How many times have you heard, “It’s just a game!” Well, is it?
Game play mirrors the way the human mind was designed to learn. Games motivate students to take risks and actions, persist through failures, set and achieve often difficult goals and put attention, time and effort to acquiring knowledge and skills. Isn’t this what we want from education?
Research suggests that playing games offer a combination of both growth mindset and zones of proximal development – the sweet spot for learning that covers the area of what they can do with help and what a student can do without help. Given the amount of time we spend with students every day, it is our job to facilitate these principles daily.
I know people (even teachers) wonder why we play games in class. I know people (even teachers) think P.E. is just “playing games.” Is that such a bad thing?
Here is a list of why playing games, I believe, is an important and powerful instruction tool.
1. Games provide an environment for engaging practice. Countless hours of workbook pages or textbook exercises don’t exactly stimulate some of the young minds we encounter. Students need a break from this. Games help provide different structure. Not only helpful in PE, games can be incorporated into Math and English. We teach games in PE class to teach concepts like resilience and persistence. Games can also be used in other key learning areas to help with knowledge retention and structure.
2. Students learn through the process of playing the game. By playing a game, students may be able to understand a new concept or idea, take on a different perspective or experiment with different options of variables. Games have rules and rules challenge and set standards of game play. Within these challenges, students are learning to push themselves and interact with other students. In games, there will be moments of joy and moments of heartbreak and sadness – but each of these moments offers valuable learning experiences for the kids we teach.
3. Through games, students learn different, important skills. There are countless and immeasurable skills that students can develop through game playing. Just to name a few: critical thinking skills, creativity, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. I love watching creativity flow through active game sessions. I love watching students try and attempt a skill and fail. Even in that moment, there is so much learning and I see it as an opportunity to teach a wide range of life skills that don’t always pop up in the curriculum.
4. Games grab student’s attention and actively engage them. Because students really enjoy playing games, it is a good way to focus their attention and actively immerse them in what I am trying to teach. Research suggests that students (and adults) are most engaged when active. Students actually learn better when participating in physical activity. How often do you see a teacher have silent reading or some form of quiet time after recess or lunch? At schools I’ve taught, this is always the case. We’re doing it wrong. This is the optimal time to teach students – because they have just been playing games – and now their brains are at their best for learning.
Game based learning offers so much incredible learning for students. Games allow kids to practice and develop physical skills such as hand-eye coordination. They can also work on spatial and fine motor skills.
Game-based learning allows students to develop cognitive, social and physical skills simultaneously. This learning enhances essential life skills like cooperation and teamwork. The knowledge and skills acquired through game-based learning are retained longer than information from other learning methods.
Yes, and it is all JUST a game.