It seems like Day 227 of forever of home learning and you and your children are at a loss – of education-related things to do, learning anything new and exciting, and the motivation to look for fresh ideas. Unlike many families you know, you don’t have the means – or desire – to purchase the latest and greatest in gaming consoles (so no one is creating a virtual school in Minecraft). There are game apps you and your children play on their devices, but not too many support learning in your view. So now what? How about adding a twist to games you already play? Or better yet, creating an original game? Before we start sharing a few ideas, let’s review why games are valuable for learning.
Research has shown that playing games can –
- increase learner motivation and engagement
- boost critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- provide immediate feedback to reinforce the learning
- strengthen a learner’s connection to a concept or skill by making it more meaningful
Take that a step further to have children create alternative rules for a familiar game or construct an original game, so that learning moves from the traditional intake of information to processing the learning using a project-based strategy. For example, most children know how to play Tic-Tac-Toe with one competitor. What about playing with three players? Or four? Or with a 4 by 4 grid instead of a 3 by 3 grid? When children alter the play, they also think through the changes in the rules. As they do that, they are also developing possible strategies, strengthening critical thinking skills. The icing on that “new twist” cake? By explaining how to play the altered version of the game, children will learn more about how they think and process information than they would reading about it in a book or worksheet. What are some other benefits to children creating their own games?
- The creativity involved is rigorous but results in a memorable learning experience
- Generating new concepts and skills moves beyond rote learning to deeper understanding of the “big idea”
- Children will develop perseverance since mistakes will be made and the motivation to “keep going” strengthened
- Designing a new game can be a collaborative project that involves communicating, respecting the ideas of others, and being willing to revise thinking – all important 21st century skills
Does the idea of creating games sound fresh and exciting, but also daunting? Here are a few ideas to try:
- Make a simple memory-style game using clip art, printables, stickers, etc. Perfect for younger ones! Try Clipart Library to find fun and free images.
- Repurpose a favorite board game, such as Monopoly or Life, in which the rules of play are familiar and can be adapted to different situations
- Create an original board game using printable templates found online. HubPages has 16 Free Printable Board Game Templates
- Design a Family version of Guess Who? There are quite a few online examples of modifying this game. Here’s a link to a free DIY Guess Who printable template
- Use G Suite for Education services (like Google Classroom) to design games using spreadsheets or a slide presentation. If you’re unfamiliar with G Suite for Education, Boxlight Together has free online classes to help you navigate the programs. Learn more: Boxlight Together
Incorporating game play and game design can enhance instruction and strengthen critical thinking skills for all learners. Start by explicitly teaching how to alter/design the game, then step back and watch the creative juices flow. The independence will allow for a more authentic learning experience and one that will be remembered for a long time. The skills they develop as they work through games will help them strengthen important 21st century skills. Plus, playing games is fun!