Games, you said? It sounds slightly bizarre, right? Perhaps you believe there is a time and place for games, and it is not inside a classroom. Maybe your school has a designated ‘period’ for games like we have for other subjects. Where do games fit inside a classroom? Could it really be an effective learning strategy?
We all know how important games are. So much so that it is amusing how little they’re used inside a classroom. Games boost reasoning, participation, collaboration, and so much more. Most of all, they’re fun, and one could get even the most difficult of the students to engage! An article in the Journal of Learning, Media, and Technology claimed that games increase the levels of dopamine in the midbrain section, which boost retention and learning. Games also increase overall positivity inside a classroom. Researchers even suggest that teachers aim for at least one game, short or otherwise, in their classes every day!
If that’s not enough, think about the time students spend at school every day. In Nepal, students spend about 7-8 hours in school every single day. That’s enough time for even adults to become irritated by the mundane and the repetition. Games help add flare and excitement, making that mundane desirable. Students would ultimately like going to school instead of dreading the thought every morning. Imagine the positive attitude towards the day that would bring!
Engagement and Motivation
If you are a teacher reading this, you probably have a student that you need to keep pushing in class every day, begging them to engage. Or maybe you are a parent who keeps getting calls from your kids’ school because your kid refuses to participate. Perhaps you are a student who finds it difficult to speak up in class because your classmates seem ‘too smart’ in comparison. Games could be a solution to all that. Games also make students feel responsible for their own learning and development. Nobody likes to lose, especially at games, which could be a source of motivation.
Students may feel intimidated when a classroom is principally focused on learning and excellence. There are students who may have a headstart in terms of what they already know, and that surely could scare other students, making them believe they’re not ‘good enough!’ Games, however, help level the arena. Most group-based games depend on collaboration as opposed to tests and exams that entirely depend on individual skills. When students feel like their contribution is valued, they are motivated to engage and participate. You know, a “hey, I’m good at this!” scenario.
Development of Skill Set
There are a lot of games that help students develop skill sets. The Dictionary game, for instance, enables students to learn new words every time they play it. It especially matters because in a game-like setting, every new information acquired tends to be retained well. As opposed to a teacher asking students to remember a word, playing Dictionary is a much better way to ensure that the new word is remembered.
Moreover, think about Snakes and Ladders. Jack, a student, rolls a 5 while his piece is rested on 11. He counts 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and voila; he just completed simple addition all on his own!
How about Monopoly? Students work out how to manage funds, so they don’t end up getting bankrupt! Additionally, there’s also a bit of luck involved which makes it all the more exciting. Moreover, there’ll always be a teacher around to guide students through the concepts they acquire, which means that learning will be efficient as opposed to when students play on their own.
Let’s not forget social skills. Think of the game I Messed Up. Teachers ask students to share experiences of something embarrassing they said or did. Maybe they used a word wrong? When shared, these could prove to be a learning experience for others listening.
Better Understanding of Key Concepts
Imagine a game of Let’s Pretend. Every student pretends to be a number. Let’s say Student A is 5, and Student B is a 3. The teacher then asks Student A to stand beside a Student, which would make the pair an 8. Student A walks down to Student B and says, “we’re eight”. Now imagine a different class where a teacher hands out a worksheet that just says “5+3=?”. Which strategy do you think yields better results?
Let’s take this to high school students. Students try to personify different countries when being taught about the World War. Student Germany makes everyone around them sit, while different students, the UK and the USA, help others stand back up. There’ll be laughter, a little fun, and at the end a group of well-learned pupils! Of course, these will play out in more detail than it sounds here.
Some Games Teachers Could Try in Class
Here are some classroom games for kids, as well as high schoolers.
Pictionary: A perfect vocabulary booster since forever which never gets old.
Bingo: The classic. Could be used with almost any category. Synonyms, guessing words from description, finding numbers in a row that add up to 10!
Twenty Objects: The teacher places 20 objects on the table, lets a group of students see them, then covers them with a piece of cloth. Students then work out what objects they saw, in order, as a group, thus boosting memory as well as trust and collaboration.
Dictionary: Teachers pick a random obscure word from the dictionary, write 3 different meanings, one of which is correct. Then teachers ask students to guess the correct meaning out of the options. It encourages students to make mistakes which is probably the most efficient learning strategy.
Taboo: Teachers assign students a random word. The student then tries to help their classmates guess the correct word without using relatable words. For instance, if the word was “ice”, the students cannot use “cold”, “water”, “mountains”, etc. It is perfect for vocabulary as well as understanding key concepts.
A Different Route to Learning
Games provide an alternative route towards learning. Evolution is a prerequisite to development, and with everything going on, classrooms should and deserve to evolve too. However, intervention from teachers is an absolute necessity. Teachers should be prepped to analyze and evaluate the results the games bring. After all, like everything else, it only gets better after a series of trials and errors. Teachers need to identify which games work best and what games they think will assist in the matter. Are the games accessible to all? Is every student enthusiastic about it? Everything needs to be evaluated for this change to align with its best variation.