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Games and the adult learner

I find that team games work as well with adults as with children. Does anyone have suggestions for games that have been used successfully in the classrooom with adult learners?

Hi Joseph,
In the Forum 3 I mentioned several games that I use that have been very effective. Anything that generates a sense of competition works with the students. Another type of game I use is to post a mystery or bonus question on the screen during break. The screen also has a clock on it so the students see the minutes and seconds count down while they are on break. If they are on a 15 minute break, the question goes on the screen along with the clock. At then end of the break then I ask for the answer(s) to the question(s). The right answer(s) get the students bonus points. This can be done as teams or individually. What you will find is that the students talk among themselves about the possible answer(s) while on break so momentum is not lost in terms of course content even though the students are on break. Humans like to compete and this is one way of keeping them in the game.

I teach Medical Assistants and they are delighted with games that involve prizes. They intensely compete to know the material in order to acquire $1 prizes from the local "Everything is $1 Store". I use flashcards and go around the room asking each student the question on the card that turns up. IF the student is correct, they chose a prize from my table. When the prizes are gone from the table, they can take prizes from each other. When the questions run out or the timer buzzes, prizes stay where they are. I have taught metric/ household/apothecary equivalents and medical terminology with much success. I have incorporated prizes into my budget and find the results very satisfying.

monopoly has worked in accounting
game day in a therrapeutic course works too

Hi Michelle,
Thank you for the suggestions about monopoly and game day ideas. I would caution you though that there needs to be a master plan for having any type of activity in a class. What are going to be the learner outcomes? To just have a game or two without a plan for fitting them into the curriculum might be perceived as a lack of preparation—meaning that the instructor isn't prepared so the class will just play games to fill the time. Games should reinforce the learning goals.
Do you have some examples of how you see the games fitting into the various class offerings in your school?

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have my students do flash card facts and they love to compete for prizes. I am considering trying a different approach with my pharmacology clas and I could use some help brainstorming.... What if I asked my pharmacology students to work in teams of three to four students to design a card or board game that would help them learn the catagories, trade names, generic names and important teaching facts about their drugs...then we could have a game day to play the games and review for the final. Everyone could vote for their favorite game and the winning team would get prizes. Is that too convoluted to be effective??

Hi Joanna,
Great idea about having your students design the various games to enable them to learn specific content in the pharmacology area. I don't think your approach is too complex or convoluted to be effective both in learning and time investment.
Based upon past experience I would make several suggestions about parameters for the development of the games. Sometimes the students become so focused on developing the game itself that the effectiveness of the learning process is lost. This means the game becomes the end and not the content contained on the board. I would suggest that you give them some examples of what you consider a quality game to be. This will help them to contain some of their development and rules to the point the game can be played. Some teams have developed games that require way too much time and effort to learn the rules, thus play is really lost. The simpler the better..
Another suggestion is to assign the various teams content or generic names, or trade names to develop their games around. This way you are limiting the focus of skill acquisition to a specific area and the game can develop from that.
Game day should be a lot of fun and the competition will be keen. Just think of all of the learning that will occur.
Good luck with your effort. If you have any other questions let me know. I am attaching a copy of the jeopardy game that I use in an email to you. You can look at it and see if it could work for you.

I am a big game acvocate. There are some good books out there, but I don't really use many activities that are in those without doing some major modifications.
As a part of my job, I train teachers to teach. One of the seminars I do is on structuring classroom games. If you want a set of the handouts I use, email me at

Hi Joseph,

My instructional experience has indicated that adult students enjoy competition and reward.As a result, group competition was used to address the class learning objectives on a selected subject.

The class was broken down in three or four teams where a team name was selected along with a team captain. Questions are asked each team in rotation. The team captains reply with their answers following conferring with fellow team members. Scores are recorded based on the correct replies to questions. Prizes are awarded to all teams based on their finish in the contest.

The results of the contest yielded better test scores on the subjects addressed in the competition.

Mike Aday

Hi Laura,
I like to use games in my classes as well. Over the years I have developed a large bank of different kinds of games that enable me to focus on the individual learning needs of students while engaging them in the knowledge acquistion process.
For example I have a PowerPoint Jeopardy game that I can post up on the screen for the whole class to play or I can use it for extra points during breaks and small group activities.
Another thing I have found that students really enjoy is making up their own games based upon the content of their field. These games can assist with learning medical instruments or legal terms, etc. This allows the students to become invested in the learning process through identifying the content for the game as well as the game itself.
If you have any questions about any of these games please let me know I will be glad to share what I have.

WE have several games that we use regularly. The instructor creates question boards for each subject and we can use these to play our own versions of jeopardy, Family Feud or Millionaire. Each team is a family and they have to work together to get the correct answers. The winning team is rewarded with candy or some other token prize.

Hi Therese,
Sounds like you are using many different versions of games to include your students in the learning process. The key focus of all these activities is to move the newly acquired information base into short-term memory and then develop ways for the learners to use the information and then store it in their active working memory. Learning operates around storage and retrieval. Games, exercises and competitions help to facilitate this process.
Educators need to constantly strive to be creative in the ways that can communicate content messages to students in such a manner that will enable them to see the relevancy, application and engagement of the their learning.

Team games are great! i group differnet students together periodically and have them complete a study sheet for an upcoming quiz. This requires them to each take a question find the answer in the Lecture material and respond. Teams that complete first get to decide certain procedures we do in lab or are allowed to choose a new procedure to be first to attempt. Since the groups are always different they are forced to do work as a team.

Hi Linda,
Isn't amazing how much adults enjoy playing games? It seems that everyone loves some form of competition, be individually or in a group. By keeping the groups changed around the students get to work with others as well as getting to know each other better. Good job.

I find playing Jeorapy helps thier retention. The students become very competitive to give me rigth answer in the form of a question

Hi Amir,
Isn't amazing that no matter what age we are we enjoy playing games and being competitive with our fellow students, friends and/or family. As instructors we can capitalize on this and help move our students through the learning process. Keep up the good work.

joseph, a really interesting game is posting a list of activities on the board, such as changing a flat tire, baking a cake, playing piano, i am sure you can have a different range of difficulty, anyway .. you ask the learners who can do these? you will most likely have quite a few show of hands, then ask them to come up with something they can't do ( within reason ) the moral of the game is that if they work together they can do just about anything..

Hi Carmen,
Thanks for the posting on the forum about a successful game that you use. It is amazing that no matter what age people are or their status in life they enjoy playing games. As educators we can capitalize on this when we are wanting the students to really focus in on our topics.
What other games have you found that work for you?
For example, I have a Jeopardy game on PowerPoint that works very well.
Any suggestions will be appreciated by all.

I have been looking for team building activities for adult students and came across a web site with lots of great ideas,

Does anyone know of other sites that have team building activities that you may have tried?

In regards to games with adults, you have to be really careful, our school has done some really neat things -- like visit the classroom and deliver cookies and milk with Santa, and give out ice scrapers as a gift for the holiday. We all thought is was a really neat idea but heard students say, "gosh I feel like I am in pre-school." The ice scrapers were not cheap -- good quality.

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