Gamified Teaching – Convert every period into the one period that kids love at school

All kids love one period at school. That period is the ‘Games’ or ‘Sports’ period. If all kids, without exception, love that period, then are we not staring at the solution for a problem that has vexed teachers across the world for long? – How do I get my kids to fall in love with what I teach? The solution is simple – Make every period a game-like period. In other words, switch to Gamified Teaching.

What is Gamified Teaching, Gamified Learning or Gamified Education?

Gamified is the verb form of the noun ‘Game’. Education systems across countries have traditionally emphasized classroom teaching via the ‘chalk and talk‘ method. The teacher or lecturer uses the board to express ideas, facts and opinions using the chalk and does 98% of the talking. The students or learners listen intently to absorb new content.

Today, the drawbacks of the ‘chalk and talk’ system are evident.

Drawbacks of 'Chalk and Talk' Method of Teaching
Drawbacks of ‘Chalk and Talk’ Method of Teaching
  1. Minimal or Zero participation of the learners in the knowledge discovery process.
  2. Information flow is unidirectional.
  3. No active interactions mean the brain tosses out the bulk of the information received as trash.
  4. The mode of teaching does not go well with different learner types.
  5. Boredom sets in easily leading to lack of focus and hence motivation.
  6. Lack of focus contributes to lack of discipline in the class.

The One Period that all Kids Love

Considering the above shortcomings, educators and researchers discovered that ‘the one period’ that students irrespective of age look forward to in school or college is the ‘Sports’ or ‘Games’ period. Games and sports have universal appeal. This appeal stems from the aspects that are inherent to any game or sports

Reasons for the Universal Appeal of Games
Reasons for the Universal Appeal of Games
  1. Games allow us to play in cooperative mode
  2. Sports teach risk taking, opportunity hunting – all with the single goal of maximizing our score.
  3. Games and sports provide a natural sense of pleasure due to the release of happy hormones like endorphinsdopamine and serotonin.
  4. They also provide a sense of achievement.
  5. Probability of success in games can be increased by patience, persistence and practice (3Ps)
  6. Promote creativity among players who are pushed to solve problematic situations on the fly.
  7. Teach taking responsibility to the participants.
  8. Each game or sport has a beauty and characteristics of its own that draws fans and players.

So what is Gamified Teaching?

Gamification is the introduction of game elements to other fields to increase the appeal of the fields. Gamification of education/learning/teaching is the introduction of game elements like aesthetics, discipline, team spirit, ad-hoc challenges into the education domain to make content appealing to learners, hold their focus and inspire them to continue learning.

Gamification of education/learning/teaching is the introduction of game elements like aesthetics, discipline, team spirit, ad-hoc challenges into the education domain to make content appealing to learners, hold their focus and inspire… Click To Tweet

Principles of Gamification

Five principles form the core of gamification.

1. Prioritize Learning

No matter what teaching aspect you wish to gamify, do not lose focus on the first core principle – Prioritize Learning. Gamification, you should remember, is about making learning fun and constantly appealing. Hence, the focus on learning should not decline.

For example, consider taking up revision in the class via a quiz. You need to make teams, assign a scoring pattern and then get along with the quiz. However, at times, the urge to make the quiz more fun, one may introduce unique scoring patterns that shift focus from learning to maximizing one’s score.

2. Ingrain aspects of Motivation

No game is a game without a strong motivation to emerge victorious. Motivating the participants to try and emerge with flying colours is an important principle of gamification.

  • Motivation in the form of a point system as in quizzes.
  • A token system in which the learner is awarded a token. He/she exchange these tokens for benefits or tangible things at the school store.
  • Recognition amongst their peers. Ex: Best Student of the week, Best Spell Bee of the week, etc.
5 Principles of #Gamification – #Gamify #Teaching using these. Click To Tweet

3. Build in Risk

The element of risk is what makes a game a challenge. Humans love risk-taking. No Pain – No Gain goes the popular adage.

Risk can be introduced into a game in the following ways

  1. Negative scoring in a point based system
  2. Penalty for bad behaviour in a token system
  3. Ignominious awards to highlight undesirable behaviour on campus/class
  4. A group penalty for an individual mistake can raise the barrier for faulty play.

However, a caution to be borne in mind is that the appetite for risk increases if a team races ahead in terms of points. That can put other players at a disadvantage.

KiteFest - Gamification of Education
Kite Festival – Gamification of Education

4. Infuse surprise and unpredictability

Surprise tactics, unpredictable strategies make games a great learning zone for all stakeholders. Hence these too must form principles around which your gamification efforts shape up.

While conducting a quiz, the teacher may announce after the first three rounds that for the next set of 3 rounds, the team order will be anti-clockwise.

An alternative scoring pattern can be another surprise that the teacher may spring upon the students.

5. Retain flexibility

Gamifying learning needs to retain the flexibility to evolve as the participants evolve. Just as the game of cricket evolved from the longer 7-day version to the 5-day version followed by the one day version and eventually to the modern T20 version, learning based on the principle of gaming too must evolve to suit the learners and changing circumstances.

Students today have a shorter attention span compared to students a decade back. A gamified learning process’s design must appeal to this generation.

Another example is the prevalence of data at one’s fingertips today. Hence dry quizzes no longer find appeal. With the advent of popular TV shows like ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?”, ‘Master Chef’, ‘America’s Got Talent’, – the emphasis is on quick gratification

Research also says this about gamified learning…

A research paper on Gamification in Education by Ryerson University, Canada talks about four aspects boost the level of engagement between participants and a gamified learning technique.

  1. Freedom to fail – The game should not shut out a participant in case of a failure. It must give repeat chances to them to come back into the game, just like additional lives that video games grant.
  2. Rapid feedback – Learners find games that deliver quick feedback engrossing, which in turn, allow the participants to hone their strategy.
  3. Progression – Continuous progression that allows players to maintain a history of their achievements, statistics also promotes the sticky factor of the gamified teaching technique.
  4. Storytelling – the most successful games usually involve a story. Stories give the learners a purpose and eventually a sense of achievement.

How does gamified teaching affect learning?

Effects of Gamification on Learning
Effects of Gamification on Learning

Gamified Teaching brings in some distinct advantages to learning

  1. Improves Retention of knowledge.
  2. Enhances Creativity.
  3. Increases Recall of information.
  4. Dispels the Fear of Failure
  5. Promotes Collaboration
  6. Transforms learning into a Fun activity
  7. Powers Brainstorming and Idea generation
  8. Learning happens for Life
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10 Examples / Ideas for gamified teaching in classroom / college

1. Revision Quiz

Revising a lesson, revisiting a worksheet or solving a sample question paper can all be converted into quiz format. I typically divide the classroom into 3-4 teams based on the rows of desks and we get started.

A student can be asked to jot down the correct answer on the board after the teams have answered. That provides a visual feedback post with the auditory round of question and answer.

Quiz - Gamification of Learning
Quiz – Gamification of Learning

I also make the quiz exciting by employing some of the tactics below

  • Bonus round with double the points
  • Round with each team framing a question for the next team
  • Teams can tap an ‘Options Helpline’. This helpline provides 4 options but reduces question points by half.
  • Teams can tap a ‘Friend Helpline’. In case the answer the friend provides is right, the points will be shared equally between the friend’s team and self.

2. Crossword Creation

Crosswords can be an exciting way to engage the class especially when you want all students in the class to put on their thinking caps. A simple crossword with 15-20 clues should allow you to cover all major concepts of a lesson.

Crosswords can also be designed to provide word banks that make the solving a tad easier for students.

A software that I have been using for a long time now and one which I can vouch for is Eclipse Crossword. It is a software that you can download onto your system and it is completely free. You should definitely give it a try.

3. STEM Challenges

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Projects (STEM projects) are the current rage. You would definitely do your students a world of good with well-thought STEM challenges.

STEM challenges are usually designed with an amalgamation of 2-3 of the 4 core pillars of STEM. Challenges involve using everyday items to achieve set objectives. Typical STEM examples include

STEM Activity - Building a Cell structure using Natural Materials
STEM Activity – Building a Cell structure using Natural Materials
  • Building the tallest free-standing structure using 6 broad newspaper sheets.
  • Constructing the strongest bridge using 4 straws and modelling clay.
  • Designing a free-standing slide using sticks and clay that can slide down a ball bearing from height of 1 meter to ground level the quickest.
  • Fold up an origami plane that flies the farthest.
  • Envision a plan to transport the maximum water from the source to target using 6 buckets and 10 volunteers each.
  • Design a cell structure using materials drawn from nature.
  • Prepare the strongest catapult using a few elastic bands, a couple of ice creams sticks.
  • Transport two big rocks using 6 logs of wood over 50 meters the fastest.

As you see, STEM challenges force teams of students to take into account the science concepts they have learnt, the mathematics required to accurately cut and join stuff, the engineering skills to get things to complement each other. Teachers can revise the various concepts that came into play at the end of the exercise. This connects classroom theory with practicals.

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4. Self Goal Setting

Another way to gamify learning or gamify teaching is to ask each student to submit self-learning goals at the start of the week. The student decides for himself the quantity of study he would like to do across each subject, the pace of his study and decide for himself how he wishes to study.

At the end of the week, the student puts forth his assessment of how much of his goal he has been able to achieve. The teacher too can orally assess his standing and give his assessment of where he stands.

Kids who get assessment scores of above 70% from the teacher get 3 points. Kids who score between 40% and 70% get 2 points and the rest get 1 point.

5. Students as Teachers

This gamification mode hinges on role play. Students love to don the role of their teachers, imitate them and flaunt their confidence the way they have seen their teachers do. It becomes all the more fun when you give them official sanction under supervised conditions.

Students can hold mini-competitions in the class as a teacher. They can take 3-5 students under their wings to tutor and assist for a week. They can help with notebook checking.

6. Debating

Debating is loved by old and young students alike and is a naturally gamified teaching method.

The teacher takes on the role of a moderator. She converts a lesson into a debatable topic and divides the class into two groups. One group speaks ‘for’ the topic while the other is pitted ‘against’ the topic.

Chits are drawn to select who speaks ‘for’ and who speaks ‘against’ a topic. Time is allotted for the teams to prepare their points and arguments in support of or against the topic.

The moderator also puts in place a set of rules and time limits according to which each team presents its points and also cross-examines the points put forth by the opposition.

7. Polling

This is an easy to implement a gamified approach wherein all kids get to secretly or openly cast votes in favour of others’ work. The kids with the most votes get recognized.

This system can also be extended for a period of 2-3 months and the point system can be cumulative, allowing the interest to pile on.

8. Reverse Questioning

Another interesting approach for gamified learning is reverse questioning. The teacher mentions a word or a phrase and teams need to construct questions that pinpoint to the answer.

You can make this more interesting by going for the second round of questions which fetch double the points.

9. What’s the Good Word?

A hybrid between a quiz and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). The quiz master, typically the teacher presents 4 clues one at a time. Teams get a chance to guess the answer after each clue. If they get the answer right soon after the first clue, they earn 40 points, else they lose 10 points.

When none of the teams gets it right, the quiz master proceeds to drop the second clue. However, the points that can now be earned reduces to 30.

When the 3rd clue is provided, the points drop to 20 and finally to 10.

Science Models - Teaching via Gamification
Science Models – Teaching via Gamification

10. Become your partner’s pillar

Every student selects a peer and becomes his/her pillar of strength. The weak student is provided help, guidance and mentoring on every aspect. Every 1-2 weeks a dipstick is taken. The student who demonstrates the maximum progress earns points for himself and his pillar.

Student rotation is done every few weeks.

Gamified Teaching Pitfalls

While gamified teaching does bring in the element of ‘WOW’ to classrooms, it also must be tempered with a degree of caution. Gamification also brings in some fundamental changes to the traditional classroom setting.

  1. Loss of class control
  2. Disciplinary issues
  3. Change in teacher-student equations

As a teacher, you need to be ready to take these changes in your stride too.

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