The Game is Afoot! – An Overview on bringing Games into your Teaching

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Why bring games into your classroom?

I have always been a fan of games. I love playing all types…Computer games, board games, card games, it does not matter to me! In fact, I enjoy games so much that I began making my own when my family purchased our first computer (which was 1981!!!). When I began my teaching career (now 15 years ago!) I wanted my class to understand that math can be fun– by finding ways to make a game of the topics I was teaching (especially fundamental concepts). And all this was before the explosion of on-line/mobile games and readily available technology.

I also want to make the point that I am not always referring to computer games. There are plenty of games available ( “24” and “Set” are two examples; Additionally, refer to this post on games for preschoolers and early education.)

So, why bring games into your classroom? Here’s 7 (seven!) reasons:

Games are inherently more engaging.

Which is more engaging– doing a review a worksheet or 10 problems written on the board…or playing a game that reviews the same concepts? I realize that not all students will enjoy playing games, BUT, given the choice… I believe (and have experienced) students will choose playing the game.

Games stimulate critical thinking

Games will force the player to think about other things as they are using their math skills. Students will need to ‘think ahead’ or develop strategies to finish a level or win, either against an opponent or against the game itself.

Games practice problem solving

Math is about problem solving– especially when students have to apply many parts of their learning to solve a problem they haven’t seen before. Each time they play a game multiple times, they will find themselves in different situations…What do they need to do to win this time (or just do better at the game)?

Games are easy to differentiate

You can group kids by ability level or play ‘easy’ or ‘hard’ versions of games. I specifically created Addition Blocks and Multiplication Blocks to have 3 speed and difficulty settings, plus multiple game modes.

(Computer/App/Mobile) Games meet the students need for visual stimulation

No doubt about it, even the youngest of kids are now iPad savvy and are engaging in a lot of screen time. Bringing in good, applicable games will meet their need for the visual stimulation (in moderation, of course).

Classroom Games meet the students need for socialization

Most kids love to talk, play, and work together. Classroom games bring all the students together to play a game. Even a game like Percent Bingo, where each student has their own board, the students are all playing as a group.

Games are, simply, more fun.

What would you rather do? Play a game or sit in class and do worksheets or problems from a book?

One last important item. Do YOU enjoy playing games? If you do not enjoy playing games yourself, then trying to bring in games to your classroom may be difficult. A teacher’s lack of interest would noticed/sensed by the student. If you are not having fun, the students will not have fun.

What games do you enjoy playing with your students? Leave a comment and share with all of us!

Control is an Illusion

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Your Classroom Environment for Effectively Using Games

Welcome back to school teachers and parents! Hope you are looking forward to new year. I also hope you know that…

Research has shown that the #1 factor in student achievement is… the teacher. Not the curriculum, class size, economic background, social background, etc, etc. Definitely all those do have some weight, but you, as the teacher, has the greatest influence on student success in your classroom.*

Adding games, or even going through the process of ‘Gamification’ of your entire class, is a great way to make your classroom a fun and engaging place for your students to learn. However, very little has been discussed about the classroom environment, which you as a teacher, create in your classroom. A well-defined and well-implemented classroom management program allows you to effectively gamify your classroom.

Why?

    • Creating a safe and encouraging environment in your classroom will allow your students to try new things and having a safe place to fail. Doing something new or different can be scary to some students. Games will naturally have a competitive nature to them (even if you do not have winners or losers). However, knowing that there will not be consequences for failure can alleviate the ‘scariness’.
    • Behavior and engagement. Gamifying your classroom is going to give your students more freedom, and more responsibility to stay on task. If students have learned that they can get away with misbehaving without consistent consequences, they will easily come off task, and if one student is off-task, you can be sure that they will take others with them.
  • Not all students will enjoy playing games. Some students simply won’t like it because it is different. Some children just don’t like games. Making sure that a student knows what is expected of them, they will more times than not, participate.

Agreed, but…how?

    • Have a vision for your classroom. What do you want your classroom behavior to look like? How do you want your students to work and act? What do you as a teacher, want to be like in your classroom?
    • Have well-defined, specific procedures. Students knowing what to do and when to do them for common tasks and routines will help define objective behaviors. If a student is not doing something correct, you can apply an appropriate consequence.
  • Have well-defined, specific consequences with a step behavior plan. Having well defined procedures allow you to give consequences much easier because… a student is not following your procedures. Consequences should be age appropriate, appropriate to the misbehavior, and increase in severity.

  • Have your students practice! You can write out, hand out, talk about these things with your students, but if you do not consistently and regularly apply them, nothing will be accomplished, and in fact, may lead to confusion. Use the first three weeks of school to practice, review, and explain each of your procedures will help your procedures become habits.

I believe these concepts help you to create a secure, and safe environment in your classroom that allow you to try new things and experiment with games.

So…tell us about how you have effectively used games in your classrooms! Pass on your experiences– success and failures!

 

* References:

http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Staffingstudents/Teacher-quality-and-student-achievement-At-a-glance/Teacher-quality-and-student-achievement-Research-review.html

Improving Student Learning by Supporting Quality Teaching (Hightower, Delgado, et al, ) December 2011, (c) Editorial Projects in Education.