Growing up, my parents worked as co-headmasters for a school for children with learning disabilities, specifically dyslexia. I recalled hearing stories about some of the students being dosed with ritalin for hyperactivity and ADD. I myself am quite easily distracted, which makes functions like reading a book a very frustrating exercise for me.
While I am not a parent or an educator myself, it doesn't take much exposure to children to understand the need for stimulation. When playing games, this challenge is compounded by built-in delays between turns. I can't tell you how many times, as an adult, I have mistakenly attempted to make my moves during someone else's turn.
How do you best keep learners engaged with your game? The best method is to eliminate the need for turns.
The common element of games without turns is a single, central interface with the players. As most boardgames provide options and incentives for contemplating and planning future turns, you can argue that this always present. However, not all players think tactically. I rarely think past my next turn, and sometimes don't even think about my next turn until its time for me to begin. So I might respond to a text message, or just think about what I want for dinner (yum).
Game designers are increasingly more sensitive to this, developing games with shorter rules and very short turn times. However, short turn times also reduce the amount of thought one is capable of putting into a game. They can also lead to frustration, as faster players outpace slower ones.
So reduce the time between turns to 0. Let everyone play at once. Examples of games with no turn times include:
- Memory: The simple card game. All players need to pay attention to cards as they are revealed in order to get the most out of their own turns.
- Boggle: Everyone is trying to find as many words as possible from an arrangement of cubes
- VisualEyes: More challenging, but good for visual learners. Try to find common terms and phrases from a collection of pictures on a large number of dice.
- Pictureka: locate images on a visually nosy board. Its like memory, only all the images are on display all the time.
- Set: Identify patterns within a common pool of cards.
- MyWord: A word game that you can play like Set or use the cards to play Boggle. A very versatile game!
Some of these games are competitively interactive; success removes options from the common pool. You do not need to play in this mode! You can always apply a time limit and go for quality or quantity within the options available without constantly changing the conditions. For some learners, it may be better to give them more focus time.
Additionally, you (as the educator) can participate in these games at your own level (albeit quietly). You can mentally assemble the patterns and give yourself a pat on the back for your own smarts without showing up your students abilities.
So take a break from having to keep everyone focused on the game, and get a little more enjoyment out of it yourself too.