and participation, research has shown that teaching with academic games can actually improve student achievement. What kinds of games do teachers use on their smart boards, and how do teachers design games so that students get the most out of them?

What Smart Board Games Do Teachers Use?

Teachers can easily find interactive games for every grade level in any curricular area. Sites like Gynzy categorize the games by grade level and subject, and teachers can simply choose which games will benefit their students the most. Games like Bingo, Hangman and Memory, and other sorting and categorizing games help students learn vocabulary and practice spelling, not only in language arts, but also in the content areas like science and social studies. A game like Pictionary allows students to visually represent their understanding of certain concepts. They can practice counting and cardinality, measurement, geometry and operations and algebraic thinking with puzzles, dice and problem solving games.

How Do Teachers Maximize the Positive Benefits of Using Games?

Teachers whose students showed the maximum gains in academic performance do specific things when designing games for their classes. Although students enjoy competition, all students should have a chance to win, and the rewards for winning the games should be fun and more or less inconsequential. Winning or losing games should not, for example, determine students’ grades. The games should be focused on specific academic content, and they should help students learn specific terms and phrases that improve their understanding of the content area. Don’t just play the games for the sake of tallying up points. After the game is over, lead a classroom discussion in which students can analyze why certain questions in the game were difficult to answer and why. This will help them to revise their understanding of the content and address any misunderstandings they may still have. Give them a chance to revise their classroom notes to correct any misconceptions or add new ways of understanding the material.

Academic games are entertaining and fun, but if used purposefully and thoughtfully, they can also be powerful tools for improving student achievement. How do you use smart board games to help you teach?