Teachers of young children know that their students have much to gain if they learn to interact positively with one another. Kindergarten and first-grade teachers can use games to show children the pleasure that comes from cooperating with others to achieve a particular goal. Such games can help to establish a positive classroom atmosphere and reduce feelings of aggression among children. As writer Alfie Kohn writes in his article "The Case Against Competition," cooperation is "marvelously successful at helping children to communicate effectively, to trust in others and to accept those who are different from themselves." When children problem solve together through play, everybody learns and everybody wins.
Who Is Taller?
Have the children sit quietly in a circle and instruct them to refrain from talking throughout the game. Have the children stand, one child at a time, and arrange themselves in a line from shortest to tallest. The children may need help from their peers to determine who is taller, but tell them that they can only use hand gestures to help one another. Once the line is complete, instruct the children to rearrange themselves alphabetically by first or last name.
Build a Web
Instruct the children to sit cross-legged in a circle, and give one child a ball of string. Tell her to grip the loose end of the string tightly as she calls out the name of a classmate across the circle and then tosses the ball to her. Instruct the child who catches the ball to call out the name of another child across the circle and to toss the ball to her. As the game continues and the ball travels back and forth, the children form a web with the string. When everyone has had a turn to catch the ball and the web is complete, have the children pass the ball in reverse order to undo the web.
Have the children stand in a circle, holding hands. Ask two children to drop hands for a moment and then place a hula hoop or loop of rope between them. When they rejoin hands, the hoop will be hooked over their arms, dangling between them. Tell the children that from this point on, none of the children can drop their hands. Explain that the goal of the game is to pass the hoop around the circle. Each child maneuvers the loop over her own head and steps through it, possibly with help from others in the circle. After the children pass the hoop successfully around the circle in this way, play can continue in the other direction.
Count Me In
Tell the children to sit as a group with their eyes closed. Explain that the game begins when one child says, "one." A second child spontaneously says, "two." A third child then says, "three" and so on. Warn the children that if two people call out the same number at the same time, counting begins again. If the class counts successfully to 10, continue the game to 20.
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