Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Gamification - Educational games for teachers


What is gamification?
  It is the use of the mechanics from games to create engaging learning experiences for your students.  Consider what motivation you have available from gamification:

·       Accumulation of points – daily, weekly, even monthly.  Points = success. Points can translated into prizes.

·       Levels of achievement – begin at level 1 and continue to the last level.  You know how children love to be able to finish a level when they are called to dinner!

·       Avatars raise interest – your students can create real or virtual avatars for your real or virtual games. 

·       Badges – your students can accumulate badges in a chart or notebook to show progress.

·       Fun – when students see that fun is around the corner in the form of a game, they are more likely to cooperate with your less-than-fun lessons or assessments.  Let’s face it – we can’t play games all day long!

Let’s look at each of those strategies individually.

Points – When you play a game, you don’t always need to assign points, but when you do, here are some ideas:

·       Offer “experience” points in addition to, or instead of, earned points.  For example, when your students play a game, there’s nothing wrong with giving experience points for joining in the game.  But you can also assign extra points for winning the game. That way, everybody gets some points.

·       I’m not a fan of competition.  I think it is self-defeating when someone in your class consistently comes in last. That’s why I offer the NO leaderboard theory.  You could, however, keep a cumulative total of everyone’s points.  When the entire class reaches 1,000 points, for example, they would earn a classroom reward. Everybody wins!

Levels – When you start your gamification, start on Level 1, just like on video games.  Start easy and get progressively more difficult as you progress through different levels of instruction.  Also, instead of levels, which children have come to regard as stressful to achieve, you might call your “levels” stages or steps. 

Avatars – A relatively new word to the educational scene is avatar, made popular by the movie of the same name.  When you use online games, encourage your students to create avatars that depict their personality.  Or, you might put the hand-drawn avatars on your bulletin board to showcase everyone who is playing the games (naturally, that will be everybody).  If you use push pins, you can move the players around occasionally to add interest.


– Just like scouts, badges show achievement.  However, unlike the national organization, your badges can be in a notebook – either digital or tactile – instead of on a visible sash.  It’s easy to create badges for your various “stages” of achievement.  For example, if you are teaching times tables, you might have badges for each of tables from 2 to 12.  When students demonstrate mastery, they would earn a 5 badge, or a 12 badge, etc.  To the right is an example that you can make.
I simply found it by doing a search within a word document! Other badges might have a picture of a log cabin when you finish the Colonial America unit, perhaps.

Fun – Fun comes in many forms, but the most rewarding is when there is no external reward at all!  Here are some ideas:

·       Let your students develop their own educational games that the whole class can play.  Here is a link to directions for making your own board game:  Build a Better Board Game. This is a great group activity.  When everyone is done, they will explain their game, and then play with the rest of the class. This helps develop their communication skills.

·       Ask students to experiment with ways to improve their points or stages.  This gives them valuable practice in the scientific method of investigation. And students feel a sense of control over their outcomes.

·       Have them establish goals for themselves – a valuable life skill!

·       Adapt current games to become educational vehicles.

o   Checkers – odd vs. even squares so young learners can see the difference.

o   Jeopardy – create your own game by following THIS LINK to a blank game, complete with the Jeopardy! tune.

o   Use Wheel of Fortune to review vocabulary sentences and phrases.  Here is one of many customizable FREE digital spinners that also includes name pickers: Spinners and Pickers.

o   Put your creative thinking cap on an adapt the games you already have in the classroom to become educational adjuncts to your curriculum.  Post your ideas at the end of this article for others to share.


Conclusion – Gamification can be used and adapted for all learning styles and abilities. It helps keep students motivated and increases their attention span.  With gamification, you highlight student progress instead of constantly red-marking their mistakes on a test.  Gamification in the education industry will grow from $450 million in 2018 to $1.8 billion in 2023.  Are you ready to help your students join the gamification education network?  Try making and posting some of your own games!  Here are some of mine:

Socially Distant Games for Grades 4-8 - Indoors, Outdoors, and Virtual

Get those kids moving - active lesson tips in "The Kinetic Classroom"

And some Bingo games I created using Bingo Baker:

Periodic Table Bingo

State Shapes, Flags, and Capitals Bingo

Women Inventors Bingo Game and Research Guidelines




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