Friday, October 25, 2013

My Top Ten Games for the Classroom

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D

1. Pandemic—2nd Edition, Z-Man Games. Great for Geography, AP Human Geography. Playing Time: 1-2 Class Periods
2 (Tie) Carcassonne, Z-Man Games. Geography, AP Human Geography, World History. Playing Time: 1-2 Class Periods
2. (Tie) New World: A Carcassonne Game, Z-Man Games. World History, US History. Playing Time: 1-2 Class Periods
4.      7 Wonders, Asmodee. World History, Government. Playing Time: 1 Period
5.      Ticket to Ride, Days of Wonder. Geography, AP Human Geography, World History, US History, Economics. Playing Time: 2-3- Class Periods
6.      Twilight Struggle, GMT Games. US History, Government. Playing Time: 1-2 Class Periods  
7.      Pillars of the Earth, Mayfair Games. World History. Playing Time: 2-3 Class Periods
8.      Alhambra, Rio Grande Games. World History, Economics. Playing Time: 2-3 Class Periods
9.      Archaeology, Z-Man Games. Geography, World History. Playing Time: 1 Class Period
10.  Catan Histories: Settlers of America, Mayfair Games. US History. Playing Time: 2-3 Class Periods

Honorable Mention:
Monopoly, Hasbro. US History, Government, Economics. Playing Time: 2-3 Periods
Most Students own a version of Monopoly making it easy to incorporate into the classroom.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gaming 101: How to Effectively Incorporate TableTop Games Into The Classroom

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

In October, I was able to share thoughts of incorporating games into the classroom with fellow teachers at the Georgia Council of Social Studies.  The following are some thoughts about what I presented, as well as a Top Ten list of games I think would be great for classroom use.  In my seminar, I offered information on many more games, but the Top Ten can be considered a starter set for those who want to test the gaming waters first.  
An overview of games presented at GCSS, October 2013
So, Who am I?
I am a history teacher but often struggle with how to get students excited about a subject I love, but sadly, bores them.  Nevertheless, I am not just a Histocrat, but also a gamer.  No, not a video gamer, but an old school board gamer.  I have attempted to meld these two loves—teaching history and playing games into my classroom. In no way, can I say the journey has been easy, on the contrary I have had a few false starts.  Even now, I am hesitant to give up valuable time in my AP US History class to play a game.  Still, I think incorporating games into the classroom has merit.

So, Why Incorporate Board Games?
Well, teachers who incorporate board games into the classroom do more than teach a standard for one day.  Teachers often incorporate simulations into their classroom.  Unfortunately, a simulation is a one-time offing.  A cooperative board game can be used not just to gain historical knowledge but also for the simple benefit of playing a game.  For example, a student who enjoys playing a round of Carcassonne may be motivated to play the game again with their family.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have students play games with their family for fun?  Games are a gateway to allow students to get more history into their lives.

A year ago, I introduced games to my history club students as part of my “Get History into Your Lives” initiative.  Some were eager to embrace gaming, some thought I was crazy.  Nevertheless, how did I hook them?  I showed an episode of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop show—Ticket to Ride to be specific.  Happily, I found that gaming created a gateway for other things.  For example, this year, I showed off Pillars of the Earth, a game based on Ken Follett’s novel of the same name.  Not only did students enjoy the game but were curious to seek out and read the book.  I have also tried to convert skeptical teachers by hosting a “Teacher Game Night.”  Those who attended understand the motivation and are open to incorporating games into their classroom.
Hosting a Game Night--proving that playing Games can be Educational and FUN!

Okay, not every game needs to be overtly academic or historic, and quite frankly it doesn’t need to be.  Games on the simplest level should be fun and contain a goal.  The historic significance can be implied.  Simply by playing, board games can teach important social skills that are sorely lacking in many of today’s students and help build an affection for history.

Overall, board games do not teach students all the facts, but many are a good place to start. More importantly, they may provide the motivation for student and teacher alike to delve deeper into a certain historical subject that many students would otherwise not be interested in.
You Are a Gamer, But I am Not, So Where do I Begin?
There is an amazing Gaming community that can offer tips and all kinds of advice for the teacher who is a novice gamer.  Try watching an episode of TableTop.  This show was created by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day for the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.  Games featured on show that would be great in classroom include: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Alhambra, Pandemic, and Resistance.

Probably the mother of all gaming resources is Board Game Geek.  This online resource is full of all kinds of board game information.  The website contains several threads on games in the classroom.  Any game you would ever want to play undoubtedly has a message board.  However, if you have a specific question or need, just ask a question on the message board and be prepared for a number of answers. 

Another great resource is The Dice Tower.  This is a thorough gaming website and podcast for gaming news.  Plus, they offer a variety of game reviews on their YouTube channel.  One reviewer in particular, Mike Vincent, exclusively reviews games for classroom use.