Learning only happens when students are engaged, but unfortunately, teachers continue to struggle with engagement, especially when children enter middle school. One way to keep kids engaged and improve student retention is through classroom games. Games — in the classroom and outdoors — that incorporate an educational component get kids excited about learning, and are a great tool in the arsenal of teachers of any grade level, but especially when students are nearing or in middle school. Here are some tips to help make your classroom games effective.
Take Advice From Game Designers
As a teacher, you know that classroom time is valuable. You don’t want to fill it with anything that is wasteful, so are games worthwhile?
Games are effective at motivating, engaging and teaching students for a number of reasons. Game designers understand the principles of gaming and how to incorporate them into games to get kids (and adults) hooked. If you can add classroom games that incorporate these principles, you will get your students hooked on learning.
One aspect of games that keeps kids coming back is the “failure dynamic.” This refers to the fact that gamers will fail multiple times before achieving success at a level, and each time they fail they learn a new tactic or strategy. Classroom games can offer the same type of play.
Classroom games can also provide the progression that gamers love. When you scaffold on previous steps and recognize students for their progress, even if they have not “won,” you will build engagement.
Finally, video games are appealing because they are flexible. You don’t have to follow the same path to get to the princess at the end of the game, because there are multiple paths that lead to the same spot. Incorporating flexibility into your classroom games can help make the games more engaging.
Use Games to Create a Collaborative Learning Environment
Outside of the lessons learned from gamers, you will find that games help your students because they create a collaborative learning environment. Students are learning with and from one another, rather than only from you, when you are using games in the classroom. Collaboration is effective and will keep kids coming back for more, because they don’t want to let their teammates down.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Active While Learning
Active learning games are highly valuable in and out of the classroom. When you can get kids moving, you get more of their body engaged in the learning process. Not only does this increase the level of excitement in your classroom, but it also engages students with differing learning styles.
Consider, for instance, a game that takes kids to the playground. Perhaps you are learning about coordinates in a coordinate plane. Take the kids outside, create a grid on the playground or blacktop, and plot coordinates on a grand scale. Then, have races to see who can find the coordinate you call out the quickest.
Keep These Tried-and-True Options in Your Back Pocket
When you are staring at a classroom of kids with that glazed-over expression, you need some games you can pull out on the fly to use. Here are some tried-and-true educational games that will instantly increase engagement as you seek to get your kids out of their slump and into the information you are providing:
- Educational bingo: Print bingo cards with squares labeled for the topic you are studying — whether answers to math facts or people from your history unit. Play a few rounds of bingo with questions or facts, and watch as the kids get excited about reviewing the material.
- Scavenger hunt: Create a scavenger hunt that students can use to search the classroom library, encyclopedia, Internet, or the schoolyard for the answers. After the hunt, you will benefit from starting the unit with youngsters who already know something about the material.
- Jeopardy: Recreate the classic game show in your classroom — and as a bonus, your students might get some practice with positive and negative numbers.
Remember, games are a great complement to your classroom instruction, and they can be an effective tool to get children out of a slump and back into learning mode. Keep some on hand, and use them when you need to. You will be rewarded by engaged, excited students if you do.