Gaming in Education

Gamification has been a part of education for as long as I can remember. Even long before the days of projectors, smart boards, and school-issued student devices, we had spelling bees and the all-favorite index-card-covered blackboard Jeopardy.


In general, students love a little competition. Humans have a natural desire to win. And there are countless ways to incorporate gaming elements into your curriculum and lesson planning. Gamification can be used to introduce a new concept, practice content skills, or review material for an upcoming assessment.

Classroom gamification has many benefits, including the following (adapted from “Gamification: What Is It & How Can You Use It?” True Education Partnerships):

  • It leads to a more relaxed atmosphere in regards to failure, since learners can simply try again. Think about it; what do kids do when they fail to reach a level on their favorite game? They keep trying. That same level of persistence rarely translates into the classroom, but switching to a gaming approach now and then just may do the trick.
  • Students often are more comfortable in gaming environments, so they are more proactive and open to making mistakes. How many of your students seem to quit before they begin something? Or how many have been made to believe that they can’t do something (whether it’s from an internal or external source) and don’t even pretend to try? Some of these same students may thrive in a more familiar environment where the natural response to a mistake is to take a new approach and try again.
  • Students feel like they have ownership over their learning. Giving students the driver’s seat in the classroom has huge benefits, often igniting a stronger desire to complete a task and do it well.
  • Students may uncover an intrinsic motivation for learning. One could easily argue that apathy is a teacher’s biggest challenge in the modern classroom. And while teachers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or do cartwheels to keep students’ attention, engagement can increase with a little bit of fun here and there. (And it can actually be a fun experience for you as well, helping to foster positive relationships.)
  • You may see higher engagement and concentration levels amongst students. Again - when students feel invested, they will engage more deeply. 
  • It offers students the opportunity to think outside of the box. Worksheets are a necessary part of most unit planning, but unfortunately students often feel like it’s just “busy work.” Of course, it’s usually not, but if there are more engaging ways to hit those same objectives, use that to shake things up from time to time.
  • It provides social connection. We all know students love to socialize, and gaming is a form of that. This gives them an opportunity to learn to work together and find productive ways to set goals, strategize, and problem-solve.

While it certainly could take some planning on the front end, you can usually re-use games from year to year, tweaking as needed. But many games can be low-tech or even no-tech and involve very little prep. 

As a caution, you always want to be sure the students are clear that learning is the main goal. You will always have students who are more interested in winning than in the material, so it can take a little redirection here and there. Healthy competition is a good thing.

Balancing the size of competitors throughout the year is important as well (a “team” can range from half a class all the way down to a single person competing against his/her peers–or even competing against themselves).

No-Tech (Pros: free, low-prep or no-prep)


Screenshot 2023-04-25 at 12.34.42 AM

Tech-Related Gaming (Pros: can be used at home for additional review/practice, can be paired in partners, working in small groups, or even individuals competing against themselves)


Just for Fun (brain breaks, setting a relaxed tone before a test, indoor recess, leftover 10 minutes in class)


What are some of your go-to games for student learning?

author bio

Leave a Comment

Share this post!