If you're looking for a fun way to increase student engagement, follow along as I teach you how to create a DIY board game to use in your classroom. Trust me, you do NOT need to be tech savvy! Let me share my tips on how to quickly and easily make an educational board game to use with your students complete with 3D printed game pieces using Tinkercad.
When I was working on my MEd research project, I wanted to address the one topic that my chemistry students struggled with the most, stoichiometry. Specifically, my students seemed to have difficulty performing the algebraic steps that are necessary in completing these problems. As I was researching ways to help my students succeed, I was introduced to the myriad of research surrounding the use of games in the classroom. I decided that I wanted to create a classroom board game that could yield similarly positive results both in student performance as well as increasing their confidence in the topic.
1. Think About Your Goals
Before you even begin creating your board game, it is critical that you consider your audience, the time constraints in creating and playing the game, and your goals for what you want playing the game to accomplish.
For me, I wanted to be able to use the game in all my chemistry classes (college preparatory and honors). My students' academic abilities, mathematical backgrounds, and interests in the subject varied dramatically. That being said, my game needed to be differentiated so it would meet the needs of all my students. I wanted the game to encourage those who were struggling with the concept, while at the same time, I wanted to stretch the abilities of those students who were beginning to master the material.
2. Begin Sketching Your Board.
In my game, I wanted there to be a variety of questions, some very simple while others were more difficult. This way, my students who were struggling could choose the easier questions and gain the confidence to try the harder ones. My students who were doing well could stick to the more difficult questions.
The level of difficulty corresponded to the number of "tunnels." This is why I created paths with one, two, or three tunnels.
I wanted there to be an element of competition in the game, but I wanted my students to feel like they were competing with themselves. The secondary goal of this game was for my students to experience an increase in their self-efficacy and confidence in completing these problems so I did not want them to get discouraged by comparing their success to that of their classmates.
My game has a sprawling layout with each student starting on a different corner. This way, students are less likely to be able to "trap" another student from being able to move in a certain direction.
I wanted the students to be able to select the questions they would like to answer, and I wanted there to be a variety of levels of difficulty that corresponded to the number of points that the student earned. This way, students would be encouraged to try the more difficult problems without being forced to attempt them before they were ready.
At any point in the game, students have the option of choosing an easier or more difficult turn.
3. Find a program that works for you.
I tried numerous programs (Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop) quite unsuccessfully. If you want to create a board with a square layout these may work great for you., but I found them to be too challenging for me to work with given the sprawling board that I was trying to create.
To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed to admit what I ended up using to create my board. I was so frustrated with having to move every single shape on my board any time I needed to make any slight change. Ultimately, I decided to cut out pieces of paper, lay them on my carpet, and used this as the template of my board game (see the video above to learn how I went from a few scraps of paper to a professionally printed board).
After taking a photo of my template, I used a filter on an unknown app to make it look a little less like a photograph (in my video at the top of this post I should how you can do the same thing on PowerPoint using the photo editing tools - or you could just use the editing tools on Instagram).
Afterwards, I uploaded the photo to PowerPoint to insert clip art over the blue paper circles (check out my video above to see how I was able to do this). If you choose to add clip art, make sure that you check the licensing to ensure that you are using it appropriately.
Finally, save your slide as a jpeg or png file to use it as your board. From here, you can print the board using your home or school printer, or have it printed professionally.
4. Print your game.
To print my game board and box, I used www.boardgamesmaker.com
If you are looking to have your game printed I would recommend this company. I was impressed with the quality of the product and the speed at which it was produced. Communication was fantastic and they were able to help me troubleshoot some problems I had (on my end) with uploading my box image.
Board games can be expensive. However, I was able to use an education grant to pay for a classroom set. For a complete list of grants that you can use for your classroom, check out my Educational Grants post. For a rough idea of cost I have included my price breakdown (prices may change).
Game Tokens (150) yellow $7.50
Game Tokens (150) orange $7.50
Game Tokens (150) blue $7.50
Game Tokens (150) purple $7.50
Matte laminated (smooth finish) custom medium square game box 2" height (qty 10) $95.00
Standard matte laminated (smooth finish) custom board game 18" x 18" (qty 10) $100
Total Price - $284.49 for 10 games (this price did not include printing my question cards)
5. OR Use a 3D printing program (like Tinkercad) to make your game pieces.
If you do not want to purchase plastic game pieces, you can create your game pieces using Tinkercad. In this video, I share the most simple Tinkercad project possible. ANYONE can make it in less than five minutes! You could also allow your students to create their own game pieces and print with a 3D printer.
Here is the link to the game piece template that I created in the tutorial video: Game Piece Template