Why Should You Gamify Your Classroom? 7 Benefits Of Classroom Games
Welcome to our blog mini-series on classroom games. We’ll be talking about the best games to play in which situations and for focusing on which skills in the coming weeks. But first, I wanted to talk about why you should be playing games in your classroom on a regular basis.
A lot of teachers, especially at for-profit schools like the popular language training centers in Asia, are afraid of the word “game.” It kind of has a negative connotation in parents’ minds as not being studious. Hopefully we’ll talk about that in depth sometime actually. But if you are in a situation where “game” is a bad word, simply call them “activities” and enjoy them anyway.
Origin of Gamification
I ran across an interesting article by the Smithsonian Science Education Center when I was trying to find the origins of classroom games and gamification. Did you know, Dmitri Mendeleev (you know, the guy who created the first prototype of the periodic table of elements) was actually the first known person to gamify learning? When he was classifying the elements, he put the info on cards and made a game of studying them because he loved card games. Pretty cool!
For me, I absolutely adore classroom games and play them super often. I can turn almost any topic into a game. It’s so much fun for both the students and me. I also play them with any age or level of students because they’re so versatile.
When I was thinking about my reasons for using games, I decided to check out what other folks had said in case I missed something. I really liked a few that I’d forgotten.
- Jenn from The Teacher Next Door points out that games can be much less overwhelming for struggling students than traditional activities might be.
- Mary from Teacher Treasures likes that games don’t need to be graded or corrected like regular assignments. (Anything to cut down on paperwork is a win in my book!)
- Angie from Fun in 5th Grade mentions that certain games, like a game show, feel like a performance to the students, so they’ll prepare and practice for them just like they would before a play or sports game.
Those are just some of the other excellent reasons for enjoying classroom games. So, let’s check out my…
Top 7 Benefits of Playing Games in the Classroom
1. More fun than drilling and leads to better retention
Certain games have many of the same repetitive aspects that traditional drill methods use. But what if, instead of drilling flashcards over and over, you gamify them? So much more fun, right?
One of my favorite games to replace flashcard drills with is Go Fish. I make sets of game cards with 4 copies of each word and usually about 15 words per deck. Then we can play Go Fish and the students are forced to repeat the vocabulary words over and over again while asking friends “Do you have (whatever)?” They don’t even know they’re drilling!
Also, games increase retention and improve long-term cognition. An article by Scientific American talks about the benefits of specialized “brain games.” But they also point out that these games are “based in large part on clear evidence that living in an enriched environment with lots of mental stimulation produces positive brain changes.” So start playing more games!
2. Students have to “think fast on their feet”
Some students who are either shy or don’t know the answers like to try to hide in the back of the classroom and hope that the teacher doesn’t call on them. Or they wait to raise their hands to try until they’re certain that they’ve figured out the correct answer.
Games don’t give them that “out.” They learn to be active and that it’s okay to make mistakes and not be perfect. They just need to try and have fun.
Especially for my English language learners, it’s important for them to try to speak quickly even if it’s not perfect so that they can build confidence through interacting with others in English.
3. Games require the use of multiple senses and work for differentiated learning
All games require more than one sense. Even a simple solo game like solitaire still needs visual and physical actions. Most games also require listening to others. So, games already provide three types of input or output. And that’s without designing them to specifically target those skills.
In addition, thanks to the incredible diversity of games available, you’re guaranteed to be able to use differentiated learning through playing games in your classroom. Just think of all the learning styles and multiple intelligences needed to play a variety of games. It’s awesome!
4. Playing games helps students build interpersonal skills
Games in the classroom require interaction with others. Even if it’s a one-to-one class, students are still building interpersonal skills by interacting with the teacher.
Competitive games are great because the vast majority of people enjoy a friendly competition. I also love that these kinds of games help students learn how to not be sore losers or gloating winners. Students learn how to have fun and compete in a friendly way.
Copetitive games (a popular word in the gaming community these days) are games that require both cooperation and competition. People work together towards a common goal, but the games still have an official winner. A great example of a copetitive style game is one in which students must work together to reach a group goal, but the winner is determined by how much each player contributed to that goal. This encourages a team building mentality while still allowing the more competitive ones to have something to aim at.
Cooperative games are the ultimate teamwork builder. They’re my favorite options for helping new students bond with one another. Usually my first several games of the semester or school year are cooperative to help the students get to know each other and learn to support each other as a class.
5. Games improve student engagement
This one is pretty obvious, and I almost didn’t include it. But it’s still a really important benefit of playing games in your class.
Everyone loves having fun, which is why games work for any age group. For younger students especially, they don’t even realize that they’re learning. You get to trick them into thinking they’re just playing when they’re really learning and building skills.
I love this because it really helps get them engaged in “boring” subjects, like English grammar. It’s amazing to me how excited my primary school students would get about studying grammar when I’d break out the small whiteboards and have a competition for who could fix incorrect sentences or write the correct form of a verb tense or whatever. It required basically no prep or extra effort on my part, yet they had an absolute blast studying grammar. Win-win!
6. Teachers get more time to observe students
Depending on the game, teachers have the opportunity to walk around the classroom and just look and listen. This is really beneficial for teachers. It lets us have better insight into who does or doesn’t “get it” and helps us know what skills we may need to review or if it’s time to move on to a new topic.
7. Games can be played in any teaching setting
I originally wasn’t going to include this point but because of COVID and my blog mini-series, I decided it was worth mentioning.
Obviously, in order to play games in any setting, wise choices about which game and making some modifications are important. But, that being said, it’s still fabulously easy to use games in every setting.
Games work online and offline. They work with any age group, even adults. They work with all class sizes, from one-to-one up to 50 or more students. (Heck, I’ve even done games with a class of 400 at an English camp. Crazy!) They even work for most students with disabilities, though obviously modifications may be needed. And, although I’m an English teacher and focus on English learning games, they can be played with any subject and any topic. They’re just soooo versatile!
Stay Tuned for More Tips on Gamifying Your Classroom
So, those are my 7 favorite benefits of playing games in my classroom. I’m looking forward to sharing my personal favorite games for different situations in the upcoming mini-series. Hope you’ll check in here to learn about those as well.
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Thanks again for being here!