- Students can pretend to be animals and play Predator/Prey to learn about what animals eat.lion image by david purday from Fotolia.com
Most children enjoy playing together. In an academic setting, this play can facilitate further learning, according to Kathleen Conezio and Lucia French, authors of "Capitalizing on Children's Fascination with the Everyday World to Foster Language and Literacy Development." Using games to teach students about habitats will increase their comprehension of new material.
- Playing Predator/Prey allows students time to interact with their peers. Conezio and French say that children construct new knowledge through interaction with others. In Predator/Prey, each student is assigned an animal and given three pieces of paper with that animal printed on them. Students mingle with other students and "eat" an appropriate animal. To "eat" another animal, one student asks another for his sheet of paper. The animal that is taken must be something the animal would eat, though. For instance, the student who is a bear could take a piece of paper from a student who is a fish. If a student has all three of his pieces of paper taken from him, he's out. Game play ends when only one student is left, or when a set time limit is up. If a time limit is set, the student with the most meals at the end of the game is the winner. Students will soon figure out that certain animals obtain more meals than others, so distribute animals randomly at the beginning of the game.
- Students work on thinking and recall skills with a memory game. To teach kids about habitats, the teacher can create a Habitat Memory game. Though traditional memory games require that children find matching cards, a Habitat Memory game encourages students to match an animal with his habitat. For instance, the polar bear card should match a snowy, icy area. Encourage students to explain their choices as they make a match. Conezio and French say that in order to facilitate scientific learning, students should be allowed to exercise choice in their learning environment. Ask students why they chose a particular habitat for an animal.
- Spencer Kagan, author of "Cooperative Learning," suggests placing students in heterogeneous, cooperative learning groups. Placing students with emerging abilities with those more advanced leads to better learning for all students, Kagan says. Once students are in their groups, have them draw pictures of their favorite animals, one animal on each page. While they're coloring---or before class---the teacher should tape large posters of pictures with different habitats around the classroom. Habitats can include the jungle, the dessert, water, a tundra and more. Each group should determine which of their animals goes with which habitat. Then, they can tape the animals to their appropriate habitat. The group with the most correct matches is the winner.