How Learning Through Games Keeps Students Engaged

Jessica Shaffer
Jessica Shaffer
5th Grade Teacher; MA in Administration & Leadership, Georgian Court University, NJ

It is no secret that students all learn in different ways. One way to keep students engaged in a lesson is through classroom games. You don’t need to bring a PS4 into your classroom, but some games, electronic and otherwise, can support learning objectives and the lessons being taught.

Classroom games are beneficial because they can be the warmup for the day, helping to reach different learning styles, and to get students moving and gear up their brains. Classroom games can also be utilized as a mid-point to the lesson or as a closure activity. These simple games can serve as a brain break when you have classes that can be 80 minutes long. Games also encourage teamwork and collaboration, which are life skills that students will need for future years of school and work. They also align with college and career readiness standards.

Students are focused during games, and cheer on classmates. When a mistake is made, I have seen students pat other students on the back and encourage them to stay positive and remind them it is OK to make mistakes. These are the lessons that go beyond the classroom and into the real world. There are plenty of games such as this one to keep the students engaged in the lesson that require no materials, or few materials, to play.

Check Mate: Utilizing Chess

Chess is a more complex game that requires critical thinking skills and strategy, and it teaches students sportsmanship and coping skills. Students learn to scan the board and think steps ahead, versus just impulsively moving a piece. It teaches students to use offensive and defensive strategies, while challenging them to think outside the box. These types of more complex games require the teacher to have a knowledge of the game, although there are websites that can also help the teacher and the student to learn.

Level Up: Technology Games Can Help

Technology has allowed educators to utilize various computer games to supplement instruction. Different games can be used in the classroom, but more importantly, at home also. The continuum between school and home is so important, and giving students the tools to use at home, to keep them engaged outside of school hours, is extremely beneficial. Some games, such as Prodigy, utilize various skills, allow teachers to give assignments, and give students the ability to play games while learning. Quizlet is a website where you can create study tools and then play games against other students. It also offers something called “Quizlet Live,” which allows the teacher to create random teams and has students work collaboratively to determine answers.

No matter what type of game you are incorporating, as the teacher, you need to emphasize the “why.” Explain to students why it is educationally beneficial to participate in the game, explain why it is beneficial to the real world, and explain why they should bring this home to their families. Encourage students to ask questions, inquire about changing some of the rules to games, and to create their own games for the classroom. Let students take ownership of certain parts of the school day, to make them their own, and many will take this responsibility seriously. Students are engaged when they fully understand why they are doing what they are doing. As education advocate/Nobel prize laureate Malala Yousafzai once said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Be the teacher that hands the student the pen or book (or game) that engages him or her and helps them to change the world!

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