Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Educational Games for the Classroom

Contributed by Molly Van Heek, Graduate Assistant and Janae Mehlhaff, Tech Fellow for the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Are you looking to add excitement to your routine class? Educational games may be the answer! Educational games are not just for elementary students. Games can be fun and meaningful at the collegiate level as well. Incorporating games into a class can benefit students in several ways and add fun to the monotony of typical lecture classes. In this post, we will take a closer look at the benefits of educational games and explore some examples of games to utilize in the classroom.

Games in the classroom can be used to make learning fun, liven up the classroom and motivate students to learn outside the classroom. These benefits will be reaped by students and ultimately increase their learning for that particular class period. It will also increase their excitement about the material which will encourage them to continue attending class and continue learning outside the classroom.

Along with the benefits of educational games come challenges. One of the biggest challenges is making learning objectives integral to the game. In other words, instructors must work to ensure the game being used is in relation to the topics of study. Another challenge is to choose/create a game that will include everyone and give everyone the most benefit. It is important to involve everyone in the game to increase the learning for all students and not just some. Finally, the game must be somewhat difficult or challenging. It can be challenging to find the balance between fun and difficult, but a challenging game will get students involved and more determined to succeed.
A few tips to make educational games most effective are as follows:
·         Games should include competition; putting students against each other or against themselves.
·         Include fantasy or hypothetical real world situations to make it seem more believable and intriguing.
·         Explain instructions in a clear and concise manner so students understand all rules and goals.
·         Consider giving students points for accomplishing goals in the game to further motivate them.
·         Consider giving rewards for winners (rewards can either be points or small items/prizes).
Sample Educational Games
This website contains several links to games (mostly computer games) that are taken on a more serious note. Despite the serious tone, students enjoy them because of the competition and real-world features. The games are broken down into majors such as business/management, health/science, humanitarian/environmental, political, etc. 
Another option is to transform the entire classroom into a game, using role playing and hypothetical situations. This could be done by assigning each student a particular role and giving them detailed characteristics for the role or instructions pertaining to playing that role. An overall goal or situation is then given and students can interact with each other as their character. This role-playing example can be done over the entire semester as well, and each class period is a new “day” with new goals or challenges to accomplish.

An example of a game to play in business classes to incorporate lessons about trading and money is as follows:
1.      Students are given cards, either red or black. Each card will have a number on it that indicates its value.
a.       Red=buyers
b.      Black=sellers
2.      The sellers want to sell above the value listed on the card and the buyers want to buy below the value on the card.
3.      Trading will begin to take place among the students. Individual buyers and sellers have to agree on prices.
4.      Students will mark their gain on their sheet. It is a challenging game because no deal gives no gain or loss.
There are also several templates online for Jeopardy games. The templates can be edited in order to insert specific questions. The game can be played with teams instead of individual players in order to involve all students. Jeopardy has always proven to be a fun and interactive game! It is also a great way to review for an exam. One sample template is here (clicking on “Jeopardy” will allow you to have the PowerPoint version which is editable).
Games can also be created specifically for a certain class or class period. This can be very easy to do as long as there is a list of questions/answers and teams are involved. Instructors could also incorporate a Pictionary aspect to the game and have students draw items to get their teammates to guess an answer. Games similar to Catch Phrase can also be integrated into the classroom. In a Catch Phrase type game, students would describe a word to their teammates without saying the actual word and whoever guesses the word first is the winner or gets the points.

Despite the type of game being played, students will almost always enjoy taking a break from the normal classroom routine to learn actively through a game. By following the tips above, instructors will be able to successfully create their own educational games. Reap the many benefits and play a game today!
Teed, R. (2013). Game-Based Learning. Retrieved from:
Jensen, R. (2012). 50 Great Sites for Serious Educational Games. Retrieved from:
Lachut, S. (2012). The State of Games in the Classroom. Retrieved from:

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