One teacher shares her favorite games for chemistry, biology, and more, plus resources to help teachers
Motivating students and keeping students actively engaged in lessons is becoming frequently more challenging for even the most creative teachers. At times it can seem we’re competing with smartphones and video games for students’ undivided attention. Perhaps the best strategy is to embrace the technology and harness it for learning.
Using games to teach, and adding gamification principles to the classroom, can make learning meaningful, engaging, and fun for even the most reluctant learners. I use games in my classroom in a few ways. I use them to actively teach content, to make lessons more engaging, and as project-based learning platforms for immersive learning. Some of the games are digital, and others are played as board games, or in a variety of other formats.
My favorite lesson planning resources are provided by The Institute of Play and 3D Game Labs.
The Institute of Play provides resources that teachers can use to plan and create games, and align them to curriculum and standards. They also provide game theory and design templates and information that make it easy to create a well-designed game that seamlessly fits curricular objectives.
3D Game Labs provides an affordable platform for gamifying the classroom. Teachers can take content and create quests, badges and an online platform for students to engage with the content in fun and exciting ways. I have used this platform as a teacher to take professional development courses, and I’m currently planning to purchase an account to gamify my curriculum.
In my classroom, we play a lot of games, frequently as the lesson. We then discuss what the students experienced in the game and make content connections via whole-group discussion. I often create a graphic organizer or worksheet for students to use to organize their thoughts about the game. When I have my biology and life science students play Cell Craft, for example, I demonstrate gameplay and features for the whole class using my laptop and projector. Students complete the organizer while we go through the game as a group and discuss the content. Then, students get a chance to play the game and really immerse themselves.
(Next page: Games that teach chemistry, cell biology, and economics concepts)
1. Glass Labs: Glass Labs has a variety of free content based games that engage students in social studies, math, and science. Students are motivated to learn the content as they play the game, and I’ve found often retain more information than via traditional lectures.
2. Cell Craft: This game teaches students about the importance of organelles and cell structures, and how they protect cells and keep them healthy.
3. Pandemic II: This game has students take on the role of a virus that tries to kill off the human population on earth. As the students try to avoid quarantine and global spread, they learn about the various protection mechanisms that have been created to prevent a pandemic, and their limitations. Students learn why pandemics happen by being immersed in the engaging learning environment of a game.
4. ChemGame Tutor: Students can practice chemistry concepts and calculations by playing an engaging game. Rather than practicing with boring worksheets, students can compete against each other for high scores. Teachers can use the game as an assessment by asking for a free account from the creator of this site that allows teachers to create student accounts and track student scores.
5. Ayiti The Cost of a Life: This game teaches students about the challenges facing families living in Haiiti. Students try to keep a family of four alive for four years. Challenges include getting enough food, and providing children with an education.
6. Ellen J. McHenry’s website: This is a great website for board game resources that teach a variety of content concepts. I have used games from the site with physical science and earth science classes to teach about the periodic table and the relationship between elements.
Monique Liles is a teacher at Babb Middle School in Forest Park, GA. She is a member of Discovery Education’s Discovery Educator Network (DEN), a global community of educators that are passionate about transforming the learning experience with digital media.
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