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Classroom Management: Using Gaming Elements

Janelle Cox

Gamification is a term you may have heard in passing, but probably like most of us, are unsure what exactly it means.

Simply put, gamification involves using the principles of classroom games to motivate and engage students.

We all know that children love video games, and we can see that these game designers really know how to hook our children. So, why wouldn’t we be interested in incorporating some of the bells and whistles that designers use as part of our own classroom games and classroom management tactics?

If you think about it, we as adults use one of the elements in gamification probably every day that we go to a store and use our rewards card. What makes you keep going back and getting your coffee card punched? The reward of getting a free coffee once all the holes are punched out.

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So what does this mean for our students learning? We all know how hard it can be to get, and then keep, our students engaged. If we use the principles that gaming experts use to our advantage, then maybe we can actually motivate our students enough to where they are really engaged in every lesson that we do. Here are a few ways.

Classroom Management: Have a Clear Goal

When you begin any game, always have a clear goal in mind. If you are playing Scrabble, your goal is to come up with enough high-scoring words to win the game. If you are playing Angry Birds, your goal is to complete each level. There is something exciting about your journey through completing the game.

Give students a clear goal before each lesson or assignment. This can be in the form of a checklist, or even a game board worksheet where students color in a circle as they complete their tasks until they get to the finish line.

Rewards for Success

Everyone likes to be rewarded when they complete a task. Take the “Leveling up” element in gaming: Each time you complete a task you move up to the next level. Consider how students can “level up” as they complete assignments or small tasks. As students learn information at their own pace, they can be rewarded and move up to the next level of learning. Try rewarding students with a new status like “Super achiever” or “Master magician.”

Recognize Achievements with Badges

Just as players get rewarded for completing a task by leveling up, they also may get a badge for demonstrating mastery. Students can earn badges as they master content. Badges allow students to see what they have completed, and how well they have done while learning a specific topic. This gaming element can be quite effective in students’ self-confidence and self-worth.

Make it OK to Fail in Order to Succeed

In many of today’s games, children must fail time and time again in order to finally succeed. Think about Angry Birds and Flappy Bird: You must fail over and over again before you can clear the board. Take this concept and use it in your classroom. Instead of waiting until a project or assignment is done to see it, have students show you their progress along the way.

Scaffold Progress

As a teacher, you know right away if your students are interested or not. Game designers know that they, too, need to hook players within the first few seconds or their game will not be played. What game designers know, and that most teachers don’t know, is that you have to start easy and build upon the mastery of the first skill before you get to the next.

When planning your next lesson, consider students’ readiness and abilities. Start small and at the bottom, and then work your way up to the top. As students accomplish simple tasks, make each one get more and more challenging.

Encourage Friendly Competition

Video games are known for leaderboards, or a way of recognizing which players have achieved the highest scores. While some may say that a little competition among peers is harmful, others say that it encourages students to perform better.

Whatever the case may be, our students are looking at these leaderboards when they play video games. I would not suggest posting rankings per se, but showing what level a student is on, or the badge they earned, may encourage others to work a little bit harder.

Using gamification isn’t just about the gaming, but understanding the tools that designers use to motivate and engage students. Find out what motivates your students and integrate those elements into your daily lessons.

What do you think about gamification? Do you use gamification elements in your classroom? Share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

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 a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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Which types of articles would you like to see from us in 2020?
Classroom Management
Classroom Activities/Games
Teaching Strategies
Technology in the Classroom
Professional Development
Total votes: 167