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Gamification Teaching Strategies to Engage Learners

Janelle Cox

Learning is like a game -- it has rules, levels, and sometimes rewards. Students need to follow the rules in order to move up a level, and sometimes they get rewarded for their effort. Incorporating game-like elements into your classroom where students can “Unlock” the next level of their assignment once they have completed their task, or challenge other students, may just be the answer to student engagement. Teachers are now learning that using “Gamification” teaching strategies, which put simply is applying the elements of game playing to activities, is a great way to engage learners. If you think about it, many of us use elements in gamification probably every day that we go to a store and use a rewards card. What makes you keep going back and getting your coffee card punched? It’s probably the reward of getting a free coffee once all the holes are punched out. Gaming experts are on to something because they know how to hook and engage our children. If we can take the elements in gaming and apply them to our lessons, teaching strategies, and activities in the classroom, then we may just be able to not only make learning more fun for our students, but also have the ability to personalize learning so students can work at their own pace.

Teaching Strategies to Gamify Learning

Here are a few ways you can make learning feel more like a game.

Use Levels

When students play a video game, they must complete one level before they are able to move on to the next level. In the process of moving up a level, they must keep a close eye on the progress bar to see how far they have progressed in the game, so they know what they need to do to move even further. Teachers can use this gaming concept for grading. For example, when students complete an assignment, they get an allotted amount of points (which you can transfer to a grade later on). These points can go on their “Progress bar” which students can refer to in order to see how much closer they are to the next “Level,” or in this case assignment.

Create Challenges

One way that gaming experts hook their users is by giving them a challenge. If you think about it, every time you play a game, you are completing a challenge. To gamify your lessons using this element, you can motivate students to challenge themselves (or others) by allowing them to add more to their assignments. Tell students that they are going on a mission, and in order to complete that mission they must challenge themselves to complete each level (assignment). Creating challenges is a great way to keep students engaged in their own learning.

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Give Second Chances

In school, if a student fails an assignment, they usually don’t get a second chance. However, when playing a video game, if a player fails, they keep trying until they get it right. As they continue to try, they learn from their mistakes. Taking this gaming concept and applying it in your classroom can have a great impact on student success. When students are given a second chance or even a third chance, they will be able to learn from their mistakes and push themselves to move forward. This also helps them learn from their mistakes and eliminate the pressure of failure.

Student Choice

Student choice is another gamification strategy that teachers like to use in their classroom. Gamified classrooms allow students to choose their own path just as they would in a video game. By allowing students to have a choice and voice in their own learning it fosters creativity and allows a child to take their learning into their own hands. Empowering students through choice ensures that students are meeting their learning goals, as well as helping students learn in the best way that suits their learning style.

Badges and Rewards

Badges and rewards are a big part of gaming. That’s how a player knows when they have achieved a level -- when they receive a reward. Gaming experts use these incentives to entice players to keep moving forward to the finish line. When gamifying your classroom, you can use badges as an incentive for students to continue raising their efforts, as well as rewards for satisfying these efforts.

Gamification isn’t just about the gaming -- it’s understanding the tools that gaming experts use to engage their users to play. Find out what motivates your students, then try and integrate those elements into your daily lessons. By embedding challenges, emphasizing student choice, and giving second chances, you will make your students not only feel like they are in a video game, and they will be actively engaged as well.

Do you use gamification teaching strategies in your classroom? What elements do you find the most effective? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.