Engaging students today is all the more challenging. With students spending much of their time enveloped in a world of technology, from social media to video games, the ability to get students interested in content and curriculum being taught is difficult. Game-based learning provides teachers with an opportunity to consider ways to engage students in the content being taught, and empower students to channel their own individual creativity.
As children, we often loved to play games. Whether it was a simple card game on a rainy day, Red Rover with all the kids in the neighborhood during summer vacation, or a competitive game of Monopoly, games are very much a part of life – and of learning. Bringing games into the classroom instills a series of game-based principles, and provides an opportunity for direct interaction with content. Through engaging in the risk and reward of a game, or being immersed in a challenge-based experience, students are progressing through the game to fulfill a final goal or end result.
At a recent Genesee Valley professional development day, teachers explored the practice and principles behind game-based learning. Participants played games, created games, and discussed how games could be transferred back into the classroom.
Kristin Buchholz, high school art teacher, is no stranger to game-based learning. While she incorporates her own instructional games in the classroom, she also has her students design and build games to learn about the principles of art. However, this year, after exploring game-based learning, she hopes to have the students make games that reinforce curricular concepts she teaches in her art courses. Music teachers Tom Musingo and Alva Robbins created a game that has students work through their recognition of musical scales, all with the use of a 12-sided die.
In working with small groups or whole groups, games can help engage students in the content and curriculum. The start of game-based learning could come from the development of games by the teacher, but the true challenge is having students engage in the creation of games that can be used to support each other in learning key critical content. Rather than having students create games for the sake of creating games, challenge students to build games that would help them – or their peers – to learn the content they’ve been exploring. If students are struggling with math, consider how a deck of cards could help reinforce a skill being taught in math. The creativity of students can not only help to reinforce concepts, but also can help to build student ability to channel their own personal creativity. Games bring back that fondness of our childhood, but also can be a great instructional tool to engage students and reinstate that sense of “fun” in any classroom PK-12.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES
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