Gamification is a great way to help students enjoy learning.

Students love to play games. From kindergarteners to college students, games keep learning interesting. If you’re struggling to keep your students’ attention on the lesson, gamification could be the remedy you’re looking for.

So, what is gamification in education? As the words imply, it has something to do with changing education into a game. This does not, however, mean that you have to throw in the towel and let your students play meaningless games. Gamification means utilizing elements of gameplay into your teaching.

There is a reason people like to play games; they encourage our competitive nature, they inspire feelings of accomplishment and success, they stimulate our senses, they bring out the creative side in each of us, etc. We want our students to experience these same things while learning in our classrooms. We can ask ourselves “How can I make this lesson more…competitive/inspiring/stimulating/creative? To answer this question, you can look closer at what makes games fun.

Games use various elements to enrich the play experience:

  • Point scoring- Players earn points when succeeding in a task; e.g. sports and many board games.
  • Competition- Players compete against each other, meaning that one person or team has the chance to win and the others to lose; e.g. sports and most card games.
  • Leveling up- Players have the chance to gain more abilities, become stronger, progress towards mastery, or receive awards; e.g. video games and role-playing games.
  • Creativity- Players must think outside the box in order to come up with a solution or answer that will progress them in the game; e.g. games like pictionary and role-playing games.

To get started implementing gamification into your classroom, try to think about ways to use point scoring, competition, leveling up, and creativity in your lessons. The easiest way to do this is to take a game that already exists, and think of how it can be modified to teaching. This, however, is only the beginning, there are many more elements to find in games that can enhance our lessons.

Following are some examples of ways I’ve seen or heard gamification has been used in education:

-In a language class, use the card game Uno to practice colors and numbers.

-Change students’ grades into points. Once they’ve reached a certain number of points they get some sort of reward, whether physical or other.

-Instead of firing review questions at your class, play a modified version of baseball. Open a space in the middle of your classroom and use sticky notes to create two baseball diamonds. Separate your students into two teams. ‘Pitch’ a question at the first student from one team, if he answers correctly he gets to first base. If he answers incorrectly it’s a ‘fly ball’, then the other team gets a chance to answer it correctly which puts them on base. Ask questions back and forth between the two teams. The team with the most home runs wins.

-If you’ve ever projected images on the board to practice vocabulary, try playing the fly swatter game instead. Project 4 images on the board that represent vocabulary words. Two students stand ready with fly swatters. The teacher says one of the 4 words, and the first student to hit the picture with their fly swatter gets a point for their team. For example, for a basic biology class, project pictures of the lungs, the heart, the intestines, and the stomach. The teacher says “stomach” and whoever hits that picture first wins. After a few words, switch to a new slide with different pictures.

-Play a modification of the game of life. This is a more complicated game that might require several class sessions to complete. Students create their character and move through a variety of tasks, decisions, and dice rolls that move them throughout the game. Depending on what they do depends on how much money they make. At the end of the game, the student with the most money wins. For example, for a math class, the student gets a random job assigned to them through dice rolls, then they must accomplish a list of math problems to get their first paycheck. The number of problems they get correct and the salary for their job determine how much money they make.

-Play Jeopardy to review for a test. Put questions in a Jeopardy format (there are various free online options here). Split the class in teams, then students choose which question they want to answer: “I’ll take vocabulary for 400”. They get the points for answering the questions correctly.

-Use actual games as homework or classwork. Gamification is growing and many app developers are creating games to teach skills. Find a free app that works for you (preferably one that can be accessed on all devices including desktop computers). I still remember playing the shark typing game in keyboarding class. You are a deep-sea diver. As you dive down sharks appear with letters or words on them. You have to type those letters or words correctly to get the shark to disappear. If you’re not fast enough, the sharks eat you. I loved this game and learned to type very quickly because of it.

For more ideas, do an internet search for “gamification in education”, “gamification in ___ (your teaching area)”, or something more specific like “games for teaching the linear function”. I think you will be surprised to find some great suggestions on how to make learning more enjoyable.

Blog written by Josh Hogue, Language teacher at Heritage Academy Laveen