Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Learning should be fun: Why games need to be a part of your classroom -Part 1

               We all know common core places a large emphasis on student practice, and educational games can be a great way to achieve just that.  Whether your students are working as a class, in small groups, or on their own, games are a great way to help them practice and learn anything you are covering in class.  Incorporating games in your class/lesson is important not only because they help students learn information, games also get students excited about learning, keep them engaged longer, and help lower the affective filter.

                Educators understand that students must have their most basic needs met before they are able to learn.  Creating a safe and comfortable environment for all students is the first job of any successful teacher.  According to Krashen (1982) a low affective filter, which includes high motivation, high self-confidence, and low anxiety, is highly beneficial to language acquisition.  While Krashen focused primarily on language acquisition, I truly believe the same principles hold true for all learning.  Tomlinson et al, (2003) would agree with me.  They found when multiple materials and strategies coincide with an individual’s learning styles and interests, the affective filter will be lowered and thus students will be more willing to participate. 

                Sometimes it can be a struggle trying to differentiate our lessons to address the different learning styles and interests of our students.  Well-designed educational games can help us do just that partially because most students enjoy playing games, even if they are learning something at the same time.  When students play games they more comfortable, more confident, and more likely to discuss with their peers because of the relaxed and less stressful environment created by the game (Lin, 2008).  Due to the lowering of the affective filter provided by a game environment, students are also more willing to make mistakes, and learn from their peers (Smith, 2006).

                In my class, whether I am teaching a whole group of students, or a small group, I always try to incorporate some kind of game.  It never fails, when I pull out a deck of I have… Who has…, a board game I created, a Jeopardy style game, or some other kind of game, the faces of my students always light up.  I find they are more attentive, more involved, more motivated, and learn better when they are having fun playing a game.  

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Prentice Hall       International

Lin, G.H.C. (2008) Pedagogies proving Krashen’s theory of affective filter. Hwa Kang Journal of English Lsnguage & Literature, (14), 113-131.

Smith, H. (2006). Playing to learn: A qualitative analysis of bilingual pupil-pupil talk during board game play. Language & Education: An International Journal, 20(5), 415-437.

Tomlinson, C.A.., Brighton, C., Hertberg, H., Callahan, C.M., Moon, T.R., Brimijiom, K.,… Reynolds, T. (2003). Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: A review of literature. Journal for the Education of the gifted, 27 (Win 2003), 119-145.

               Please let me know what you think of this post.  If you have a story about playing games with your student(s) please let me know and I would be happy to post it on my blog (pictures are always a plus, but not a must).
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