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Cooperative “Live” Tic Tac Toe: A Fun Problem Solving Game! Posted on 13 Jul 15:38 , 1 comment

Here is a fun, interactive, whole group game for young children that boosts problem solving skills and cooperative learning! It’s called Cooperative “Live” Tic Tac Toe, and once you try this with your class, they will beg you to play it again and again! Plus, this game helps kids practice self­-regulation skills, thinking ahead, cooperation, following directions, and boosts social skills. You can’t beat that, right?

Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK


Why This Game Makes Me Smile

At the risk of generalizing too much, I want to tell you to watch for the differences between the choices that girls tend to make against the choices that the boys tend to make. Every year as I watch, the same thing happens.  Many girls simply can NOT ignore the urge to invite the other girls to sit RIGHT NEXT TO THEM, patting the chair beside them, even if they are good players and can win the game on paper!   And generally, the girl that is invited can NOT ignore this invitation! Most of them feel compelled to sit by their friend, no matter what!  Science tells us that females are just wired to socialize­ and I believe it!  This same thing happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR!!!! 


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK

Here’s one very bright little girl as she invites a friend to sit by her, even though it may mean that the girls will lose the game in the next turn.


But generally, the boys can TOTALLY ignore any urge to sit by a friend and instead sit in the chair that will win the game. In fact, every single year I have played this, the boys win 90% of the games for this very reason! For me, watching the kids play this game has become a social experiment. I know for a fact that the boys are not smarter or better at problem solving. Their achievement in my class is not greater every year. And if we play Tic Tac Toe on paper, the results are totally different! BUT... if you introduce a social element into this game, then the boys almost always win!


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK

Here are the boys after they won the game. LOL!


Of course, there are always a few girls that CAN think this through enough to ignore that social pressure, and last year, my poor girls that had it all figured out looked pretty upset with their peers that could not­ yet do so.  Still, I was just so proud of them for NOT bullying or making any mean comments to the other children. BRAVO!




Try Cooperative “Live” Tic Tac Toe for yourself and see what happens! I would love to hear back from you to find out if this happens in your classroom!


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK


How to Play

1. Teach Your Class to Play Tic Tac Toe on Paper

Teach your whole class how to play Tic Tac Toe on paper or a marker board the traditional way, so that the kids ALL know how to play and understand that the goal of the game is to get three squares in a row. Of course, some of your students will alreadyknow how to play, so all you are really doing is leveling the playing field a bit! I taught the kids to play Tic Tac Toe whole group on our large white board. We played several rounds, boys against girls! I drew name sticks to see whose turn it is next. Since I enjoy playing lots of “boys against girls” games throughout the year, I write my kids’ names on jumbo craft sticks using a pink marker for the girls and a blue marker for the boys at the beginning of the year. That way, they are always ready! It’s totally low tech, but it’s always ready, the batteries never need charging, and it always works! ;) Of course, any device that you use to pick a name will work, and you certainly don’t have to pit the boys against the girls! I like it because it seems to get the kids excited! However, if I had a child in my class with gender issues, I would be sensitive to this and form teams in a different way.


2. Set Up the Chairs

After that, set up nine chairs in an open space in your classroom. (If your room is small like mine was last year, you may have to push a table aside, but it’s worth it! Your kids can help get the space ready, or have them play the Quiet Game while you do it!) Set up the chairs in in three sets of three: three in the first row, three in the second row, and three in the third row.


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK


3. Choose Teams

One team will be the Xs and the other will be the Os. If it’s boys against girls, then there is no reason for anyone to hold up an X or an O sign, because everyone in your class probably knows the gender of each child. If you are using another type of team configuration, then you’ll need to have them hold a paper X or O.


4. Establish the Rules:

Following the rules is where all of the self­regulation skills, cooperation, social skills, and following directions practice comes in! My rules for Cooperative Tic Tac Toe are:

1. We are quiet during the game, (except for cheering each other on, which I do not prevent.)

2. Everyone gets to choose their own seat. (Students should not tell others where to sit, at least not verbally. I do not tell them that they cannot motion to others where to sit;I simply do not mention it. I doubt I could prevent it anyway!)

3. We are kind. (No booing, etc., if someone makes a poor choice. I remind the kids that some of us have played this game before on paper and others have not, so mistakes will be made, and that’s okay. My motto in the classroom is this: “The one that makes the most mistakes in the classroom is the one that is learning the most, and that’s a great thing!”)


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK


5. Pick a Name and Start the Game!

I try to be mindful of letting each team take turns starting first, because that can make a difference in Tic Tac Toe! But once you get them going, the fun begins. Choose a childto go first and have him or her pick a seat. Then choose a child from the other team, and have that child pick a seat. Continue on in this way until you have completed the game!


6. Discuss Strategies Later

Once you have played several rounds, you may want to have some good discussions on why one move is better than another. I like to do this on the white board, and I take ALL of the turns, making good and bad choices, and then let the children tell me why one move is better than the other. Explaining these choices is a great opportunity for the children to build language skills! Talk about how thinking AHEAD makes a big difference!


I hope you enjoyed this post and will try it at some point when the school year starts! Enjoy what is left of your summer and may the odds be ever in your favor! :)

- Heidi

P.S. For more learning games, check out my website here!!


Live Tic Tac Toe Cooperative Game, Problem Solving, Kindergarten, TK


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