by Kelsey Marquez
“¡ZAP! ¡Que lástima!” say the children when they get a popsicle stick that says “¡ZAP!” Zap is a game I play with the children from Garden Hills. Their teacher has written sounds on different popsicles sticks, such as “rra, la, ma”. She then writes “zap” on a few of the other popsicle sticks. The object of the game is to obtain the most popsicle sticks with sounds but when you pick a stick with the word “zap” you must put all your sticks back in the bucket.
Mrs. X [all names have been eliminated] was trying to get through her daily lesson as usual but it seemed impossible to get the children to focus. Some of the kids looked exhausted while others kept fidgeting with their fingers. The teacher decided that it was best to let them play “Zap” for fifteen minutes so those that were tired could participate in a less energy-demanding activity and those that were restless could release some energy as well.
All the children got into groups of about four children except for one group who only had two. I decided to join that group so that they had more people to compete with. Mrs. X passed out the materials and we began right away. First we sorted the popsicle sticks, making sure they were facing down so no one would cheat. We took turns in order, Student 1, Student 2, and then me.
After a few rounds, I began to notice something interesting. For five year old kindergarteners, these kids were really competitive. They took the game very seriously and always kept track of how many sticks each player had. The game got so intense that I hadn’t even noticed that the time for me to go had passed.
I learned that it’s okay to give children a break from structured learning. Playing a game can be just as educational as a lesson, especially when the children are really competitive. They learned their sounds and even began forming words with the popsicle sticks they had. Not everyone learns the same way. Some prefer to listen while others prefer hands-on activities. It’s important that children are taught material in different ways so that each and every student benefits from the education they are receiving.