Playing Group Games from the Past

K, 1, 2

Can playing games together help to build unity in our classroom and school community? The students will compare games played by children in the past to today’s games. There will be an emphasis on how games of the past included much more togetherness and cooperation as compared to the individuality of today’s popular video and computer games. Children will learn to play some games from the past and then share these with another class in the school, playing with them as a community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour Thirty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify games played today.
  • plot on a timeline the origin of some popular games.
  • compare the cooperation involved in games of the past versus today’s games.
  • teach games to another group of students in the school.
  • discuss how games promote unity in the community.
  • Chart paper or board
  • Picture Cards for Timeline (Handout One)
  • Timeline made on butcher paper (use Handout Two as a reference)
  • Rules for Three Games (Handout Three)
  • Any materials necessary to play the games chosen

Physical Games for Cooperative Play

Games Kids Play November 10, 2004

Henderson, Roxanne. The Picture Rulebook of Kids’ Games. Contemporary Books, Inc., 1996. ISBN: 0809232278

Kalman, Bobbie. Games from Long Ago. Crabtree Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN: 0865054827

Peer Trainer: "Physical Fitness Resources for Kids"


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Begin this lesson with the students gathering together on the floor or rug area. Tell them that you are going to play a game that children have been playing for many years. It is called "I Spy." Ask whether anyone has ever played it. Explain the rules and play several times, giving several children a chance to choose and guess the item. Game procedure: The leader chooses an object in the room and gives a hint about it, such as its color. For example "I spy something red." The students may raise their hands and ask questions about it or try to guess what it is. If they can guess within five tries (count their questions and guesses), the class gets 4 points. If they guess within 10 tries, they get 3 points. If they guess within 15 tries, they earn 2 points. If they guess within 20 tries, they earn 1 point. If the class cannot guess the object by 20 tries, then you tell the object and they get no points. The person who guesses the object correctly gets to pick the next object.

  2. Talk about what skills the students needed to play that game (listening, thinking, taking turns, patience, logic and kindness). Tell the students that they worked as a team to play that game. This is a game that builds unity and a sense of community.

  3. Have children brainstorm a list of video or computer games that they know. Write their list on chart paper or the board. Ask the students what skills are needed for playing these computer/video games. Ask the students whether the games are played alone or with others. Put a checkmark by the games that require teamwork.

  4. Tell the students that you would like them to help you make a list of games that build community or teamwork skills rather than encourage children to play alone. Remind the students of the definition of community they came up with in Lesson Two: United We Stand. Discuss how playing games can build a community. (They have to work together to play.)

  5. Write down the list of games they come up with (board games, word games, outdoor games, etc.) Indicate on their list which games you (the teacher) played when you were a child.

  6. Have the children tell one person near them a favorite game they like to play with others that is not a video or computer game. They should also tell why they like it.

  7. Day Two:

  8. Display the large timeline and explain that it shows the years when certain things happened in order. A timeline helps you picture how long ago things happened and the amount of time between them. Point to the right end and explain that this is the present year. Next, read the years that are listed on the rest of the timeline and estimate which were the years that their parents were children (e.g. 1970s, 1980s), when their grandparents were children (1950s, 1960s), and when their great-grandparents were children (1930s, 1940s). Label these groups on the timeline.

  9. Show each picture card and ask the children to try to guess where on the timeline the "game" should go: when it was invented/introduced (or in the case of the TV, when it became popular). Let the students tape the pictures by the years they were invented. Use Handout Two: History of Games Timeline as a reference.

  10. When the timeline is complete, ask the children to tell about what they see. Use some guiding questions such as: What kinds of things do you think your parents played with? What about grandparents? Did your great-grandparents have video games? TV? What do you think they did for fun?

  11. Close with telling the children that they will be learning some games from the past and then sharing these games with another class in the school. Have the class add to the definition of community that they created in Lesson Two: United We Stand to include how playing games with schoolmates develops unity in their community.

  12. Day Three:

    In advance, choose some group games to teach the class. They do not have to be games that include the whole class, but they should require cooperation. Some suggestions include blind man’s bluff; heads up, seven up; SPUD; duck, duck, goose; statues; marbles; mother may I?; hot potato; Simon says or any game you loved to play! See Bibliographical References for books and Internet sites with games.

  13. Ask children to explain why it is important to know and follow the rules when playing a game (so everyone knows what to do, so everyone gets along, gets a turn). Ask what would happen if there were no rules (people would fight, they would not have fun).

  14. Over the next few days, teach the students two or three group games, one game at a time. You may choose to have the rules of each game listed on chart paper so that they can be referred to. Play the games several times to allow children to become very familiar with the rules.

  15. Day Four:

    In advance, arrange with another classroom—either the same grade level or lower—to have your class come in and teach the games you have been playing to those students.

  16. Gather the children together to review the games that they have learned. Talk about which were their favorites and why. Discuss the rules and practices that make the games run smoothly. Discuss ways they learned to get along, solve problems and make the game more fun. Come to a consensus about which game or games they would like to teach to another class.

  17. Tell the students that in order to promote unity in the school community, they will be teaching a group game (or two) to another class. Ask them what they can do or say to introduce this idea to that class (explain the rules so they know how to play; encourage cooperation; share hints about solving problems; give examples of things you can say to a teammate, like "Good job" or "You can do it").

  18. Assign roles or guide students to choose roles for teaching the other class about the game and cooperative behavior. They may introduce the games in small groups or to the whole class. Practice their roles before you go to the other class.

  19. Play the group game(s) with the other class.

  20. When the children return from playing the game(s) with their schoolmates, have them reflect on how they enhanced unity in their school community. This reflection may take the form of a picture with a written (or dictated) sentence.


Observe the children to assess their use of cooperation when playing. Are students able to explain the rules of games and follow them? Are they able to teach the games to others successfully? Do they seem to value the sense of unity in the classroom and school community? Evaluate the students’ reflection drawings and writings for the child’s awareness and understanding of unity.

Cross Curriculum 

Students teach other students how to play some cooperative games, thus building a sense of community in the school.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify ways that trust is important in all communities.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define community as the degree that people come together for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify why rules are important and how not all behaviors are addressed by rules.
      3. Benchmark E.7 Describe why the classroom, school, or neighborhood is a community governed by fundamental democratic principles.
      4. Benchmark E.8 Describe classroom behaviors that help the students learn.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.