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How to Utilize Gamification in the Classroom

How to Utilize Gamification in the Classroom

How to Utilize Gamification in the Classroom

With increasing distractions in schools, keeping students engaged in the classroom is harder now than ever.

Distractions

Though banning cell phones, closing windows, taking away recess, and prohibiting note passing may help in specific instances, these will not solve the problem of lesson distraction. Educators need to address a major cause of classroom distractions- dull and boring lessons! Your classroom needs to be engaging enough that students will not constantly be turning to their phones for entertainment fillers. In this blog post series, we are going to focus on some tried and true strategies to get your students off their screens and on you- after all, learning should be fun!

Gamification

When we hear gamification, we often think of edTech solutions. But before the proliferation of ipads and chromebooks, analog gamification focused on simply turning your lessons into games. Games are particularly helpful when it comes to exam or test prep. As you prepare for a unit test or end-of-the-year exam, games quickly reintroduce students to concepts you covered earlier in the unit or year. Test their knowledge by breaking them up into heterogeneous teams. Your game should involved collaboration and should strive for 100% participation.

Let's dive into the positives and negatives of gamification:
Positives
  • Competition- Many students thrive on competition. Games are a great opportunity to get your more energetic, outgoing, and competitive students engaged in any lesson. This can also give you a chance to pair similar and dissimilar students to see how they work together. However, you have to also consider the students who do not fit that mold.
  • Teamwork- Many games encourage teamwork. This gives your more advanced students reinforcement when they help those struggling to learn new content, while giving those struggling students a chance to learn the content in a new way. Make everyone a stakeholder in the team’s success, and all of the students will thrive.
  • Variety- Games allow unlimited variations. Have students work in small groups, play custom board games, or split students into teams to answer questions posed to the class. Work your content into well known games like Jeopardy or Bingo. Take your games outside and even incorporate movement. It's all up to you.
Negatives
  • Competition- Not every student is competitive. Be wary that you are not excluding quieter students. Make sure you are aware of various personalities in the classroom, and try to use games that employ various learning styles in your classroom. Check out our blog post on unique learning styles here.
  • Classroom Management- Games require a good grasp on classroom management. Students can get rowdy- it is your job to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. Set classroom precedents ahead of time, and specify what the consequences are for breaking the rules (i.e. game over).
  • Planning- Make sure you have planned out all aspects of your game time. You should have a plan on how the game works. What happens if two groups answer? How will you catalog questions and answers? How will the game be structured? What will be the prizes and how will a winner be determined? Will there be winners and losers? You should be prepared for all possible scenarios to ensure your game goes smoothly.

When it comes down to it...
Games are infinitely adaptable and can be applied to almost any lesson. If planned correctly, they can ensure every students participation and learning. Use tools like mcSquares for students to quickly share answers while increasing collaboration. Incorporate edtech tools like clickers or SMS polls to get real time results and keep your kids on their toes. We would love to hear from you - what games in your classroom have worked well to get students engaged?


About the Author
Travis Lockhart

Travis is a UNC Chapel Hill Alum with a masters in education from UNC Charlotte. He started his career in education where he taught for 2 years as a Teach For America Corps Member in North Carolina. Following this experience, Travis became the HR Manager for a rapidly growing network of non profit charter schools in Colorado. Since then, he has led cloud computing implementation projects for Denver Public Schools, KIPP, and Teach for America and currently is at the University of Colorado. When he's not geeking out about the newest uses of technology, he can usually be found with a cup of coffee in his hand hanging out with his wife, two kids, and two dogs in Boulder, Colorado.
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