Essential Classroom Games

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

It’s that time of year – Kids hate it, parents love it – back to school! As a teacher, I both dread and eagerly anticipate this time of year. It’s a bittersweet thing. But I wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite classroom games. Not educational games to review for a big test – these are games that my high school students (and I) LOVE to play in our downtime – lunch, before school, after school, during breaks on testing days, or just whenever (although obviously not during instructional time.)



#5 – Monolopy Here & Now World


You may be thinking – my students do not have the patience for Monopoly – it’s way too long! This version is shortened and has simpler mechanics: the board is smaller, there are only three bills (20s, 100s, 500s), and the goal is to collect stamps from different places on the board to win, etc. We have taught and played a full game in 25 minutes. Some games have lasted up to 45 minutes. It’s a full monopoly experience – complete with buying, selling, trading, stealing, strategy, and chance – in a fraction of the time.


Ages 8+. 2-4 players. 30-60 minutes.




#4 – Banagrams


What a game. Flexible on time and difficulty, this is a great game to pull out for a few minutes and play a quick round or two. As an ESL (English) teacher, I love the language development practice and creativity involved. My students get very into this one – they are very proud of using high level words and showing off their vocabulary. No joke.


Ages 7+. 1-8 Players. Flexible rounds.




#3 – Tenzi

This is a fast-paced solo or partner game that involves almost no skill. It takes less than a minute to learn and is largely based on luck and some quick decision making. There are infinite variants of gameplay and the rounds are super short, making this a great game when your students have a lot of energy and don’t have the patience for a high-focus game.


Ages 7+. 2-4 players. Rounds are about a minute each.



#2 – Set

Matching is fun in this game! Be the first to spot to set among the various shapes and colors. This is great because players can jump in and out without disrupting the flow of the game. There are lots of variants, making it adaptable and giving it high replay ability. It can also help English language learners (like my students) practice saying their colors, numbers, shapes, and patterns FAST.


All Ages. Best with 8 or less. Flexible rounds.




#1 – Uno


I kid you not, my adolescent charges LOVE THIS GAME. It’s probably the delicate balance of luck, simple strategy, and sabotage. My guess is that it’s mostly the latter. This game is easy to learn and pick up, you can make the rounds fast with some modifications (e.g. passing instead of drawing when you can’t play), and it requires very little surface area (10 people can play on a tiny student desk), making it perfect for school.


Ages 7+. Best with 10 or less. Flexible rounds.



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