Taking Instruction to the Next Level with Game-Based Learning

Caylie Gaccione
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on November 04 2021

Keeping students engaged in learning takes diligent planning and patience on the part of the teacher. When thinking about lessons and activities for students, it is important to consider what our students truly enjoy doing. One thing we know for sure is that students love games. No matter the age of our students or the subject we teach, games keep our students interested and motivated. One of the best parts of including games in daily instruction is that oftentimes students can be playing games and not even know that they are learning! This leads to the most authentic type of instruction both in and out of the classroom. So, why is it important to consider game-based learning when planning our future lessons?

What it is:

Game-based learning is best known as an active learning experience that involves game characteristics and ideas. The goal of game-based learning is to teach key concepts through repetition, learning through mistakes, and accomplishing goals along the way. Through this process, students are actively learning while having fun!

The power of games

Game-based learning makes it easy to incorporate content with fun in the classroom and offers some big benefits as well:

  • Easily incorporated into different subjects:Whether you are a kindergarten teacher or a high school math teacher, anything that you are already teaching can be turned into a game. Playing games also incorporates opportunities for reading, writing, speaking, and listening practice.
  • Alleviates stress:Because of the playful nature of games, students are learning without even realizing it. For example, if students are completing a Jeopardy review game, they are covering important concepts but working in teams, earning points, and having a friendly competition makes the learning process a lot smoother.
  • Students take ownership of learning:Since students are enjoying the process of playing games, they are more likely to feel proud of the work that they are doing which leads to higher retention.
  • Provide challenges and develop critical thinkingGames are full of twists and turns, and whether students are playing an academic game or a game just for fun, they are still challenged to make decisions and persevere through any unknowns.
  • Can be edited over time:For example, if you have students complete a sight word game, this can easily be changed weekly, based on the words that are being taught in class.
  • Highlight personal interests:For example, if your students love sports, try designing a game with a sports theme to enhance inspiration and context for communicating.
  • Increases collaboration, socialization, and engagement:Whether students are working in teams to play a game or working independently, energy levels will be high. While playing games, students are encouraged to communicate, work together to solve problems, and share ideas with one another. Overall, this leads to a positive learning environment.

Choosing the right game

We know that games are beneficial, but how do we know if we are choosing the right ones for our students? Here are some ideas to consider when choosing a game:

  • Look for games that incorporate visuals, audio recordings, labels, and language supports. You may not be able to have all of these components in one particular game, but at least some of these tools should be included in order to provide the most meaningful learning experience.
  • Games should provide opportunities for repeated practice, incorporation of academic skills, and hands-on components. Remember that games are incredibly versatile and can be adapted to meet the needs of your class. There might be opportunities where you want students to play a game that gets them up and moving with their peers, or you might push out a digital game that students can play independently.
  • Allow for students to help choose what games or apps are used in the classroom based on conversations and interests that they have. When it comes to selecting games, our students know best. With a huge emphasis on social media and online gaming, they will definitely have some great ideas on what will make for a successful game.

Games in action

Now that we know the importance of game-based learning and how to choose the right one for your students, here are some ideas to inspire you to get playing!

  1. Draw It:Have students work in groups or partnerships. Each student will be given a picture that the others cannot see and they will have to describe the picture for their peers to draw. This can be done on paper or dry erase boards and will lead to some amazing conversations.
  2. Scavenger hunt:Create a scavenger hunt for students to search around their school, classroom, or home for certain items and clues. Try making this a thematic scavenger hunt, tied to answering math questions, exploring a story arc, or taking a journey through history. Each clue can contain a prompt for students to read and respond to.
  3. Puta twist on a classic game: Any board game or interactive game that already exists can be used as a classroom game  (e.g. Scrabble, Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Simon Says, Taboo, Jenga, etc.) Many of these games can be adapted based on specific classroom needs. For example, place sticky notes with math equations on Jenga pieces for students to answer.
  4. Quizziz:Use this platform to create quizzes for students. These quizzes can be used for review or actual assessments and can incorporate images, audio, or even video to engage students and practice key concepts.
  5. Nearpod:Provide instruction to students with multiple pathways to learning via engaging games and activities. Some of the most engaging activities on Nearpod are “Time to Climb”, “Matching Pairs”, and “Draw It”.
  6. Teacher or students created games:Create matching games, word cards, interactive flash cards, review games, and more. These games can be created by hand or can be done completely digitally. Depending on the age and comfort level of your students, challenge them to create their own game!

Remember that bringing games into the classroom is a unique way to add excitement and engagement to your daily lessons. I recommend exploring the above-mentioned games as well as looking at what you already have in the classroom to make your games the best that they can be. Enjoy taking your classroom instruction to the next level with game-based learning!


For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.


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