How to Use Gameplay to Enhance Classroom Learning

Several studies have demonstrated that games may be used to boost student participation, promote emotional and social learning, and motivate students to take risks.

What happens when a gorilla engages in combat with a brown Hyena in an Australian rainforest is left to speculation.

When Tanya Buxton’s high-school biology students go on their journey, they will find out.

on March Mammal Madness,

Virtual basketball championships, styled after the NCAA basketball championships, are being used to educate American schoolchildren about endangered species and biodiversity.

This is the second year in a row that Buxton has entered kids from her Atherton, California, high school in the event. The goal of this event is to deepen their understanding of global ecosystems and to foster a sense of community among their peers.

According to Buxton, gaming is about more than just having a good time. Teachers are incorporating gaming techniques and games into their classrooms in order to improve learning. From

Minecraft to the Game of Life and Werewolf, effective games like March Mammal Madness link content with low-stakes competition and can provide a more collaborative, engaging classroom experience–especially for students who may struggle to focus or find their niche in learning. Games have been an essential outlet for kids during the pandemic.

These claims are not just anecdotal. According to research games can be used in teaching to increase student participation and foster social and emotional learning. It also encourages students to take chances. One study on the multi-choice quiz Kahoot showed that it positively impacted students’ attitudes towards learning and increased their academic scores. Studies have also shown that virtual games can increase attention and focus for students with ADHD. They can also help students with dyslexia improve their spatial and temporal attention. This can lead to improved reading.

However, games can’t replace other learning methods. They should be planned and integrated in a way that is relevant to the learning objectives.

“Games are not meant to be used as a band-aid for problems in the classroom. Instead, consider them as a pedagogical approach that may help people think differently about the possibilities… only limited by the imagination of the player and the rules of the game,” says Antero Garca, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education. He studies the effects of technology and gaming on civic identity and youth literacy.

You might be interested in incorporating well-designed games, or just a few gaming principles, into your lessons. These are just a few ways games can be used as a teaching tool.


Many games have scenarios where players must make in-the-moment choices. This allows them to quickly see the consequences of their decisions in a low-risk environment and then try again if they fail. These skills are invaluable as they move through life.

For example, teachers can use role playing games in class to help students understand other perspectives as part of larger, holistic systems of thinking. Matthew Farber is a former teacher at the University of Northern Colorado and an assistant professor who studies the intersection of game-based education and SEL. This way of thinking can be a great starting point for students to understand their agency and make alternative plans.

He says that games, unlike movies and books that are more passively consumed, may encourage students to look at new learning topics or approaches.

For example, in the Alba Wildlife Adventure virtual game, players can launch mini-missions to save endangered species. Farber says that even though students may not view themselves as conservationists or adventurers, the game’s low-risk setting can encourage them to think about the larger-scale impact they could make in the real world. Students could continue their research on the animals that they encounter or take nature walks in order to find smaller wildlife ecosystems.

Even if they don’t have a fully developed game, teachers can still use Gamification to encourage students’ enthusiasm. This involves incorporating components from games like points, leaderboards and badges into lessons. Students get more excited about earning badges and embarking on quests, and they take more risks.

Banerjee says that teachers can create curricula for students who are conducting literature analyses and researching a topic.


Although it is not the only reason to play video games, educators say that the fun of gaming is an important part of why they are so popular with children. They believe that games can be used to disguise difficult skills that kids may resist.

For example, teachers Marina Lombardo and Joe Dillon created a poetry-writing activity using Minecraft Education Edition. Students move through a maze to visit rooms and learn how to make their writing more descriptive. Inspired by Georgia Heard’s SixRoom-Poem activity this game guides students through specific writing prompts such as describing an object focusing on its surrounding.

Kendra Cameron-Jarvis is an instructional technologist at Buncombe County Schools in western North Carolina. Sixth-grade students used Google Maps Treks to explore the Great Pyramid. She says that the game reinforces the knowledge they have in class about ancient Egypt.

She says, “It’s kinda sneaky–they don’t realize that they’re learning.” “Kids will have a great time and learn along the journey.”

Teachers are increasingly using apps as well as interactive gaming platforms such Quizizz. Kahoot claims that over 6

In more than 200 countries, its app has been downloaded by millions of teachers. It is utilised by them to deliver interesting formative tests to kids in order to help them stay on track, which is especially important during the pandemic. According to Cameron-Jarvis, teachers have reported that the platforms are so interesting that students have frequently requested to use them in their learning activities.

A teacher can alter the difficulty level of a game to match the skill of each student, which will encourage more involvement. Gamification can be especially advantageous for individuals with specific learning challenges because it interrupts traditional learning methods and opens up new avenues of success for them in areas where they have previously struggled. This is a field in which Banerjee has more than 29 years of experience.

Students who typically do not perform well on traditional assignments can make significant contributions to the learning process if teachers use a variety of low-stakes leaderboards (scoreboards that display the names and scores of participants) to highlight often-overlooked activities or skills in a way that recognises contributions from students who typically do not perform well on traditional assignments. Teachers can, for example, provide extra credit to the student who came up with the most creative computation in math class. This not only makes studying more enjoyable, but it also recognises the fact that students may make significant contributions to a classroom environment.


While students can play the games by themselves, many education games encourage students to work in groups. This is a great way for them to build strong relationships and learn skills such as cooperation, studies show.

Those social contacts, according to Douglas Kiang, a high-school computer science instructor at Menlo School, are critical for remote learning. To encourage kids to communicate with one another and gain social skills such as negotiating, teamwork, and respect, Kiang used Minecraft to help them communicate with one another. He also participates in the game Among Us with his advisory group of approximately 10 pupils.

Kiang, a nationally recognised expert in game-based learning and technology integration, believes that games can be beneficial for children because they foster trust and allow them to communicate effectively with one another.

Cameron-Jarvis points out that introducing more community-building components into your classroom does not always necessitate the use of a multiplayer game, as previously stated. Using Google Classroom, Flipgrid, and Nearpod, Cameron-Jarvis advises that students publish questions to the Google Classroom stream, allowing other students to comment, interact, and debate. Teachers have also used Google resources to develop their own versions of popular games such as Connect Four and Tic Tac Toe, allowing students to take a break from academic study while still engaging in fun activities.

When employing games in the classroom, Cameron-Jarvis believes that it is critical not to over-gamify the experience for the students. Cameron-Jarvis recommends starting simple and adopting games with clear rules that pupils can grasp, rather than a large number of games. Teachers, according to Farber, must be receptive to a range of games in their classrooms. He recommends that you enable youngsters to participate in games during lesson time. “Consider the feelings that these games elicit, rather than merely the strategy and process.”