Students today play games at home, on the school bus, during lunch breaks and during free time. With computers, tablets, and phones, games are readily available everywhere. The one place students don’t often play games is in the classroom. That’s changing as more teachers learn the importance of introducing games for students into the classroom. Studies have helped shift opinions. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) reports that classrooms where games for students are routinely incorporated into teaching see an average 20 percentile gain in student achievement.
Designing Games for Students
A lot of what students learn depends on the game itself. "Old school” board games involve cooperative, fair play, helping young children understand the importance of collaboration and respecting the opinions of others.
According to the ASCD, games are most effective when:
- They promote inconsequential competition. The studies show kids reacted better to competition if the stakes were not too high.
- Games focus on important academic content. Games work best when designed around important themes currently being discussed in class.
- Students are given the opportunity to examine the results. Rather than tallying up scores and moving on to the next game, teachers have a greater impact when they take time to discuss the results of the game. Ask students which were the hardest questions to answer and why. Give students time to revise their notes based on what they learned from the game.
The Benefits of Games
The skills taught by using games extend beyond helping students remember key facts about what the class is currently studying. They can also enhance students’ performance in other areas.
A student who knows that a game will be played involving a specific classroom topic may feel more motivated to study the material. During the game itself, students will become more motivated to pay attention to questions and work to remember answers.
Winning any type of game requires a certain level of strategic skills. Students learn, in a safe environment with low consequences, how to formulate a successful strategy. They also learn how to form mental strategies for remembering valuable information.
Working with a team helps develop strong cooperation skills. When people work together for a common goal—in this case, winning the game—they understand how to support each other, maximize team strengths, respect others and play fairly.
At its best, a game can also help teachers build excitement and positive attitudes about a topic that might otherwise bore students. While games aren’t appropriate in every situation, teachers who skillfully put them into play can elevate their students’ achievements and sharpen important skills.