Settlers of Catan Classroom Transformation

This past week, I completed my first room transformation for the new school year with the Settlers of Catan. Room Transformations aren’t really that new of a concept. I remember way back when my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Larson did a Read by the Fire transformation when our winter book reading project began. It wasn’t nothing crazy, she had a sweater on, had her cup of coffee, made one of our bulletin boards look like a fire place with marshmallows and ready us a few short books that day. She was very encouraging with us to read everything from classics to yes, comics. Earlier this year, The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King was released by DBC Inc Publishing and the Kings are very well known for their room transformations. From having everyone dress up to perform “Sentence Surgery” to STEM balloon racing set up like NASCAR. After reading the book, I set up to make my own room transformations. Such as a Project Runway to teach students proper business attire. Setting up my room to be like an auto office to teach about the different types of insurance and even transforming my 3D printing lesson to look like we were in an 80s Arcade. This year I started my Consumer Education student with the basics of Global Markets and the Barter System. Using the game, Settlers of Catan. My Students LOVED this set up and walked out not only engaged, but talking about what they learned. How did this all happen? Let me explain my set up.

IMG_8594The goal of Settlers of Catan is to be the first person to earn 10 Victory Points. Victory Points are mostly earned by building settlements and cities. To build settlements and cities, one must first build roads. To build all of these things, one must earn resources: brick, lumber, wheat, ore, and sheep (live stock). Different combinations of resources are required to build different things, meaning that the importance of certain resources shifts throughout the game. For example, bricks and lumber are important at the beginning because they are needed to build roads. Live stock and wheat gain importance when the time comes to build settlements, followed by ore when it’s time to build cities. Acquiring these resources depends on the game board, which is (for all purposes) a map of the mythical Frontier of Catan.

Each player’s turn begins with a dice roll, and if the number on top of a resource piece is rolled, a player who has built on that resource piece receives that resource. For example, if a player build a settlement on a lumber piece that has a two on it, and a two is rolled, the student receives a lumber resource. Certain numbers have a higher probability of being rolled, meaning some resource hexagons are more productive than others. Therefore, choosing where to build settlements becomes very important and very strategic in terms of deciding which resources you need, which you want to acquire, and which you want to hoard. If a seven is rolled and you have more than seven resource cards, you must give up half of them. A character known as “The Thief” is also moved during this part. The player with the roll on their turn who gets a Seven must move the Thief from his desert spot (void resource Hexagon) to another spot. While the Thief is on that sport, that Hexagon can no longer be used until another Seven is rolled and the Thief can be moved again. Wise resource management becomes a key element to winning the game.

img_8595.jpgMy first sections of Consumer Ed deal with the Barter System, Flow of Goods and Money, International Trade on Imports & Exports and Economical Markets. Students learn the importance of why certain countries trade. What happens when you have a Surplus of items. The Basics of Supply & Demand and how you have to smart and strategic with your spending. Players may trade resource cards with one another, and tensions run high during Settlers. Friends are made and wars are waged and items start becoming needed where Players might not have as many items to use and trade. The value of specific resources changes as players look to develop their settlements from roads into cities. It’s also important to use the resources that you have.

The Learning Objectives and matching of Standards are very clear: Obtain and manage your physical resources better than your competitors—win the game. It’s that simple.

These connections just scratch the surface of the potential this game holds. Interesting opportunities could be setting up the map to reflect real-life scenarios, or playing multiple games followed by a discussion about how the different locations and relationships between resource placement on the map impacted how the games were played. The use of trading, Flow of Goods and Services and using the Barter System make Real World Connections to Students during the game. The geographic thinking is limitless, along with the fun. To win Settlers is to win at Consumer Education, Economics and Geography and to win at those subjects is to win to a student’s learning.

Room Transformation Set Up


  1. Set up desks or if you have Flexible Seating, set up Settlers of Catan Game Boards. I love to use Classic Catan for this activity. Since I have a class size of 18-24 students, make sure you have expansion sets for each Game Board. Make sure you use a table cloth (get from the dollar store) or World Map Rugs to set the stage of the game stations.
  2. Set up Groups by Guilds, similar to how International Markets are set up by: European Union, US, Asian Market, Ect. I set up Guilds Based off Comic Book Groups such as: Indigo Tribe, Star Sapphires, The Settlers, Time Force, Dark Stars, ect.
  3. Once you have set up the games and their tables, add a few things give it a Settlers feel. I like to add small counting stones, stuff and plastic Animals and even work from the art department (you be surprised what you can use that sets a frontiersman feel).
  4. Setting up trade and a journey to building works up an appetite. Place small packs of fruit snacks or trail mix by each seat for players (make sure none of your students have allergies).
  5. Have a game score sheet. I love to use this template.
  6. Have a sound list playing off of your computer in the background. I like using the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Sound track for music. Sets the mood for the room.
  7. Set up your costume, I went with a frontiersman look. I had a pitch helmet, button shirt, boots, carrying bag and wore my glasses for the Room Transformation.
  8. After the game is played and scores are totaled, do a THINK, PAIR, SHARE with the class.


img_8591.jpgYou don’t have to just set this up for Consumer Education or Geography. You can also use Settlers of Catan for history, government and ELA. I do recommend making sure you have plenty of playing cards. Sometimes resources can get low, I usually use post-its for extra cards, but you can get replacement cards from the Catan Website. This Room Transformation leads to incredible engagement, learning and even classroom management. Try using Catan in your Classroom or a similar Room Transformation, it’s quite the adventure in learning.






Resources and Information on Settlers of Catan from National Geographic A RESOURCE MANAGEMENT LESSON: SETTLERS OF CATAN

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