Games - board, war, and role-play - provide a host of opportunities for a classroom. A small investment for rules and supplies gives a teacher countless lessons in a form that delights students.
Explore the wonders of Ancient Egypt!
Win where Napoleon lost!
Follow in the footsteps of Lancelot or Calamity Jane!
Investigate the Outer Solar System!
Climb the Himalayas!
Re-write LeGuin, Twain, or Clarke!
Individuals develop their imagination and creativity. Cooperation and competition, unlike many traditional lessons - foster a range of social skills. Reading, writing, and math are part of or can be built into games with ease. Specific games can be used to teach concepts and skills in social studies, science, and literature. Art and music projects can be woven into a game-based curriculum.
Games can be used within any schedule, though like any piece of quality curriculum they need time. A game can be used an hour or two, once per week, or it can be played in a regular class period over an entire week or more.
Teachers have used games for millennia, but we usually call them simulations. Transforming an entertaining game into an effective piece of education often involves only a few changes in vocabulary. Many excellent teachers are excited about the opportunities offered by games. As teachers experiment and ideas spread, games may have a wonderful effect on students' experiences in school. We all benefit.
The possibilities are endless.
Many games have broad applications in classrooms. I have used boardgames, wargames, and role-playing games with my students as an integrated part of my curriculum. This year we are studying twentieth century US history. I have written a simulation for my students in which they head families as the events and issues of the century roll past. I lead role-playing games, some historical, some more fantastic and speculative. I am assessing possible wargames, especially for World War Two and the Vietnam War. We use published role-playing and wargame material, modifying it, of course, to fit our interests and needs. In other years I have used a similar range of materials to teach other topics: the Middle Ages, Modern Issues, and Chinese History.
I correspond with teachers across the country. They teach students six years old and up. They use a variety of published and original materials. Some favor wargames and simulations, while others prefer free-form storytelling. They report great success with these approaches.
I am optimistic that games can powerfully effect the learning of many students, and I hope that you will join me in promoting these wondrous possibilities.
Teachers: Tell us what you are doing with games in your classroom. If you've received a donation from a company, we need to offer feedback. Lend games to other teachers. We need their addresses to send them this newsletter.
Publishers & Editors: What are you already doing to support classrooms or clubs? If you send games to me or to other teachers, we want to review them and spread the word. What are your questions? Engaging, clear writing is essential for teachers and students, especially for those who have little gaming experience.
Writers: You are one of the truly great creative forces in our society. What are you ideas? Teachers are requesting games with a huge range in historical settings. We don't need politically correct individual games, but the industry as a whole has so far overlooked a variety of genres and cultures and, sadly, women and girls. What is possible?
Illustrators: Who can offer realistic images? Who can stretch students through their art?
Wholesalers & Retailers: In many ways, you are the front line. What issues do you see? How are you already supporting schools or clubs? If you know any teachers using games, please put them in contact with us.
We know that we have left out someone. Please let us know who you are. We've also failed to clearly state other options. If you have a question or idea we should hear, please write.
In future issues, we want to tell you what others are doing. We want to present reviews of games by teachers and for teachers. We want to announce new and exciting games. We want to present short articles on many topics: reports from conventions, getting into mainstream catalogs, gender & race issues in games, game studies, international gaming and education. The adventure continues.
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