There are many studies about game-based learning that demonstrate the benefits of using games to enhance and reinforce the classroom curriculum. Game-based learning can keep kids motivated and more engaged, can decrease student attention deficits, and can support creativity, diverse learning styles, and strategic thinking skills. According to a study in the Journal of Learning, Media, and Technology, game-based learning can also improve the ability to store and recall information.
Despite all of the upsides, many teachers are reluctant to bring game-based learning into the classroom because they fear wasting class time or losing control of the class. The logistics of using games smoothly within a lesson plan can feel overwhelming—there’s not enough time and too many logistical issues to make game-based learning a consistent part of class time instruction.
4 Steps for Getting Started With Game-Based Learning
The easiest way to bring game-based learning into your curriculum is to have a plan and a clearly defined goal. There’s nothing wrong with adding a game as a last-minute afterthought to fill time in your lesson plan—this can be fun for both you and your students and give the mind a quick break from the material at hand. However, to really gain the most from game-based learning, it’s important to be systematic and consistent. Here are our top four tips for integrating games into your lesson plans in a beneficial way:
Decide Why and How You Plan to Use the Game.
As with most educational practices, the why and the how should come before the what. Don’t begin the process by looking for a game to play, begin by asking yourself why you’re using the game in the first place. What do you hope to accomplish? How will the game help you achieve your goals?
The Clear Touch™ educational software suite includes Snowflake Lessons Online, which is a powerful tool for creating customized games for your students or finding great games that match your learning goals from other teachers in the Snowflake community.
Narrow your search by first deciding how you want to use the game:
- Introduction. Many teachers use an easy, quick game to introduce a new topic at the beginning of a lesson. These kinds of games make great digital bellringers for your class, piquing the students’ curiosity before the lesson begins. Search for one-time games, like daily challenges or quizzes, that change content each time you login (or that allow you to customize content) rather than progressive games where students build achievements over multiple playing sessions.
- Remediation. Do you have a student or a group of students who are struggling with a core concept? You may consider using some targeted game time to strengthen the students’ skills. In this case, you should choose a game that allows for individual play and that supports adaptive learning by automatically adjusting its difficulty as the student masters the material. Choose digital games that are easy to access at home as well, so students can get extended practice.
- Enhancement. If you feel your entire class is comfortable with the concept you’re teaching, bring in a game that presents the material through different, interactive media. For example, you may choose a game that poses questions and challenges through music, video, images, or even riddles. Bringing in games that enhance the learning experience not only makes the content more interesting, it also teaches students that there are multiple ways to learn, approach problems, and find solutions. If you’re looking for a game to enhance your lesson plan, search for something with multiple levels, specific challenges, or different pathways through the game. Online scavenger hunts, multimedia quizzes, online simulations, and ongoing challenges are all great ways to engage your students and enhance your lessons.
- Review. Make game-based learning a whole class activity or a group activity by using games to review and reinforce learning. Some free, online gaming resources like Kahoot! even export review results so teachers can use the games as a formative assessment.
Choose a Game That’s Not Too Complicated—Or Create One!
The last thing you want to do is spend so much time explaining the rules of the game that you confuse your students or lose their interest. After all, one of the main benefits of game-based learning is increased engagement; you’ll miss out on this benefit completely if you overcomplicate things.
Game play should be simple and straightforward, whether you’re using a physical game or a digital game. The challenging part of the game should be the content itself, not trying to figure out how the game works. For digital games, make sure that the interface is intuitive for your students and look for touch-based digital games, especially for elementary students.
One final note: Overcomplicated is not the same thing as immersive, multi-level, or challenging. Many highly effective classroom games have multiple, progressive levels and compelling storylines that engage students. Many also allow players to unlock additional challenges or capabilities for certain achievements or give rewards and feedback when the student has completed a challenge. The game itself can be complex without the logistics becoming too complicated.
Play the Game Yourself
One of the best ways to make sure that a game isn’t too complicated for your students is to play it yourself a couple of times before you introduce it to the class. Playing the game yourself will also enable you to better answer any questions that your students may have. As you play, take note of the following aspects of the game:
- Control & Customization. As you play the game, see if the platform gives you any way to customize the content or adjust settings for individual students. Can you match specific content to specific students to tailor the game to them? Snowflake Lessons Online makes customization simple, so that your game matches and reinforces your content and all students can learn at their own pace.
- Engagement. This one’s simple. Is the game fun? Do you naturally want to keep playing? Is it presented well? For Pre-K through elementary students, is the interface bright and colorful? Are the images big enough to see easily? What about music and sound effects? For older students, is the content challenging enough? Are there multiple levels or extra rewards to earn for mastering the content?
- Content. Finally, check both for content accuracy and diversity. Make sure that material is presented in multiple ways to support diverse learning styles and that the content adapts to the user. Digital games should get more difficult as the student learns the material.
Dedicate the In-Class Time needed for Game-Based Learning
Finally, be sure to dedicate enough time to the games that you decide to use or else you’ll just frustrate yourself and your students. One strategy for bringing games into the classroom in a consistent way is to use individual games as an entry ticket into the day’s lesson—all students have to complete a challenge or solve a problem before moving into the rest of the class.
Many teachers also choose to turn one day a week into game day, such as scheduling a Friday review day, or even design an entire game-based unit around a specific mission, like getting elected President of the United States, playing a game about the stock market, or surviving on Mars. Students complete digital challenges and skills, earning points and passing levels to achieve the ultimate goal.
Game-based learning is a versatile tool for addressing multiple learning styles as well as customizing content to the individual student. Many of the most popular educational games available are more fun and easier to play as a whole class activity on the Clear Touch Interactive® display for education, which features 20 points of intuitive touch. In addition, our educational software suite includes some amazing tools like Snowflake, which makes it easy for teachers to create fun, interactive games and Canvas, which helps teachers build engaging multimedia presentations.
Schedule a live online demo today to see what Clear Touch™ can do to simplify game-based learning in your classroom.