Games and Student Interest in Learning

Games and Student Interest in Learning

( words) minutes to read 

A game can increase student engagement and willingness to participate. Over time, engagement helps students to see themselves as learners! In previous posts, we learned about task card basketball. We also looked at the research behind task cards games. When a game is designed correctly, it enhances learning. Misuse of games can become lost opportunities for learning. In this post, you will

  1. See how to use games to increase student interest in learning.
  2. Plus, we will discuss two learning games: Word Wall Jeopardy and Find My Mistake.

Tap here for ideas on using physical movement to increase student engagement.

Read About Basketball in Class Read about the Research

Games are intrinsically motivating. Students participate in games because they find joy or interest in the activity itself.

Educational leader Jere Brophy (from On Excellence in Teaching) explains it best when he said efforts at raising student motivation have focused on…

“using threats and sanctions to compel desired behavior; however, research show that better motivation and learning can be expected when learning contexts support autonomous motivation – when students engage in learning activities willingly because they see good reasons for doing so.”

Misuse of games can be missed opportunities for learning. Click To Tweet

Careful of Rewards

Rewards can be a distraction to learning because they change the focus from learning to the reward. You know better learning occurs when students want to engage in activities because of a motivation to learn. That is where games come into the equation.

Games can provide an emotional tie to your lesson and a reason to engage. If not overused, they can arouse emotional responses. Emotion increases attention and retention.

Why Games

A word of caution – games can also be a type of reward. Rewards are means to create compliance. Compliance is not the same thing as motivated learning. Misuse of games in the classroom can distract from learning.

Compliance is not the same thing as motivated learning.Click To Tweet

Motivated Learning vs. Motivated Compliance

Games are good. Too many games can distract from motivated learning. They can become motivated compliance.

Motivated compliance is participating because of some non-learning motivation. To gain a prize or to get a reward. Motivated learning is participating because of the value found in the task itself.

Quality tasks generate student thinking and discussion.

Games can create motivation for both learning and compliance. The difference is in when we use games. Games should not be used when learning new material. New material requires students to focus on a goal of mastery and understanding. Games can be used when deepening understandings or increasing fluency…after the initial teaching.

Practicing and deepening understandings require slightly different brain activity than forging new understandings. Practicing and reviewing require frequent feedback, and games excel in this area.

Games provide a form of motivated learning. They provide a reason to engage with repetitive practice. But that form of motivation is not the final goal. The final goal is to have learners that appreciate the value of their learning and view themselves as learners.

Games increase student engagement.

Three Ways to Build Interest in Learning

Creating interest in learning is a long-term process. It is built through one meaningful experience after another. It happens as students learn skills and content that they can clearly see are helpful. Interest in learning is constructed over time as students grow a sense of empowerment from their learning. Interest in learning occurs as students take on the identity that they are learners!

It’s helpful to turn to Jere Brophy again. He offers at least three basic steps for you to build interest in learning:

  1. Develop curriculum that is worth learning to students.
  2. Frame lessons in ways that students find the immediate value in what they are learning.
  3. Instead of only seeking quick emotional thrills, scaffold student appreciation by giving them time to successfully apply what they are learning.

How Games Can and Can’t Help

Games can provide the opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned. Games that provide ample feedback help students apply their learning with success. That success can solidify learning.

In many lessons, a game can show students the immediate value in what you are teaching. The action is with them in a game. It’s not just another 45 minutes of the teacher teaching. It’s not passive. A game is active, and students are the actors in a game.

Games can be overused. If so, they could just be a form of stimulation or emotional thrill. This is more of a distraction than an entry point for learning. That’s why we recommend using games with task cards for practice and feedback.

For details about games with feedback read here.

Two Examples of Games

Increase engagement with games for learning.

Word Wall Jeopardy

Objective: Students deepen understandings of academic vocabulary. To Win: Teams earn points. Prep: Have a word wall of previously taught academic vocabulary.

This game is so quick and easy to do, and it is great for any amount of downtime.You will give students a description of one of the words. Then tell them an example and a non-example. It is an oral listening and speaking game and applies to any content.

You will give students a description of one of the words. Then tell them an example and a non-example. It is an oral listening and speaking game and applies to any content.

The students’ role is to listen and look for the word on the word wall. After giving the description and examples of the word, you have teams of students engage in peer discussion. Then use a random name generator (pull names from a cup, online name generators) to call on a student. The student earns a point for the team by responding correctly, “Is the word -?”

Gamify your lessons to increase student engagement.

Find My Mistake

Objective: Students deepen understandings by finding errors in answers. To Win: Teams earn points. Prep: You answer 4-6 task cards that have previously been used in class.

Another game that is easy to play. You have already taught a lesson on a skill. Students have practice with task cards. Now, use the same task cards. Instead of asking students to find the right answer again, you will have them analyze a wrong answer.

You prepare 4-6 task cards with wrong answers. Open-ended questions work really well, but multiple-choice is good too. Each group of students receives one card. Their job is to read and discuss why your answer is wrong. Then they write an explanation.

You walk around and give a point to each group that is correct in their explanation. Then rotate the task cards.

About the Author

TeamTom Education is dedicated to creating engaging teaching resources and strategies that make learning awesome!

Related Reading

Follow The Blog

Get all the latest blog posts straight to your inbox!

Join 1,730 other subscribers

Follow The Blog

Get all the latest blog posts straight to your inbox!

Join 1,730 other subscribers