The Magic of Game Play

You’re all in for a treat today!! My next guest blogger is someone who I’ve followed on Twitter for a couple years now and continue to be inspired by: Tisha Richmond!

Tisha is the author of the best-selling book, Make Learning Magical, which unlocks seven keys to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom. She also is the host of her very own podcast, Make Learning Magical!

Enjoy this amazing piece about the “magic of game play”!

I grew up in a game playing family. I have vivid memories of playing games at my grandma’s house with my cousins or sitting around our dining room table. There was something magical about opening up the game closet and carefully selecting the game that would preoccupy our time for the afternoon. As I’ve become an adult with a family of my own, games continued to bring magic into our home. Though my kids are now grown, there is nothing I love more than playing games as a family when we are reunited. It’s pure joy to engage in laughter and fun with the ones that I love, but I’ve found that the attributes of game play go far deeper.


One of my favorite Netflix series to binge watch over break was The Queen’s Gambit. The series followed the character’s  journey from childhood to adulthood as she became a world reknown Chess player. It was so fascinating to watch her childhood intrigue of the game grow into a passion as she learned the rules and game mechanics involved. The game didn’t come easy to her, but through consistent study and practice she developed her own set of strategies to master the game. I couldn’t help but watch the series from the eyes of an educator. Isn’t this what we want for our students? We want them to be challenged to persevere through the struggle and failure and be motivated to develop their own strategy to attain mastery. After watching the series I realized that Chess was a classic game that I never learned how to play so I went on the search to add it to our game collection. I was so excited to find an incredible vintage set and I had a wonderful time learning how to play with my daughter and her boyfriend over the holidays. Games are a wonderful way to challenge our students to push past the struggle to master content and skills. What games can we bring into learning to challenge our students to reach new heights?


One of our favorite family traditions is purchasing a table game for our family to play over the winter holidays. I love searching for the perfect one and wrapping it up to open on Christmas Eve. So many special memories are created as we gather around the game table as a family. The laughter and excitement that games bring bonds us in a special way. Everyone is completely immersed as they are collaborating and communicating to learn the strategies and rules of the game. Let’s think about this dynamic in our classrooms.  Creating a sense of community is so vital to building a classroom where learning thrives.  Don’t we want students to laugh and be excited about learning? What would learning look like if students were continually collaborating and communicating about how to master the content? How would it change the culture to have students that supported and celebrated each other’s accomplishments?


The Bob Ross inspired game “Happy Little Accidents” has become a new family favorite.  In this game, players draw a random squiggle and then mix it up with the other player’s in the middle of the table. They are mixed up and picked at random. The lead of the round calls out the word on the card and then each player attempts to turn their squiggle into an illustration of that word. Once all the squiggle have been transformed into drawings, the players take turns explaining why the drawing is the best representation of the word drawn.  The game is hilarious because players are required to think on their feet and come up with convincing arguments with very little time to think through what they are going to say.  I love the creativity that comes out when players are challenged to do so in a short amount of time.  I have noticed this same dynamic happen in my classroom.   When students are challenged to take their skills and demonstrate their learning in a creative way, they blow my mind!  Sometimes we put too many parameters on student learning.  Give students challenging opportunities to be creative and watch them soar! Check out my blog post: Squiggle Your Way to Learning where I share how I remixed this amazing game for use in the remote or brick and mortar classroom.


Reflecting on all of the various mechanics in the games we played this weekend, made me realize how much critical thinking was required.  Let me use our favorite card game Hearts as an example.  In this game, players strategically play their cards to avoid collecting Hearts and the Queen of Spades.  You are continually thinking critically about what move you are going to make next so you can end the game with the fewest points possible.  In the gamified classroom students are also critically thinking about the content.  In culinary, they are daily analyzing, evaluating, interpreting, and synthesizing the content and creatively thinking about how they are going to solve problems that arise.  Students are not merely consumers of information, they are learning by doing; empowered to create their own learning adventure.

This winter holiday I thoroughly enjoyed engaging in gameplay with my family.  I am grateful for the time of laughter and fun and the memories made.  However, the experience went beyond that, and that is what I want for my students.  The fun and laughter is important and what memories are made of, but students immersed in a rich learning environment full of challenge, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking is where the magic truly happens. 


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