The Glow Games: Games for the classroom

Games in the classroom are such a powerful way to get our students excited about learning. It makes the buy-in so easy which is super important! However, games can easily become just that...excitement without any academic content and mastery actually happening. The bottom line is this...if the excitement isn't matched with rigorous content, then fun = check....learning = not so much! 

So how do we use games to enhance our instruction without losing powerful learning opportunities? Two rules that I always keep in mind: 

1) No turns/no outs: When preparing a game, make sure that every single student is accountable to answer every single question independently. This ensures that each student is not having the fun until they put in the work. 

When students are given the opportunity to get "out", they often will do this when they are tired of working or would rather just sit. We need to make sure that every student is always a part of the game, and that they are accountable for their learning. 

2) Next level gaming: We need to make sure that games don't simply focus on memorization, but rather that they emphasize the application of a skill. Don't just get stuck on memorizing terminology, but give opportunities for the students to be able to use the terms to create and analyze. 

If you keep these two things in mind when planning out your game, it will help you get the biggest bang for your buck- student engagement mixed with powerful learning and application. 

Now, let's talk Glow Games! 

I wanted to spice up some easy games to help my students review for a major science exam coming up. I had a sweet follower give me the idea for neon Jenga. That idea immediately spiraled into the Glow Games. I took some of my favorite classroom games and transformed them into a glow in the dark version. Seriously, so easy and so perfect. The kids had a blast and worked so hard to apply their scientific knowledge to answer questions that would double as their study guide. However, these games can easily work with any content that you are working on in your classroom. 

Let's break down the games. The students work to complete activities or answer questions that allow them to practice skills or current class content. After the question has been answered, they participate in one of four games. Students collect points in hopes of becoming the Glow Game Champion. Students rotate through four game stations. 

To begin, you will need to set up a few blacklights around your room. That's pretty much the secret to the magic. I will add directions for how I made each game "glow" below. 

Here are the blacklights that I used: 


Of course everyone knows how to play Jenga, but too many times students answer a question, move their piece, and then wait seven rotations until they answer another question. This is where the no turns/no outs concept is huge. Every student must answer every single question. The student would decide which color block they wanted to move, then every single student went to their game card and answered a question under that color. Once everyone had completely answered the question, the student (whose turn it was to move the block) would present his/her answer to the group. If they all agreed with the student, then he/she could move the block. I have more information about how this version of Jenga works right {HERE}. The only thing that I changed is that I added some neon/reflective tape to the blocks. Simple and easy! The tape is a little pricy, but it goes a LONG way. You could easily use this for other lessons as well. I have also linked a few of my favorite Jenga games below. One is already painted if you choose to set up Jenga like mentioned in the link above. 

Points: Students earn a point for each block that they move. 



Played just like ring toss minus the turns, of course! The students answered a question or completed an activity. Once they had their final answer, they shared with their team and made any adjustments/addressed any misconceptions. Then they each quickly took a turn to toss their ring (a glow stick necklace). You can have just a simple ring toss, or you can create categories where they toss the ring on the correct answer. For example here, they had to distinguish between physical and chemical changes for each combination in their study guides. Then they tossed their ring onto the correct answer (chemical or physical). 

Points: For each ring that finds it's way around the glow stick, they collect one point. 

To create the stand: 
I placed a giant glow stick (found in Target Dollar Spot) into a catering pan from Party City. I mean honestly, can it get any easier? Here are the glow sticks that I ordered from Amazon. 


Just like ring toss, the students answer a question or complete an activity. Then they share and confirm with their group. Each student then takes a turn bowling. 

Points: For each pin that they knock over, they earn a point. 

To create: Place glow sticks inside a hamster ball (bowling ball). You will also need to place glow sticks inside water bottles (pins). 


Spoons is a really popular game that I have played since I was young. Add some content and you've got spoons for the classroom. It's played like the original with a few exceptions. Find the basic directions for the game {HERE}. When playing Spoons, the students are working to create 4 of a kind. It's also similar to musical chairs. Once they have their matches, they snatch a spoon. This opens up the opportunity for the other players to snatch a spoon as well. The player who doesn't snatch a spoon in time doesn't receive points. Here they are trying to match states of matter. Once the spoons are snatched, they decide how many points they earned. 

Points: Their points are based on their matches. If they snatched a spoon first, they obviously have four of a kind, so they receive four points. The other students will get points for however many cards they have of one kind. For example, if they have three examples of solids, they would receive three points. If they did not get a spoon, they do not receive any points that round. 

To create: I wrapped white spoons with the neon tape from the Jenga game. Then I created my content cards and printed on neon paper. 


I also had the students wear neon vests and glasses. These are not necessary, but just add a little something extra if you have access to these things. 


I think that is pretty much it! So simple to throw together! Now what are you waiting for? Go get your glow on! 

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