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6 Reasons to Incorporate Gaming in the Classroom 

6 Min Read
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Play-based learning is already widely accepted as a vital part of early childhood development. But, what about the benefits of continuing that approach into the later years? Do we need our students to play their way into learning?

In short — yes.

Incorporating gaming in the classroom is an important tool in any educational program. The benefits of games in education include higher engagement among students and unique ways to reach every kind of learner. Activities also provide opportunities to practice critical thinking while promoting social and emotional learning.

While the gamification of education might not be the sole solution to better learning, it is a valuable layer in creating an approach to education that prepares students for life both in and out of the classroom.

The Benefits of Games in Education

1. Games provide an opportunity for hands-on, experiential learning

Using games in education provides a valuable opportunity for hands-on, experiential learning. This can be especially important for creating lessons that ensure students are truly engaging with the content and not simply receiving information passively.

When games are implemented in a robust way, the learning becomes a multisensory, multimodal learning experience:

  • Students practice reading during classroom games that involve directions, stories or scenarios, and other written content to digest.
  • Students engage in hands-on learning when working through an activity that relies on the lesson’s principles.
  • Students practice speaking when explaining or discussing concepts with their peers.

2. Games can promote teamwork and collaboration

Incorporating team-based games into the classroom can be a powerful tool for teaching critical thinking and collaboration. In team-based games, students work towards a common goal. Collaboration becomes paramount when team members will all succeed or fail together as a single unit. This works best when actions that help teammates also help further their individual progress, too.

At the start of an activity, students must discuss among their teammates who will perform what functions on the team. In doing so, they all must identify important strengths within themselves and their fellow students. Students then need to organize the team’s roles and responsibilities based on those strengths. When faced with additional challenges during the game, team members need to work together on recalibrating and overcoming new obstacles. This means students have no choice but to support each other and communicate so they can succeed. The more they help the group, the more they advance themselves.

3. Games teach important critical thinking skills

Games can support the development of critical thinking skills. During individual and team activities, students tackle a number of problems to reach a goal. Plans of action might change when presented with new issues. Students can assess risks when debating appropriate paths forward. Throughout it all, the need for strategizing and decision-making helps students enhance their critical thinking as they develop a plan for success. 

4. Classroom games reinforce social and emotional learning through education

Research shows that gamification in the classroom reinforces important components of social and emotional learning like communication, listening, and empathy. When working to succeed in a game, students need to communicate with one another about how they can contribute or what they think the team should do. At the same time, they need to remain aware of how the rest of the team feels about roles, decisions, and progress.

If one student is being particularly quiet, another might take note and decide to advocate for them to the rest of the team. Or, when debating how to play a game, students might take into account how all members of the team feel about the options before coming to a final decision.

Social and emotional skills are becoming increasingly important in education as we understand more fully how they relate to later success in adult life. Classroom games are a great educational tool for promoting these skills.

5. Games aid student focus and classroom management

Gaming in education is also an important classroom management tool. Engaging, interactive activities help provide additional sensory experiences that refocus a classroom. This is a helpful outlet at certain times throughout the school year, like when students feel fatigued from standardized testing, have just returned from a school break, or have experienced non-school related distractions that impact their ability to focus.

When lessons become games, the class rules become clearer, and students will even start to self-police each other to increase their chances of succeeding in a game and earning in-game rewards. This takes pressure off the teacher as the “disciplinarian” and fosters responsibility among students themselves.

The active approach to learning that naturally comes from gamification also encourages higher rates of engagement within a class. When given more control over their learning experience, students become more involved in the material, discussions, and their sense of belonging within the classroom. Games provide this opportunity for involvement and empowerment and help contribute to deeper engagement and more focused students.

6. Classroom games boost intrinsic motivation (and are just plain fun)

In addition to all of its other educational benefits, a game just makes learning more fun. This shift in focus from the material to the activity can make learning feel less like work for students.

Not every student will immediately like math, science, or history. But gamification offers a reason for students to enjoy coming to class and have fun while learning. Instead of answering questions in a worksheet, students play a game. They may not even realize that they’re working through the lesson plan at the same time, and those that do will feel extra motivated, as not only do they get to play a game in school, but they even see how the game is helping them learn.

Not only can this improve the overall mood of your class, but it can help make difficult concepts feel more accessible. When presented with a problem through play rather than a textbook, students are less likely to become discouraged or overwhelmed. They might also take additional steps or try new ideas that they wouldn’t in a traditional educational model.

Gaming in Education Should Be a Frequent Tool

Both team-based and individual games for kids should be frequently used tools in any educational plan. Not only do students enjoy higher engagement through these activities, but they develop social and emotional skills that will produce dividends far beyond the classroom.

Educators are often trying to find ways to bridge the gap between students and the material. Using games in the classroom helps to make education more approachable and exciting for everyone. Even if students don’t ever “love” the subject, the happier they feel attending class, the better they’re likely to perform and apply themselves.

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.


Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.

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