Cognitive Learning Games


Cognitive learning is composed of organizing and comprehending information, problem solving, recalling information and applying knowledge. In short, cognitive learning is learning on a deeper level, as you are applying new knowledge to existing knowledge and drawing inferences. In order to promote this type of learning, there are a variety of games that can be used to foster deeper thinking.

What Am I?

  • This is a simple game that invites children to apply knowledge that they already possess to determine the answer to a question. Think of an answer that you want children to determine--a person, place or thing. Once you have decided on this, think of a list of clues to present to children that they can deduce an answer from. For example, if the answer that you want children to arrive at is a banana, perhaps a list of clues would include "I am yellow. I have a peel. When I am peeled I can be eaten. I am a fruit. What am I?" These clues activate schema--background knowledge--allowing children to call to mind anything that would relate to the clues.


  • You probably remember the classic game of Memory from when you were a child. This game is an ideal and simple way to promote cognitive learning. To play this game, design two identical sets of cards. The images on these cards can be of anything you'd like--animals, shapes, numbers, colors, letters and so forth. To play, the cards are placed upside-down in a random order on a table. The player flips over two cards, trying to make a match. If the cards match, she removes the two cards from the table. If they don't match, she flips them back and flips over two more cards. Each time she flips over a card, she uses her memory to recall where the match is.


  • Games that promote cognitive learning are not just for children. Teens and adults also benefit from educational games, as they build on existing knowledge and activate schema, providing exercise for the brain. Jeopardy is an ideal educational game for teens and adults. To play this game, you will need a dry erase board or a chalk board. Create a grid on the board. In the first box of each column, write a category. Categories can incorporate anything that you'd like--presidents, math problems or world history, for example. Under each column, write an answer that has to do with the category. Place a large index card or a piece of paper over each answer, using tape to hold it in place. On each index card or piece of paper, write a point value. To play, players select a category and a point value. You will remove the index card or piece of paper that the player selected, revealing an answer. Read the answer aloud. The player has to provide the correct question to the answer. For example, if the answer reads, "He was president during World War II," the player should respond, "Who is Franklin Roosevelt?" If the player is correct, he can go again, doing so until he cannot respond. If he is incorrect, the remaining players are given an opportunity to provide the correct response. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.


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