The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Tabletop Gaming

I love tabletop gaming. It is something I have done throughout most of my life, starting with the most traditional of games, chess, and moving on to other classics such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Life, Connect Four, and, the game I played for hours on end at the public library with my best friend, Trouble. As I got older, I was introduced to other games that were more complex or I learned about games that I simply had never played before, such as Yahtzee, Farkle, Trivial Pursuit, and Balderdash. I jumped on the bandwagon when SceneIt came onto the, well, scene, and still own a few versions of this delightful game that incorporates video clips.

Around the time I got married, I was introduced to a card game called Killer Bunnies that started me on my ongoing passion for tabletop gaming. Along with this game (which is not nearly as violent as the name indicates), I learned about European games such as Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and 7 Wonders. My wife and I decided to build up our game collection and have had several regular game nights with different friends and family. (Our current collection includes over 100 unique games.)

I love finding ways to share my passions with my students, which is why I spent time over the summer considering how I could incorporate tabletop gaming into my classroom. I already had some games that students could use during indoor recesses and our weekly Read, Write, Think! time (about half an hour for preferred activities that let students improve cooperation skills, strategic thinking, and problem solving strategies), and I realised this would be the perfect venue. I created a Donors Choose project that was fully funded by awesome generous donors and then I just had to wait for the games to arrive.

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After they arrived, I promised the students that we would use them today during Read, Write, Think! Before letting them play the games, though, I knew I had to establish the expectations. First I did a “game talk” in which I described the basic function of the game and the rules, then I talked about the need to be careful with the cards and pieces. Later we watched some video clips that showed how to play several of the games. I also emphasised that these are games to be played in groups of at least four.

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I gave the students half an hour to play today. It was awesome! They were reading the instruction booklets, helping each other set up, encouraging one another, showing good sportsmanship, and demonstrating responsibility by cleaning up and putting them all away. I was able to play one of the games with a group of boys who picked one of the more complex games. My goal is to play a different game with a different group each week. My hope is that bringing tabletop gaming into the classroom will help students unplug and connect with one another. (I am also hoping that some of them will share the games with their families at home as a new way to strengthen family relationships.)

There is so much that can be learned through playing; I am so grateful to my friends who introduced me to tabletop gaming and to my other friends and family members who have encouraged this newfound passion. And, of course, I am hugely grateful to those donors who helped purchase these new games for my students!

You can find my classroom collection here. What games would you suggest we add to our classroom library of tabletop games?

Special shout-out to two companies that have produced most of the new games I got: Gamewright and Blue Orange Games. If you are looking to start a game collection that is kid- and family-friendly, I definitely recommend them.

NOTE: Neither company was told in advance about this post, nor was I asked to promote their games.

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