Students love games…video games, board games, cat games, drawing games, etc. Using games in the classroom engages students in learning and challenges them to improve.
According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, gamification within the educational setting may stem all the way back to Dmitri Mendeleev (the 19th-century Russian scientist). It is believed that Mendeleev created cards to document how each element interacted with the others, manipulating them, and adjusting them until he figured out how to put them together in a puzzle of sorts (one that we know as the Periodic Table of Elements).
The SSEC goes on in their post to list 5 benefits of gamification in the learning process including aiding in the cognitive and physical development of adolescents and aiding in the accessibility in the classroom.
But how does one truly get the most bang for their buck using games in the classroom?
We have developed our own list of 5 gamification benefits, but we didn’t just stop there. In addition to explaining the benefits, we have also provided five challenges for teachers who are interested in amplifying their classrooms with games.
Are you up to the challenge?
5 Benefits of Using Games in the Classroom
Benefit #1: Creating a competitive environment improves overall communication and interaction in the classroom.
Students working on teams have to work together. They argue, agree, disagree, and eventually must come to a consensus as a group. This models a typical working environment where the strengths of each group member must be considered as decisions are made.
Rework individualized games for students to play in groups. Consider keeping groups small and having students take the time to discuss each other’s strengths before beginning.
Resource Suggestion: Character Traits Game Show
This game show asks students to listen to an example of text and identify the character trait being described by the actions and words of the character. This game works well when students are in groups because they can discuss the nuances between excited and enthusiastic, or stubborn and rude.
Benefit #2: Gamifying lessons increases the retention of the material.
When students can connect new knowledge with a memory or multiple senses, they are more likely to remember the content later. If the students have to run across the room to get the question, then race back to check-in with a group before returning to the teacher with the answer, they are more likely to remember the information later on a test or in a real-world scenario.
Rework common games to get more senses involved. Have students move across the room, integrate scents, make students manipulate cards or game pieces, etc. The more senses involved the better students will retain information.
Resource Suggestion: Games with Task Cards (like U-KNOW games)
Make any game with task cards more mobile with this easy twist. Stack the cards in the middle of the room. Place students in partners or small groups, and write the answers for the cards on the board. Students will have five minutes to answer as many questions as they can. They have to run to grab a card, take it back to their group, they will solve the problem and place it next to the correct answers on the board. This requires students to move, talk, listen, and adds a sense of urgency to the game.
Benefit #3: There is a reason the board game industry is alive and well, and that is because consumers like competition and challenge.
The board game industry is alive and well because people connect to games. Games bring them together, provide intrinsic motivation, and creates a clear problem to overcome. Just approaching a task as a challenge naturally increases student interest. Add to that some extrinsic motivators like bragging rights, brag tags, a leaderboard, etc. and students become highly engaged with the learning.
Implement a series of badges to align with the games you use in class to review or learn new information. Handout the badges to top performers. Include badges for soft skills such as positivity, teamwork, and work ethic to encourage students to not just win the games, but to be active, helpful teammates.
Resource Suggestion: Brag Tags
Check out some of the brag tags in the store. Look at the images below for some that you could use for your games.
Benefit #4: Gamification and competition across classes can extend expectations outside the classroom.
Students naturally play up (or down) to the other students around them, but using a game in the classroom and then recording results between different classes, extends the expectation beyond the class and classmates the students are used to ‘competing’ against.
Try to get other classes involved in your games. If you are using a game to review, keep track of the classroom winners amongst different classes in the same grade. Use these other classes to push your students to out-perform an unknown competitor. This will keep them seeking improvement because the ‘enemy’ is unknown. Consider setting up a special time for top performers in each class to compete against each other in person.
Resource Suggestion: U-Know Game Cards
Deal out cards to every student. Ask them to write their answers, the color of the card, and the number on the card down. Project the answers and have students self-check. Record the number of question students got correct, and create a leaderboard between classes. If lots of students are getting all 20 correct, start recording the amount of time it takes them to answer the questions. Students will try to not only compete against each other, but others from other classes studying the same content, and even their own personal best.
Benefit #5: Performance as a reason to learn.
Why do students rehearse before a play? Why do athletes practice before a game? Because at the end of the day, there is a performance they need to be a part of, and they want to be as prepared as possible. The same is true for playing games in the classroom. When students know they will participate in a performance (such as a game show) following new learning, they take the learning more seriously. They want to be prepared for their ‘big moment.’ When students know the information will be applied immediately, they are more likely to ask questions, suggest different scenarios, and engage in the information in different ways.
Test the best time to use a game within your unit. Is it best used as a way of intriguing students at the beginning of the unit, engaging them shortly after learning new content, or a review at the end of a unit before a project or test? Try playing games at different times in your unit building process, and discover what your students respond to best!
Resource Suggestion: Game Shows
Game Shows are great to play at the beginning of a unit to gauge understanding and at the end of a unit to review. Which time works best with your students?
Check out some of these related blog posts for more information on using games in your classroom.