Games don’t just have to be fun for students to learn. There are also many benefits to teachers when they incorporate games into the classroom.
Games help students develop important social skills like leadership, collaboration, communication and negotiation. They can also improve problem solving, creativity, decision-making and critical thinking skills. And when you add technology into the mix, there are even more opportunities for learning.
The best part about games is that they can be used in any classroom and in any discipline. They can also be used to teach any subject; you just need to be creative.
In the classroom, teachers can use games to teach a variety of subjects and standards. For example, many games like Risk or Settlers of Catan require players to interpret maps or understand numerical patterns. Other games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, require players to interpret complex rules and interpret story elements. So how do you get started?
Simply replacing books with a tablet or laptop doesn’t make you a tech-savvy teacher. Did you know that 74% of teachers have reported using video games in the classroom? Gaming is one of the fastest-growing technologies and can offer unique opportunities for students to learn in ways they never have before.
Here are five quick tips for incorporating games into your classroom:
Table of contents
- 1. Use role-playing games to teach social skills and complex subjects
- 2. Use creative exercises like mad libs to practice writing
- 3. Use board games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan to teach math skills
- 4. Use video games to teach history, geography and foreign languages
- 5. Play video games with your students
1. Use role-playing games to teach social skills and complex subjects
Role-playing games are a powerful tool to give students a new way to understand what they’re learning.
In these games, students assume the roles of specific characters and must make decisions based on what their character would do in that situation. These games are often used in business training, but you can use them in any subject area.
When you use role-playing games, your students get to experience what it’s like to be someone else, which is an important step toward empathy and understanding. They also learn about themselves through exploring who they are as a person and how they might respond to different situations.
Role-playing games can help you teach social skills such as leadership or conflict resolution or complex subjects related to current events, historical figures or literature.
Why are RPGs so popular?
The popularity of RPGs is due to their ability to create an experience that engages players on many levels:
- They take place in a fantasy world where anything is possible.
- Players participate in adventures that they would never attempt in real life.
- Players interact with imaginary friends who share their interests and help them escape from a boring reality.
- Players feel successful because they advance to higher levels based on skill rather than luck (as in gambling).
- Players enjoy working together with others as part of a team that is bigger than any.
Their study found that people learn more from role-playing games than traditional learning methods, even when the player isn’t aware of it. Participants reported enjoying the games more and preferring them over traditional learning experiences.
2. Use creative exercises like mad libs to practice writing
Mad libs are a great way to practice writing. The idea is that you have a template of a story, but with certain words missing. You ask your students to fill in the blanks with the appropriate part of speech, and then you read the completed story aloud.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” you’ve likely realized that being a better writer takes practice. While there are many ways to practice (like writing every day), writing mad libs is an effective way to exercise your writing muscles in a fun and silly way.
Mad libs are incomplete stories with blanks called out for specific parts of speech, like nouns, verbs, or adjectives. The story is read aloud to a partner, who fills in the blanks without seeing the story. The story can then be read aloud again and enjoyed by all.
Have fun with this one by using silly sentences, like this silly mad libs example:
The old woman walked to the _____. She was going to get some _____. “I hope I can find my way home,” she thought. She walked through the doors and saw rows and rows of _____ and _____. It was her favorite store! She picked up some _____ and a few _____ for later. Then she went home and put on her favorite _____ record.
Exercises like this are great because they help students practice vocabulary, spelling and grammar and all while getting creative and having fun!
3. Use board games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan to teach math skills
Board games are a great way to teach math skills. You can learn and practice a variety of math concepts, like probability, ratios, addition, subtraction, and geometry while playing Monopoly or Settlers of Catan, and one of the best online games board is hoodamath.
If you’re a teacher, or have kids at home, you might be looking for ways to teach math skills in a fun way. Consider board games! Many board games incorporate math concepts that your students can use to learn while they play.
Monopoly (ages 8+): Monopoly is a classic game that many people enjoy. It incorporates skills like counting the money, adding and subtracting money, and even estimating values of property and houses. These skills help reinforce addition and subtraction, as well as multiplication and division (when it comes to counting the money).
Settlers of Catan (ages 10+): Settlers of Catan is another great game that teaches math concepts. The game involves trading resources with other players in order to build things like roads and settlements. Players have to count their resources while they play, determining whether they have enough to build what they need. This can help children practice their addition and subtraction skills, as well as estimation when deciding whether they will be able to trade for what they require.
Board games teach math concepts like:
- Numbers and counting
- Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
- Fractions, decimals, and percents
- Money concepts such as earning an income, paying taxes, counting money and making change.
The key to using board games as a tool for teaching math is to find one that matches your child’s skill level and interests, and then talk about the math concepts as you play the game together.
4. Use video games to teach history, geography and foreign languages
Video games can be a great tool for learning about history, geography and foreign languages. They’re also super fun! If you want to use your video game time to learn something new.
In the past 10 years, their use for educational purposes has exploded. In 2021, market research company Newzoo estimated that the global video game market would reach $86 billion+. Most of those sales come from standard entertainment titles, but a significant amount comes from games designed to teach.
One of the most popular genres is the so-called “educational game,” which encompasses everything from online simulators that try to recreate a historical event to language-learning software. The interactive nature of these games makes it easier for players to understand complex concepts and systems through trial and error.
Video games are a natural way for children to learn as they are fun, motivating, help develop problem-solving skills, and collaboration.
5. Play video games with your students
One of the simplest ways to begin is by exploring games as texts and playing them in class and talking about what they mean. This process of analysis, interpretation and evaluation will help students hone their critical thinking skills, and it will give them practice with writing and speaking about texts in general. It also helps develop digital literacy skills, the ability to analyze the language of digital media.
As you introduce your students to video games as a medium, here are some questions to consider:
- What is the player supposed to do? How is this communicated? (For example, what is the game’s tutorial like?)
- How does the game work? What happens when you press a button? How does that relate to what’s happening on screen?
- What are the rules of the game? Are there things you’re not supposed to do? How do you know?
- Who made this game? What other games have they made?
- What’s going on in the game world? Who or what is controlling the character(s)? Does that change over time?
Make sure that you have all of your students’ attention throughout the whole demo. You want them to be engaged for as long as possible so that they feel like they are learning even though they are playing.
The secret to incorporating games into your classroom is to provide a guided framework for students to follow. Unlike trying to incorporate games without a framework, this ensures that students stay on task, which will in turn keep them from getting bored with the lesson. These five tips are just a starting point for incorporating games in the classroom. Take what you’ve learned here and come up with new ideas of your own—your students (and their grades!) will thank you!