Game On! What Happens When Kindergarteners Play Board Games
Meredith Didlake – December 17, 2015
Every Wednesday morning, my kindergarten scholars begin their day just like any other: After shaking our principal’s hand at arrival, they head to the cafeteria for breakfast, then walk upstairs with me to unpack. But there’s one thing that’s different about Wednesdays—by the time we to get to our classroom, they’re buzzing with excitement, because Wednesday is Gamesday, and they get to play Blokus with their friends.
The brainchild of founder Eva Moskowitz, Gamesday is new this year and happens at all Success Academy elementary schools every Wednesday: Blokus in kindergarten, Monopoly in first and second grade, and Settlers of Catan in third and fourth grades. Gamesday is a joyful time, but it is also educational. It is a time for scholars to build social skills and become critical thinkers.
First, my scholars join me at the rug to review the rules and strategies of Blokus. Blokus is a four-player board game that’s similar to Tetris — except that instead of fitting together random blocks, you connect blocks of the same color at their corners. The goal is to play as many of your game pieces as you can and block your opponents from putting down theirs.
I project the game board on the classroom SmartBoard, and we play a review game. I start off by saying, “What must touch?” and the scholars respond by chanting, “The corners must touch!” This call-and-response reinforces the most important rule of the game and gets my scholars excited about playing. After working as a team for a short time, I let scholars who have mastered the rules branch off and begin their own games at their tables. Eventually, every scholar is engaged in a game with three other scholars.
As the children play, I watch them take turns, learn to deal with actions and consequences, make tough choices, and be good teammates. I see them strategize by counting and sorting their game pieces into groups. I can see the wheels turning in their brains as they think ahead to what their next move is going to be. Often, they ask their friends whether they made a good move or not! As I coach them, I am constantly amazed to see the work that children do together naturally.
By playing these games, my scholars are learning and developing vital skills right before my eyes.
I asked my scholars about Gamesday, and here is what some of them told me:
“I like playing Blokus because when I play, I talk to my friends, and every time I take a turn, the other friend takes a turn too.” –Ashima
“When we play Blokus, I touch the corners and people get to go next after me. If it’s wrong, I can just fix it!” –Devon
“When I play Blokus with my friends, we talk about touching the corners. When we have conversations about touching the corners, we help each other and play at the same time.” –Nevaeh
“I get to sort the pieces on the number cards, and we get to touch the corners. We play with the teachers and we get to play with friends.” –Khai