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Teaching & Learning

Games in Teaching

Here's a collection of interesting games

For the theory and rationale behind games - scroll down

Although some of these videos talk about games at school, the key principles are transferable to teaching adults in General Practice.


Icebreaker: alphabet game

Icebreaker: numbers game

Icebreaker: paper planes

8 Icebreakers

Icebreakers: name game impulse

Icebreaker: ball game and others

Icebreaker: cheers and fears

Icebreaker: similar truths

Icebreaker: pass the beat around the room

Icebreakers: 1-2-3 claps

Icebreaker: a yes no warmer

Icebreaker: 3 more easy games*

Icebreaker: large group games (good)

Icebreaker: pass the beat around the room

Energiser: stop-walk

Energiser:  variant on stop-walk

Energiser: jump in – jump out

Energiser: around the world

Energiser: 1, 2, 3 break it down clap

Energiser: cross lava pit, human caterpillar & more

Energiser: zip zap zop

Energiser: around the world

Energiser: zip zap zop

Energiser: 1, 2, 3 break it down clap

Learning game: run to the board (I like the way the teacher makes it fun.  How can we do something similar with our trainees?)

Learning game: active listening

Energiser: around the world

Energiser: zip zap zop

Energiser: 1, 2, 3 break it down clap

Virtual Icebreakers

5 virtual icebreakers via Zoom

Learning game: active listening

Energiser: around the world

Energiser: zip zap zop

Energiser: 1, 2, 3 break it down clap

Games in teaching? You serious? Medicine is a profession that has standards!

I love the way this English teacher (who is teaching English as a foreign language) uses games to help students practice their English.   She is so enthusiastic and excited by her game that she makes you want to play it.  Don’t you think?   And look at the second bloke Troy and how he energises the group?   Is this group now in a state of more likely to be alert, focuses and orientated towards learning or less?

Sometimes our learners don’t want to engage in learning games because msot only realise how good it is AFTER they’ve done it.  So, you have to be excited and dynamic about the game you are using and exude energy if you want to get over that initial resistance in motivation from some of your learners.

But once they start to play, watch the learning in the laughter.  It’s wonderful.   

The benefits of using games in education


  • Games are fun – this makes them an enjoyable way of learning.  We play as children and many of us continue to carry this on in our adult lives as leisure activities.  Leisure activities are fun, which is why people participate, and there is no reason why we cant adopt this into the educational process.
  • Experiential learning – By participating in games, we actually promote learning by experience (first hand experience) –  unlike lectures, where you are learning from the experience of another (ie second hand learning).
  • Safe environment – is more likely to reduce anxiety.  Such a fun atmosphere means that participants are more likely to hear what is being said and reflect on it (as opposed to being frightened and defensive).  Not only that, but it provides an opportunity whereby people can practise skills and make mistakes without having to pay the cost of making those same mistakes in the real world.
  • Flexibility & Relevance – Same games used by different groups will yield different results.  That makes them extremely adaptable to different groups.  Such flexibility also means that games are often relevant to the group who are playing them….this engages co-operation and receptiveness.
  • Promotes change – Because participants are actually experiencing the skills (and experimenting with them), they are more likely to use them in the real world than compared to a lecture advising on the same change behaviour!  Changes can be of two types – in themselves, or in their relationship with others.


  • Involvement – Games involve the activity and a discussion afterwards.  People are different, some like activity whilst others like to reflect (Honey & Mumford learning styles), which means different parts of the game will attract different people.  Games encourage the involvement of all participants….even the shy ones.  Part of that is due to the safe environment too.
  • Promotes Cohesiveness of the group – hence participation in games, more communication and the likelihood of change behaviour.
  • Builds interpersonal skills – encourages communication that is EFFECTIVE (NB an effective communication occurs when a person receives the message that was intended by the sender)
  • Motivates the group – If a group appears to be flagging in the middle of a day release course, energisers can get them motivated again and keep their concentration in focus.
  • Encourages responsibility – games encourage the group to take responsibility for a variety of tasks….making them more self reliant and less dependant on the facilitator who they often regard as the “knower of all knowledge”.  In addition, they promote self confidence too.
  • Framework and structure – games offer a framework and structure to group experiences (something ordinarily difficult to do!) hence promoting rapid deep learning.

Types of Games









Example of an Evaluation game

Instead of the usual boring feedback forms…why not make it more interesting?  Use human bar charts!   Okay, it’s not as confidential as a form – but if you have a great group atmosphere, they’re pretty good at givig you a good gist about things.  Always give participants the option of not participating.   Participants must be fed back the results too!

uLay out 5 chairs
uInform participants which is 1 and which is 5 (1 meaning bad, 5 good)
uAsk a question
uParticipants have to stand behind the appropriate chair
uRepeat with more questions

How to Run a game

Game Preparation – not be taken to lightly

You need to do some homework:

  1. Game selection – Assess needs of the group.  Tailor game to the needs. 
  2. Practicalities – Look at time, place and resources – enough time (not to be rushed,   otherwise benefit lost), a place where they can shout and scream if they   want, and adequate resources.   Look at the group you are dealing with –   different age groups use games differently and so you will need to be   flexible.  Also, think of any participants with special requirements eg a   disability ……you don’t want to exclude anyone (it’s not nice and can be quite   scarring!).  Prepare yourself mentally…may be do a dummy run?

The activity

  • Giving Instructions – clear instructions need to be given.  If simple, verbal okay.  If   complicated, best to augment with written advice.  Check understanding. 
  • Allow asking of questions for clarification.
  • Allocating Roles – If the group is too large for the game, split it up.  Often, it is quite   interesting to see subgroups play the same game!   May need to appoint a   reader or scribe.  If appointing people, best to say something like “split into   3’s, decide who is A, who is B and who is C”.  Once they have done that,   then give further instructions eg”A will be the patient, B the doctor “ etc etc.    This avoids arguments in decision making if the choice was at the hands of   the participants.
  • Appoint a reporter or scribe as necessary….volunteer or designate, not the   same participants at each session…rotate, avoid behavioural stereotypes eg   women writer, man reporter!
  • Ground Rules – remind them of group rules…more on this later

Reflection & Discussion

This part is important – make sure there is enough time for the discussion.  Never rush it.  It is as   important as the activity itself and often is the vital factor in achieving consolidation   of learning.  

  • Phase 1 – expressing feelings – what bits they enjoyed, what bits they were not too fond of?
  • Phase 2 – thoughts – observations (?observers), what did they learn?,  evaluate performance of skills (how did they do?)
  • Phase 3 – planning further action – consider applications of the game to everyday life, what are they planning to do with what they have learnt, i.e. what changes will they make when back in the real world (transfer of insights & skills from the game to real life situations), realistic goals, reporting back at a later date to see if change consolidated?
  • Phase 4 – evaluate the game – any improvements?

Reviewing Your Facilitator Role

How did the game go?  Any skills you feel you need to brush up on eg facilitation, active listening, reflection etc 

Making a game successful

Make it fun – right from the beginning, because it helps to get the game going and gets participants involved

Build trust

  1. Establish ground rules – The participants may have worrying issues that may prevent them from yielding all.  Ground rules can help reassure them and stop them from being to scared to get involved.  However, remember, ground rules are best made after introductions or after a warm up.  If used straightaway, they can be frightening and may lead individuals to thing “Oh dear, what’s gonna happen next?”
  2. Avoid exclusion games – unfair and nasty
  3. Feedback – both the participant and the facilitator should have (before the session) skills in giving and receiving feedback. 
  4. Acceptance – allow people to say what they want to say (even if you don’t agree).  Respect their right to make their own decisions.

Make participants feel valued

  1. Being listened  to – active listening is so important. Beware, it is not something easy to do because as they are speaking, your mind will probably be focusing on the next stage!  Tip : try briefly summarising what they have said…shows you listened and understood!
  2. Democratic style in Leadership – a democratic leadership works the best.  No one feels threatened and decisions are made on a joint basis.  (group is actively involved in any decision making, group decision is made on discussion, members decide on any restrictions or not, the facilitator partakes in the activity too. This is more likely to encourage participation than one end of the spectrum whereby the leader is dictatorial and imposes things and on the other where the leader has a laissez-faire attitude (ie “do what you want, I’m not really bothered”) who fails to contribute anything.

Faciliatator as a model – should partake in the activity too.  By doing so, he/she sets the standard for the game – encouraging others to partake.  Not only that, but by participating, the facilitator can also demonstrate good examples of social skills eg by giving feedback in a constructive manner

The Facilitator’s personal qualities – as a facilitator, you must ensure that you have adequate skills in counselling, group work or social skills training.  If not….get trained yourself.  If they can see you are sensitive to the needs of other, listens well, honest with integrity and respects the views of others….they are then more likely to confide and open up to you.

Pitfalls - why games sometimes fall down

uGames not selectively chosen
uGroups too big
uPoor Briefing/Feedback rules?


uPoor facilitation skills
  • Choosing the Game – First decide on what the likely problems of the group you are working with are likely to be eg group size (often limits the types of games you can do), ?icebreaking, ?energising, ?too quiet, ?one is too verbose and drowns the others etc etc.   Then decide on activities/games to overcome those problems.
  • Timing of the activities is crucial.
  • If the group is too large…split it up.  Some say the ideal group size is somewhere between 5-12 people.
  • Brief them on the activity and what is expected of them.  This may be done verbally if simple task.  Complex tasks may need written instruction.  Check understanding.  Warn when time nearly up.  You might also consider giving them an earlier session on feedback rules (focuses on the task at hand, non judgemental, related to behaviours that can change, owned by the giver, accepted by the reciever, starts with the positive, given in manageable chunks at the appropriate time, is checked for understanding).
  • Facilitate the activity – ie encourage open and constructive participant feedback.  (how did you feel, what happened during the activity, what behaviours/strategies did you adopt, what went well, which strategies were helpful/unhelpful?)
  • Evaluate the activity – Did it work well?  Will you use it again the next time?

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