Board Games and Education #7 Lesson Reinforcement

I remember the first day of school being really exciting, who were my teachers going to be, which of my friends would be in my classes, would there be any new kids at the school? The first few days would be the same routine and then…the abject terror of the first real lessons on the new material and I would realize I had basically forgotten everything from the year before, at least, that’s how it felt.  Now, a week later and we were into the new subject material, what I needed of the old material had come back and we were on our way to the rest of the school year.

I suspect I was not the only student who “suffered” through this experience and I posit that students(and teachers) could be eased into the new school year with the use of games. I also think the students themselves should be the game makers.

Games are a great way to reinforce ideas taught in school. What if designing games for the sake of review was one of the tasks students performed during the year? Students would be fully immersed in the subject for as long as they worked on their games. Students would have to understand what was really going on with the material in order to make their games playable. If the games they made turned out to be really fun, they would want to play it outside of the classroom and outside of the school.

I would agree that making games takes a long time and there would have to be a limit on the time provided to make these games, but I never said these games had to be robust and I never said they had to be finished. Designing a game forces designers to think about how everything connects to each other. If a connection doesn’t make sense, playtesting and playtesters will tell the designer the connects don’t feel right.


What if two or three of the games ion each classroom created were actually fun, engaging and did a good job of reinforcing the lessons of the material? These could be used in the classroom as time/review fillers during the year, or they could be used for next years incoming students to prepare them for what they will learn. These games can also be used as review the following year to ease everyone back into the start of the school year.

What if the first week of school was about playing games, re-familiarizing  yourself with last years material, and getting to know the other students in the classroom through the act of playing a game? What if students were able to see their name on the box of their game being used in the classroom? I understand if that was a source of peer embarrassment because kids can be awful to each other, but if I came back to my school later in life and saw my game still being used with my name on it, I would be immensely proud.

I can go on and on about the benefits and versatility of these review style games. The benefits are many and while the time challenges can be great, the engagement, interest, and environment of creation are worth spending the time.

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Board Games and Education #6 Making History Tangible

Board games have the ability to add story and experience to stories written by history. Playing a board game based in history can bring the experience of historical characters to the minds of students.

I remember reading about hisotry, taking tests and promtly forgetting what we were doing. Over time, I have supplemented what I learned in school with TV, movies, books etc. But what I was supplementing was what held my personal interest.

Lets us the example of Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the coming British Regulars. What if there was game that gave students a map of Boston and they had to make the ride themselves. If they took the wrong turn, they would be captured but would have the opportunity to escape. What if the students ask “If Paul Revere was captured, how would the message have been delivered?” This is a great opportunity to mention that another rider, William Dawes, was given the same task. Now, the students are grouped together and half are told to make the ride to tell the militia the Redcoats were coming, and the other half were trying to capture the riders.

The stories of near missed and last moment captures will be numerous. Students will remember the turns they took and the turns they didn’t take that would have led to their own capture. Because Boston is a real place, if the students ever go there, they can see a building a associate it with the turns they took on their own Paul Revere ride.

Even if, years later, they forget most of the lesson, should the idea of Paul Revere’s ride ever come up, they will remember their own ride. They will have a laugh and if they tell their own children about the ride they took through Boston. Their child might even say, “That sounds like fun.”

Board Games are a vehicle that can add a story to a subject where the gravity and meaning of the real historical moment is lost when described in a class setting. We all know that the winter in Valley Forge was awful for Washington’s army, but few of us relate to the torment. Few people know what a desperate ride on horseback feels like, but we can give students the experience better with the use of a board game.

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Board Games Used For Education #5 The Benefits of Educational Blog Writing Pt2

Two days ago we talked about the benefits of writing a development blog….well….sort of.  That was my intention, until I got to 500+ words and had not started on the specific benefits I wanted to cover. In the interest of avoiding glazed over eye balls and, lets be honest, stretching out content (muahahahaha), I decided to make a part 2.

This is not a complete list but 4 major benefits (IMHO) of writing a game development blog are: Receiving feedback about your project, a log of progress to reference and look back on, articulate problems with the game and community building/interaction.


Even if the people reading the development blog are other students from inside the class, a design blog allows for eye balls from outside the classroom to see the project and ask questions. While feedback in the classroom in great, there are times when a good question comes to mind but the students aren’t in class anymore. Good thing there is a blog online for students to ask their questions no matter when they think of them. If the students want to share their game ideas with people outside of class or school and get their thoughts, they have the option. Family and friends can follow along and provide questions from a perspective from outside the school setting.

A Progress Log

This whole idea about keeping a development log does not take into account how long the development will last. Maybe it takes place over multiple school years? If the students are detailed enough, they will be able to pick up where they left off when they come back to school the following year. Maybe there is a student that runs into a similar problem and they can go to the log of a different game to see how the problem was handled. What if, in the future, the student in is a job interview and they are able to reference back to their progress log to show how they dealt with a problem? The benefits of being able to refer back to past progress are many and invaluable.

Articulating Problems

When problems arise during the design process and students need a helping hand, they can reach out to their community. In order to get that help, the students will have to describe their problems in a way that makes sense and allows for readers to give an informed opinion. No one wants to read a novel and try to figure out what the problem actually is. Students will get better feedback if they can succinctly describe the issue they have run into.  Not only in the blog format, but over the course of time, students will get better at describing their issues in the classroom. A major pillar of design is to say as much as possible with as few words as possible. In the quest to figure out the issues they come across, they will experience one of the pillars of design.

Community Management

If students are able to get a group of people interested in the progress of their game, they will start to build a community. As the community grows, they will need to learn the skills of community management. How to engage people, how to respond to people, how to take input from people. In a world where social media is how we communicate, being able to learn community management in an environment build around their own creation is probably a better than the anonymous nature of the internet.

Thank you for sticking it out with me on this one. Are there other benefits you can think of that would apply to this kind of exercise?

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Board Games Used For Education #4 Writing a Blog About Games Pt1

It has been a while since I have written a post about Board Games and Education. I am going to like to the introductory post about this series as a refresher of what I am trying to accomplish with this series.

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to write designer logs about the games we worked on in order to let people follow along in the process. I also wanted to get feedback from readers about what they liked and disliked. In general terms, I wanted to share the lessons I learned along the way.

If kids are designing games in school, I think it would be a great idea to have them blog about the experience along the way. The benefits of blogging are many. To pick the low hanging fruit….blogging is a terrific exercise in writing skills, communication skills, social interaction (assuming kids are allowed to interact with comments), and computer skills.

Note: I am not getting into whether or not kids should be blogging. That is a decision that should be left to adults in charge and depends on the age of the students. This post is assuming kids have been given the go ahead to blog and have the proper amount of supervision. Back to the show

Beyond the previously mentioned benefits of blogging, I have found a list of my own benefits over the time I have been blogging. I am more engaged with my writing, I stay on a schedule, I’ve had to learn how to organize and streamline my thoughts and my writing has VASTLY improved.

When I was a student, I hated writing. I may have mentioned this in a previous post but will say it again, I did not care about the subjects I wrote about in school. I care about board games, and more to the point, I care about fun. I look forward to writing about board games and the topics related to. I spend the time researching and taking notes so I am constantly engaged. Not to say that most students would be engaged with board games as a specific topic, but they have a chance to be engaged with the thing they are creating. They might gain a sense of ownership over the subject rather than a sense of obligation.

Blogging also keeps me on a schedule. I want to release a new post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In order to do that, I write in one of two ways. I write posts in bulk weeks ahead of time or I write the next weeks worth of posts in one sitting the weekend before. It really depends on how productive I am feeling but I have learned the benefits of “batch processing” and reap the benefits when I write posts weeks in advance and now give myself the time to work on other things.

When I start a post, I need to think about how the post will be organized. I have made the choice to keep most of my content short for easy consumption and no the irony of making that statement 500+ words into this post is not lost on me. What my approach has taught me is to be succinct and write in a timeline that makes sense. I’ve learned how to get readers from one paragraph to the next.

To conclude, I will say the obvious again. Writing on a regular schedule and about a topic I enjoy has vastly improved my writing. When I started, I was a terrible writer. I still have a long way to go in my growth as a writer but I see great benefits so far. When I get bored with using the same words so I think of new words to say the same thing. My proofreading has improved greatly, because I am lazy and hate proofreading. Honestly, the fact that I do proofreading now is worth if it was the only thing that changed about my writing. I also find I am able to type without looking at the keys as often. The list goes on and on but I think you get the point.

If a student is allowed to write about their games, there is a good chance they will be gaining writing experience and in turn, becoming better writers. At the very least, they will be able to identify areas where they can improve. They will be engaged in a subject where they have ownership and will be more likely to spend the time it takes to learn the lessons blogging has to offer.

I got to the end of this section and realized I did not cover all I wanted to, so we are going to make this a two part post. Catch part two in a couple days.

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Board Games Used For Education #3 Teach the Tools of the Trade

What makes games easier to learn is a familiarity with the mechanics played in one game that show up in another. Expanding on this idea, what makes games easier to design is a familiarity with the types of tools designers can use. I like the idea of teaching young students the basics of mechanics. For example, a dedicated class to card drafting could be built around the current subjects being covered in another class. I don’t think the class would have to be long, just 15 or 20 minutes where students can get together and experience mechanics at works. Simple seeing cards move around a group and learning the importance of one card over another.

Students can experience the motivations for drafting one card over another. Students would not have to fully understand what is going on, but the facts that they are exposed to the mechanic is setting the groundwork to help students design games in the future. Another huge benefit of this is the social interaction these mini classes provides. I would hope that the walls of unfamiliarity might be lowered just a little bit if students were able to interact in these situations and the shortness of these classes would allow for a good rotation of different students in different groups.

I can see a potential problem being the lack of understanding of what is going on. Depending on what age the students are, I think this problem can be avoided. A potential fix for this would be to have mini games designed, potentially by other students. Give a little bit of theme and context to the mechanic you want students to learn and the message might sink in a little better.

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Board Games Used For Education #2 Creative Writing

I never liked creative writing time in school because I could never visualize the worlds we were asked to create and write about. I never really got into reading until Harry Potter was made into a movie and I had visual aids to help me generate the images in my head. What I wonder is, what if you gave students the goal of generating stories and worlds that could give their classmates a game experience? What if creative writing time was an exercise in both creative thought and game generation?

I am not sure what grade level this would be applicable, but I like the idea of instructing students to write about a game experience they would want to have if they were playing a game. The idea would be to have students write short, two or three paragraph idea that would be about a game theme and the experience they would want their player to have.

Seed Idea: Everyone in the game is trying to build the best tree house in the neighborhood and there are several things everyone must overcome in order to build their tree houses.

Teachers could instruct the students to write about this idea and the limitation they might face. The students writing would have to think about all the things that could make building a tree house.(time, money, tools, skills) Teachers could even provide some extra help with idea offshoots. Maybe students could be reminded that they don’t need to limit their ideas to the trees and the realities we live. Tell the students to think of building a tree house on another planet or in another time period. The overall goal should be to keep the creative thought to creating world/game limitations and abilities so a game can be built around those parameters.

This creative writing can be brief and left for later when students can flesh out their ideas. I like the idea of students having to generate their own world limits and thinking about what it takes to overcome those limitations. This kind of thinking could have some real world applications depending on where in school students are and if they make the connection to the ideas they are working on and the real world situation they might apply to. I also like that for students like me, where generating my own world visual is difficult, with this style of creative writing, students only need to build limits and ways to work within those limits.

After this initial round of idea generation, students can flesh out the ideas with more parameter depth and/or theme. Getting students used to generating small limits will prime their brains to think about larger game ideas down the road.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at

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Board Games Used For Education #1 Intro

I firmly believe that games (including board games, RPGs, video and others) could be the basis for a good education system. We recently wrote about why we like games as an educational tool and after the comments we heard from people we thought we would start a new series about our detailed ideas for what could be done with games in a school setting.

Let me place my disclaimer here. I am not an educator or a child development specialist. I realize there are details that would make some of our ideas very difficult to accomplish. So, if you want to tell me why my idea is crazy, please leave me a comment and I would be happy to make adjustments to our ideas to make them more realistic.

What I do want to do is get the ideas out in the world for people to think about, talk about, and possible take action. While I am not in a place to make direct changes to classrooms, maybe one of our readers is a teacher and they think one of our ideas, or an idea they get from reading our posts, is worth giving a shot in their classroom.

Both Aidan and I have a passion for the education system. We have spent a good amount of time thinking about ways to make a games based school a possibility. While I don’t think we will get to a point where we are running a school based on gaming systems, we will continue to think about the possibilities that games offer to students as another method to learn and reinforce the subjects taught in school.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at

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