Organized Games (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Competition Versus Cooperation

Games should be a positive experience for all children. All children should benefit from the physical challenge, exercise, problem solving, and strategic thinking while simultaneously enjoying a sense of belonging to the group, a commitment to goals, and enhanced cooperative skills, all of which contribute to academic success. If teachers make it clear that the goal of a game is doing as well as each child can, then games can enhance cooperation. To illustrate, Ms. Ake’s second graders were involved in relay races. When she reminded them that the goal of these races was to do their very best, she noticed how they urged one another on in their three-legged races as they jointly figured out ways to get quickly to the other side of the room.

Cooperation means operating together. It involves negotiating to arrive at an agreement that is acceptable to all. As a result, some disputes and conflicts are inevitable. When children play games cooperatively, they construct rules for themselves as they begin to experience others’ viewpoints. An emphasis on cooperative games encourages children to play together rather than against one another by focusing on group participation, sharing, giving each player an opportunity to play, and making rules that suit the players. Cooperative games help children develop a sense of teamwork, loyalty to the group, and knowledge of how to get along with others. Because Western culture is inherently competitive, it is a challenge for teachers to handle competition constructively in classrooms.

Your Role

Consider this group of elementary children playing Marble Run, a commercial game in which children combine small blocks with slides and intricate grooves into a course for the marble. As the children excitedly invent new courses, they exclaim, “Now, let’s try this!” or “Look at it go!” Their teacher commented, “This is their favorite game because it has so many possibilities and combinations. When I say, ‘It’s game time,’ I have to be sure to say ‘Only four children can use Marble Run.’ It is truly the favorite game in our classroom.”

The teacher’s role, in this case, was that of observer and manager as she freed the children to utilize the many available combinations. There was no correct way to play the game. The children constructed the rules in ways that made sense to them.

When using games in educational settings, teachers must provide opportunities for children to modify rules and create their own games. In that way, games such as Marble Run, as they are being played, become a powerful vehicle for developing intellectual and social autonomy. You can help children modify game rules by doing the following:

  1. Supporting their initiatives in games. The children playing Marble Run were encouraged to play the game in many different ways. Sometimes the game involved races; at other times it became a maze. Each group of players could initiate the way to play the game and then negotiate rules for it.
  2. Focusing on noncompetitive games. Children who compete can and do also cooperate in games as well as other activities. All children function best when they actively participate in most or all of the game instead of being excluded or eliminated by focusing on winning or losing. Appendix C describes appropriate, noncompetitive ball games, quiet games, singing games, running games, and partner games that can be introduced into the curriculum to enhance cooperation.
  3. Allowing them to modify rules during the game. Even though the children usually started one of the Marble Run games with a race of some kind, they often decided to change it in midstream to a different game. Their teacher supported their thinking about all of the variations they invented by using positive language that empowered them to think about the many possibilities inherent in the game.

Games are useful for active and quiet times, for transitions from one activity to another, and for fostering specific learning outcomes. Therefore, you will need to develop a repertoire of games that foster a cooperative spirit that will last children through their lives.

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