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Games for Building Decision-Making Skills

These are some of the best classroom-friendly games for improving students' decision-making and problem-solving skills. Decision-making is at the foundation of social and emotional learning and is key to success in school and life. These games build students' decision-making skills by placing them in a variety of interesting and difficult scenarios that get them thinking through choices, seeing the consequences, and learning management and responsibility. They'll be navigating political dilemmas, selecting between various ethical arguments, even making strategic city- and world-building choices. Best of all: The games on this list are so absorbing, students won't even realize they're brain boosters!

For more help with using games in the classroom, check out Find the Learning in Any Game.

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The Oregon Trail

Strong pioneer-simulation game with secondary emphasis on history

Bottom line: Classic westward expansion game just as fun as ever, but would benefit from some diverse updates.

Quandary

Slick ethics game teaches students to make tough decisions

Bottom line: This versatile game that can teach ethics, argumentation, and civics is light on interactivity but will come alive through discussion.

Hall of Heroes

Responsive game helps students prepare for transition to middle school

Bottom line: Wonderful and fun social-interaction game designed to teach cooperation and friendship skills needed for middle school and beyond.

Community in Crisis

Game shows real-world uses for literacy and decision-making skills

Bottom line: A clever, real-world, and civic-minded context to learn and practice ELA skills.

iCivics

Exceptionally well-designed games, lesson plans demystify government

Bottom line: This excellent addition to a civics classroom simplifies complex topics.

NewsFeed Defenders

Social media simulation builds news literacy skills

Bottom line: This is a great tool to kick off critical discussions about news and social media.

Sid Meier's Civilization V

Legendary strategy game is a hit with history buffs in school and out

Bottom line: For flexible classrooms, creative teachers, and sharp students, Civilization V is the perfect platform for making rather than memorizing history.

SimCity

Exciting city simulator great for online play

Bottom line: SimCity does a great job teaching kids about cities by putting them in control of designing them, but this game needs a constant Internet connection.

Think Like Churchill

Stunning visuals, thoughtful feedback bring critical decision points to life

Bottom line: An excellent tool for studying the events and ethics that guide pivotal moments in history.

Spent

Provocative, first-person look at poverty builds empathy

Bottom line: It'll need some scaffolding, but for students ready for the subject matter it's a great -- if sobering -- way to illustrate to students the daily realities and struggles of poverty in America.

Political Animals

Charming political campaign sim mixes data analysis and civics

Bottom line: It's a highly entertaining and surprisingly deep way to help students see the strategy -- as well as ethical choices -- involved in elections.

Democracy 3

Nuanced political sim about the balancing act of government

Bottom line: This is a grown-up civics sim, full of tough choices, compelling cause and effect relationships, and controversial issues that will work best for older government students.

Papers, Please

Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices

Bottom line: It's a provocative simulation about ethics and immigration that could spark debate but might be tough to implement.

PeaceMaker: Israeli Palestinian Conflict

Compelling test of kids' empathy and problem-solving skills

Bottom line: It'll give students an impactful lesson on the complexity of human conflict, and the ongoing tensions in the Middle East that emphasizes empathy and the delicate nature of diplomacy.

Please Knock on My Door

Effective and affecting game about dealing with depression

Bottom line: A slow-paced SEL game for helping students understand the nuances of managing mental health.

This War of Mine

Strategy game offers superb, mature take on war and civilian survival

Bottom line: A stark portrayal of civilian life in a war-torn city that requires strategic thinking and invites repeated plays.

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