Actually, what if it was?
I recently had a discussion with a colleague regarding the use of games in the classroom and whether or not it adds any value to the learning environment. My opinion is yes, they do.
I’ll tell you why my colleague thinks differently. She believes that playing games in the classroom makes light of the subject matter and also creates a competition between students (which makes her uncomfortable and could potentially cause some anxiety for a student).
First let me say that I don’t disagree with her entirely.I do however, think that incorporating games into the classroom helps improve student engagement. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though.. There are students who may be less likely to partake in a classroom game.There are so many reasons a student may decline to be involved. For instance perhaps they are shy, or have a fear of “public speaking”, or maybe they have really low self esteem and think they won’t do well. I don’t think that any of those reasons are good enough to remove the use of games from the classroom altogether. I think the added value of student engagement is worth the risk.
My personal experience has been that students are usually quite happy to be involved in something different and fun in the classroom. I have rarely had any issues with people not wanting to participate or becoming too competitive. It creates an opportunity for everyone to relax a little, have some fun together and creates a more dynamic relationship in the classroom if your students can see a different side to you. The only problem I have had with using games in the classroom is that once they’ve experienced it they want to play them more often, and it does take some time to get them organized.
Let me share with you an occasion in which I dealt with a situation like this. In one of my classes I had a student (who displayed high introvert preferences) who approached me and asked if she could be excluded from the game because she wasn’t comfortable getting up in front of the class and competing with her peers for the right answer. I told her I understood and respected and asked if she would instead be part of the team that organized the game, rather than participating. That wasn’t originally part of my plan, but if you are a teacher you know we sometimes have to wing it. So I then had this student provide some of the QA for the family feud game I had planned for the class. By having her help me, I was able to ascertain that she did indeed know the material, she was able to process the information to come up with valid game questions, she had a great time doing it and I respected the fact that she wasn’t comfortable participating in the game.
The great part of this experience is that I learned how to roll with the punches, I learned that there is as much value in being part of the organizing team (so now I open up roles to my students), and I learned that sometimes doing small things can make big changes. This same student is now more engaged than ever- she participates in the competition but also enjoys being part of the team that organizes. She has told me that she never thought she would be up there in front of the class, and how easing her into it really has helped her.
As far as taking serious material and making “light of it” by turning it into a game- I disagree. I work in a serious environment (emergency response) and we absolutely rely on having a sense of humor to help manage the stress of the environment, so for me that’ just one more reason to do this. I also found this article that I thought was quite interesting. McGill Reporter- Not all fun and games