How to Effectively Manage Games in Your Classroom

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I love playing dice/board games with my 4th graders. I have dice in plastic cups. The rule is the dice are “rolled” while they remain in the cups. Most kids are able to do this. However, some students fling the dice out of the cups, even though there are lids on those cups. This is obviously intentional. I feel like if I remove the student from the activity for doing these things, it leaves their partner stranded and it didn’t change their behavior. Any advice?  Renee, Omaha, Nebraska

Renee,

You have the right answer. You are just afraid to use this answer because you are trying to make life fair. Life isn’t fair, and trying to make life into something it’s not is exhausting because it is impossible. You are a teacher in America. Your life is hard enough. Don’t try to make it impossible.

While we don’t want a student to suffer because of the actions of another student, that’s just the way life is. On a basketball team, if one person doesn’t play defense, does it affect the whole team? In a business, if one person doesn’t pull his weight on a project, does it affect the entire business? In a family, if dad drives drunk and loses his license, does it affect the whole family? To all of these questions, the answer is, “of course!”

Why is it that only in K-12 schools are people not supposed to be affected by the laws of time and space? A kid who loses their dice partner will gain some of the fortitude necessary to better deal with life’s problems in the future.

This is how I would deal with a kid losing his dice:

Kid’s dice fly across the room.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. (Kid Whisperer walks over, picks up dice and puts them in his pocket)

Kid: Hey! HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE GAME NOW?

Kid Whisperer (without looking up from the game he is playing with students): I don’t know.

That’s it. These students will have to find something else to do. Both of these kids, and everyone else for that matter, will be more careful about how they handle class materials in the future.

For anyone out there who thinks this is too harsh, I absolutely don’t care what you think. All that matters is what behaviors Renee needs to see in her classroom so that she doesn’t pull her hair out by lunchtime. Your opinion, or mine, for that matter, is irrelevant.

By the way, if you are a parent reading this while thinking “If my kid couldn’t play a dice game even though she didn’t do anything wrong, I would march right down to that classroom and tell that teacher how to teach!” I want you to know that you are part of the problem in this country. From now on, you may want to consider showing your kid that life isn’t fair in a calm way, instead of tricking your kid into thinking life is one way when it really is another.