Using Puzzles and Games in the Classroom to Engage Students

Find great ideas for keeping students engaged in learning with puzzles and games from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

Using Puzzles and Games in the Classroom

Using puzzles, games, breakout boxes and escape rooms have become a trend in education. Students and teachers love these types of activities. They are great for content review, community building and social-emotional learning. This blog post contains a sponsored link that is of no cost to the reader. 

Here are a few ways you can use puzzles and games in your ELA classroom.

  1. If you have enough space, have a puzzle table set up so that when students finish a few minutes early they can collaboratively work together to solve it.
  2. If you don’t have enough physical space for another table in your classroom, provide students with a link to a virtual puzzle game. The website i’m a puzzle is free to play. Students can work together to solve these digital puzzles. You can also post this link in your Learning Management System (e.g., Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Canvas) for students who are learning online. Both physical and digital puzzles are a great activity for fast finishers, students who need to take a quiet break, and for building a community amongst students.
  3. I love using digital escape rooms as a fun activity to get students practicing their comprehension and problem-solving skills in a fun way.
  4. If your school has access to the BreakoutEdu kits or has made their own, students love solving the challenge cards and then having to figure out the locking mechanism on these boxes.
  5. Don’t forget to give Plickers, Kahoot, Blooket or Gimkit a try. These interactive games are great for reviewing content or building classroom community.

There was a #2ndaryELA Twitter chat about using puzzles and games in the ELA classroom. Read about how these teachers are incorporating these strategies into their lessons.

Q1: How are you already using puzzles and games in your classroom?

  • A1: I’m currently gaga for Escape Rooms, particularly as an engaging review before a test. Ss love working together to solve these puzzles!
  • A1: I am obsessed with digital breakouts and my students love the challenge. I use them to review literary elements and preview or review texts.
  • A1: I have used @breakoutEDU in my classroom. We also have done scavenger hunts with QR codes.
  • A1 : The scavenger hunt is paper QR codes hung up around the room and hallway for students to scan and get information.
  • A1: Lots of breakout box ideas online
  • A1: I made my first “escape room” when my class read “A Christmas Carol”
  • A1: I’m totally obsessed, but I haven’t gotten into actual boxes much – I’ve been focused on the puzzles. Have you ever played a live escape room? So fun!
  • A1: We’ve made writing bingo recently! It’s an individual thing, but it makes writing a bit more enjoyable. B-I-N-G-O… in the classroom? https://t.co/3GKRnCo70d
  • A1: One of my students earned bingo, and blogged about it — https://t.co/SOJay4Sa6p

Q2: What positive outcomes have you witnessed with these learning tools? Tell us about your favourite activity.

  • A2: I love trivia, and wanted to bring that joy to my students. I made a daily trivia warm up and students work in the same teams all month. This has really increased collaboration, team spirit, and punctuality!
  • A2: Breakouts often engage the students you wouldn’t expect. My favorite moments are when students solve one before me
  • A2: I had a formal observation with my escape and earned 2 ratings of “innovating”. Plus all my Ss were truly engaged.
  • A2: What exactly is a breakout box – how is that different from an escape? Answer: The concept is the same, but students actually receive some code or combination at the end of each puzzle. They can then unlock an actual box. Additionally, if the boxes nest, the puzzles have to be progressive (not stations) and completed in order.
  • A2: I use Kahoot! which is an online game that I mainly use as a review. The kids are extremely engaged and they always ask when we are going to play

Q3: How do you assure your students meet learning outcomes and standards while playing and puzzling?

  • A3: I make sure puzzles are based on standards. For example, each Escape Room task students complete is aligned to a skill, like sequencing plot events or identifying characterization.
  • A3: Using breakouts that require content knowledge to be solved keeps puzzling connected to standards.
  • A3: I matched each activity to a standard. Successful completion of the activity demonstrated proficiency
  • A3: My kids enjoy Kahoot too! We have run into an issue with someone hacking the games and creating extra users.
  • A3: My admin liked how all the Ss really had to work together to solve the puzzles. There was no way for one person to do all the work.

Q4: What struggles and questions do you still have for using more puzzles and games in the ELA classroom?

  • A4: I think I still struggle with not making them too hard!
  • A4 I’d love to get a breakout kit so I could do some digital, some hands-on, and some combinations

Q5: Share resources for using puzzles and games in the classroom (e.g. blog posts, Pinterest ideas).

Connect with me on social media and let me know how you use puzzles and games in the classroom.

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