Games to Engage Elementary Students

As we begin classes and a new year, it is a perfect time to plan for the future. As educators, we are constantly encouraging our students to try new activities to develop skills. We need to model that as adults. According to neuroscientists, any time you learn a new skill, you develop new neural pathways. The older we get the longer it may take to master a skill, but we still develop new neurons. It doesn’t matter if you learn to knit, juggle, or do a new routine in Zumba you are helping your brain respond to the environment and improving your chance to prevent memory loss. And, the more we continue to try new things, the more neurons we build and the faster we build them. For more information about beginning new things, check out this Wall Street Journal article. 

So, as you are beginning your new calendar year think about new strategies to use to engage your students.Simplest steps involve using all the tools that come with Zoom or Google meet. Breakout rooms can increase student engagement, as well as games.

Some easy games to use include:

  • Mystery Sound - This is a fun activity that tests students’ power of perception. With your hands out of sight from the camera, make a sound with something. For instance, crumple up a piece of paper, strike a spoon on the rim of a glass, or snap your fingers. Let students take turns guessing what they hear.
  • 20 Questions - This classic road trip game is perfect for online learning. Choose any topic that would be of interest to your students—an animal, an event, something you’re studying. Each student can ask only one question and take one guess per turn. Don’t let students blurt out the answer—they must wait until it’s their turn. To help you keep track, ask one student to keep track of how many questions have been asked.
  • Simon Says - Even though the game Simon Says has been around forever, kids still love it! Have everyone stand in front of their computer and begin the game by calling out actions. As students get out, have them sit down until only one student is left standing. 
  • Would you rather? (Kid version) - Give your students 2 equally preposterous choices and have them choose between the options. This allows your students to learn about each other, laugh and have fun
  • Moving to the Music - Sometimes you need a way to transition between topics and this activity gets your students up and moving. Put on some fun music, choose 1 student to be the leader and have the rest follow their lead.
  • Person, place or thing - This fun alphabet game gives students practice recognizing and naming nouns. The first person starts with the Letter “A” and must name a person, place or thing that begins with the letter “A”. The next player does the same thing with the letter “B” etc. You continue until you reach Z.
  • Detective - This fun guessing game gives your students a chance to move and release some energy. Select 1 student to be the detective and ask them to mute their microphone, close their eyes and count to 30. Pick another student to be “it”. The student who is “it” begins an action, like patting their own cheek. All the other students follow suit and mimic the same action. When the detective is finished counting, they open their eyes and observe the group. When “it” thinks the detective is not looking, they change the action. All the other students change the action. The detective gets 3 guesses to catch the player who is “it”.
  • Memory - Prepare a tray with random items on it, like a brush, a pencil, a Happy Meal toy, a crayon, etc. Tell your students you are giving them 20 seconds (an appropriate amount dependent upon their ages) to memorize the items they see in your tray. They are not allowed to write down a list or take a screen shot. Take the tray out of their sight and remove 1 item. Show it to them again and have them write the name of the missing object in the chat room

Think about games you play in person and create a way to use them in the virtual world.

Have fun doing new things!



About the author:
Dr. Cindy Moss is a nationally respected thought leader in STEM education and reform. Dr. Moss brings over 31 years experience in district leadership, classroom instruction and inquiry based learning to her work as a champion for STEM engagement and career & workforce readiness. Learn more about Dr. Moss here and follow her on Twitter at @STEMboss


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