An average child today will have played 10,000 hours of video games before the age of 21. If playing games is part of our culture, even part of our identities, then it stands to reason that students can be highly motivated by game-based learning opportunities. So what if we make classrooms the game?
Gamification means using game-design principles such as cooperation, competition, character development, and point scoring in a non-gaming context. In the classroom, it can be as straightforward as transforming learning activities into games or a more subtle application of game-design principles to learning tasks.
Gamifying your classroom can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Some teachers choose to create their own game for their classroom in order to customize features including backstory, characters, rules, and objectives. At the same time, there are many user-friendly apps that teachers use to simplify those features.
As a classroom teacher, I gamified my classroom because I needed an engaging way to deliver the online lessons I created for students during reading and math workshop. I was able to turn my online lessons into an adventure with a storyline, obstacles, and learning challenges. I had read research about the benefits of gamification, but I was still surprised to see such a remarkable transformation in my classroom. In just a few months I saw amazing benefits!
I’ve spent that last few years implementing different vocabulary and integrating specific read-alouds to help my students develop a growth mindset. In particular, I wanted my students to develop grit and perseverance—a mindset that welcomes challenges and does not give up easily. When I gamified my classroom, I realized that the nature of gameplay promotes positive challenge and helps my students practice and apply a growth mindset.
One of the most amazing shifts I noticed was my students’ response to failure. Rather than feeling defeated when failing at a task in our game, my students have returned to the task with renewed determination, rising to the challenge with a positive attitude. In the past, a poor grade usually resulted in the negative feelings associated with failure. Within our game environment, however, students see mistakes as an opportunity to try again and do better. They are more willing to listen to and apply the feedback I give them because they are determined to master skills and level up.