Games in the class. Fun? Yes! Useful? Yes! Downsides? Maybe.
Knowledgehook is right from the Ontario Math Curriculum. Students log in, the lights dim, the anxiety/excitement-inducing theme music begins. The question pops up on their screens and students quickly problem-solve with peers and lock in their answers. Feedback is immediate. Groans or cheers ensue. Teacher quickly sees topics that are mastered or need to be readdressed. Kids are hooked – games are fun. They’re for review or practice, or sometimes used as a fun way to get students thinking about a new topic.
Meet Kahoot. This is just like knowledgehook except that you create your own questions. I have created Kahoots for inferencing, science review, art and math. I set the timer and decide how many multiple choice answers are presented. I control the language I like to see when posing questions for students. It’s party trivia to the extreme and kids literally cheer when it’s Kahoot time. This free website is so easy to use. Anyone with a device can log in with the code for your Kahoot and play along.
So what is the downside? Game stress pushes some kids to excel. It makes other students panic. The trivia games have countdown timers and points are awarded for both speed and accuracy. There lies the small problem. We encourage students to think deeply and take their time. Gamification of learning conflicts with this positive mindset approach. Competitiveness has its place, but it’s sometimes controversial in a classroom.
My approach, therefore, is to use games from time to time. They are never assessed, but are instead springboards for lessons or review. Students always play with at least one partner so they can lean on each others’ strengths.
One thing is certain. Game time = 100% engagement. Every time.