How is Teaching Like a Board Game?


Which polygon has 10 sides and 10 angles? Who was the leader of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War? What city is the capital of Arizona? What organ system circulates blood throughout the body? These were some of the questions my 5th grade class incorporated into their board game projects which they created during our last week of school. It is a tradition each year in my classroom. The students were divided into teams of three and had to design their own board game and create questions on the subjects and topics they learned this school year. Once the board games were completed, each team rotated throughout the classroom and got to play each of the games. It was interesting to watch their reactions when they landed on encouraging spaces such as “Move Ahead” or “Switch Places With Any Player of your Choice” and when they landed on the discouraging spaces like “Go Back to Start” or “Lose a Turn”. The change in circumstances allowed some of them to move ahead joyfully while others were left stuck and frustrated. I only gave the students about twenty minutes to play each board game so in most cases they did not get to finish playing each of the games.

As the last day of school arrived, a fellow fifth grade teacher gave me a letter from one of her students who I had taught two years ago when I was a third grade teacher.  She had her class write letters to their favorite teachers during the last week of school. The boy who wrote me the letter struggled during third grade due to the fact that he almost lost his mother that year. He was already a student who suffered many emotional and behavioral issues and this compounded his problems. He would often act out in anger and frustration and would deny his behavior when confronted. He would often have to be removed from the classroom and taken to the office. It took every bit of my energy to redirect him daily and to try and provide him structure. He didn’t show much effort academically even though he was very capable. He did, however, have a caring heart and so wanted attention and love. After he left third grade, I would constantly check up on him with the other teachers and assist in anyway possible. Those teachers as well poured their hearts into trying to change and encourage him. During the last few weeks of fifth grade, he was suspended for ten days for his behavior. I became very discouraged since I knew he would soon be leaving our school where he had received so much love, structure and support and be going to middle school. I wondered if he would make it. I struggled with thoughts of how I could have further helped him. I immediately surrendered those thoughts in prayer. As I read this excerpt from his letter, I believe I received confirmation in my heart that he will make it if he trusts God to deliver him and protect him like he did in 3rd grade…

“Dear Mr. Fiore:

I remember in 3rd grade when you helped me through some tough times and I’m truly thankful for that. I think God put you on this earth to help me and protect me. Mr. Fiore you are my angel…”

LIFE LESSON: Teaching is so much like a board game. There are times you feel encouraged when your students move ahead or get it right, but then there are those times when you feel so discouraged when you see them move backwards or lose a turn. You hope their circumstances will not leave them stuck, but able to move ahead without giving up. Just as my students did not get the chance to finish playing their board games in class, I as their teacher most likely will not get the chance to see how far they make it here on earth. They come into our lives for a period of time, just like the young man who wrote me the heartfelt letter, and then they make their next move. I believe his letter confirmed for me that I was a “Move Ahead” space for him as I hope I am for all my students. When I struggle, as many teachers and parents do, with discouragement about how our children might finish, I find hope in these words from the Creator of “LIFE”

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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