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Keeping It Simple With Tumbling Blocks

When you’re planning station activities, whether its Math or ELA focused, keeping it simple can be the difference between your students finding success (and you keeping your sanity) and absolute chaos. Tumbling Blocks (or Jenga if you prefer) is a simple game that offers so much diversity and engagement for your students, that you just HAVE to add it to your station activities. And here’s the best part . . . They are super inexpensive and SO incredibly simple to differentiate! Plus your students will beg you to let play every day.

Using games like Jenga to enhance instruction in kindergarten.

Kindergarteners are not meant to learn by worksheets alone. In fact, gameplay increases cognition and working memory. So . . . let them play games! But don’t be afraid to adjust it to give them some practice the essential skills they need.

Using games like Jenga to enhance instruction in kindergarten.

And because I use this small, inexpensive version of this tumbling block activity, I probably have 15 different sets of this game in my classroom. With a black fine tip Sharpie, I can address almost any skill my students need to practice . . . from number recognition. . . to addition and letter sounds to digraphs. You name it and there’s Jenga set for that.

Using games like Jenga to enhance instruction in kindergarten.

But since kindergartens do not come to us in a ‘one size fits all’ package, there is definitely a need to differentiate skills so that each time a student plays, the skill and level of readiness is the right ‘size’ for them.

In my classroom, student readiness levels are organized by color.

(Don’t worry, I change up the colors so that my Tier 1s aren’t always blue or my Tier 2s aren’t always pink. It keeps them guessing as to what each color really means.) .

By placing different leveled skills in coordinating pencil bags, I can easily organize my Jenga sets and my students are successful in recognizing which set is the right set for them to use.

I don’t have to stop what I’m doing, they can select the correct materials on their own.

The rules for our classroom game play is pretty simple:

  • Students must use only one hand to retrieve a block.
  • Block must be read or answered correctly in order to keep the block.
  • If the answer is incorrect or the word misread, the block has to be placed back on the top of the tower.
  • You can not select a block from the top.
  • If you tumble the tower you are ‘out.’ The remaining players count up their blocks to see who is the winner.

It is amazing how a simple little game can make Daily 6 and Math Stations games independent, meaningful and . . .

Using games like Jenga to enhance instruction in kindergarten.


If you’d like to try to start using mini tumbling block sets in your own classroom, you can scoop them up in the 36 piece version at the DollarTree. Or check out Amazon.

Have fun!

Using games like Jenga to enhance instruction in kindergarten.

Marsha Moffit McGuire

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