What can teachers and homeschool parents learn from games?
For starters, gaming is something that children are especially fond of. On the other hand, it can be difficult for them to focus on learning, especially on lessons they think are boring. However, it’s quite possible to bring the two together and make effective lessons from games.
This process, called gamification, can get your students interested in learning through writing games. The reason behind this is simply because students find games fun, and are more willing to engage in it.
Fortunately, it’s flexible for all types of learning environments – whether it’s in and out of the four walls of a classroom, or even for homeschooling.
Gamifying the Writing Process
There are four main problems with writing, at least in terms of how students perceive it. Younger students easily get bored with something that’s too technical and unengaging.
This is pushed further whenever teachers give writing assignments that are more difficult than needed. You might think you’re doing the student a favor by giving them an assignment they can’t handle, but the truth is you’re just killing their drive.
Richard Watts, Head Content Strategist at EduGeeksClub, says, “Fostering creativity requires running your student through the basics and working with them on their own pace. In a home-schooling environment, this is a great way to connect with and really interact with your student.” There are more avenues in this setting to instill in them a love of learning, since a face-to-face and one-on-one arrangement is more intimate, letting you really focus on teaching the student.
However, you may need to get through a few major roadblocks first to get a child interested in your topic.” The most common of these are the following:
- General lack of enthusiasm – whether it’s due to a bad experience in the past, or they just don’t see the value of writing in their future yet, plenty of elementary students will find writing assignments boring. To remedy this, avoid giving generic writing assignments. Also try to steer it more towards their areas of interest. This gives you an opportunity to learn more about the student as well.
- Writing for themselves – novice writers are often told that they should start first of thinking what they want to read so they can write for others. But the problem with this idea with elementary students is that they won’t take into consideration the quality of their content. You want to be able to instill in them quality writing from the very beginning, so avoid giving them the mindset of selfish writing.
- Difficulty in overall research, brainstorming, and actual writing – it can be difficult to organize all your thoughts. For younger writers this is very overwhelming and can turn them off from the process for good.
- No Impact on their daily lives – as discussed earlier, sometimes students just dislike writing because they don’t think grammar, research, or the like would really matter in the working world.
- Lack of Acknowledgement – since every learning process requires a certain amount of time and effort before you truly see their payoffs, it can frustrate young learners who are eager to see a huge improvement right away. Be the voice of reason and patience for them and assure them that in the end, all their efforts will amount to something.
Applying your solutions through gamification will make things easier for both you and your students. Fun activities are more susceptible to becoming valuable lessons than plain old workload. You’ll be able to engage a single student better, though you may want to occasionally get them to participate in group games with their friends as well.
Mechanics of Gamification
Like any game, it’s important to set clear guidelines before starting. Here are the main points you need to polish before introducing the game:
- Goals – are part and parcel of motivating a student. When they achieve a certain goal they feel more accomplished and confident about what they’ve done. To make it agreeable to them, make sure they also participate in goal-setting. Ask the student what they want to achieve, and add a bit of your insight.
- Rules – will also guide them on the do’s and dont’s of your writing assignment. You’d want to foster creativity and imagination in writing, but similar to keeping students grounded in quality content, setting guidelines to follow will also help them come up with polished output.
- Feedback Process – this works great either as a peer-to-peer system or even just with you giving the student direct feedback. Establishing what kind of outcome they should expect from the writing game gives them an idea on how to polish their writing next time.
Top the entire fun assignment off with a few handy tools that students can relate to. Here are a few tools to help you and your student track their progress in a fun and engaging way:
- Socrative – this incorporates visual appeal into real-time feedback that helps your students understand how to improve writing
- ClassBadges – establish an external motivator through this tool that awards badges to students who have done well in a writing assignment
- Rezzly – create and design fun quests for students that they can bring with them wherever they go through their personal digital devices.
Find Writing Games
- Fun English Games – Check out these fun writing games for kids. Enjoy a range of free activities, resources and practice exercises related to writing letters, stories, newspapers, debates, advertising and instructions.
- Reading & Writing Games
- Games for Writing – About this book: “Children will maneuver through mazes to improve their handwriting, learn the alphabet by baking pretzels, play rhyming games to stretch their vocabulary, and crack secret codes while practicing their spelling. Even the most hesitant young authors will warm to writing when creating menus for monsters, thinking up orders that parents must obey, and composing stories – long, long stories – on adding-machine tape. The games are easy to play, requiring few or no materials, and are remarkably effective. While playing, children develop the skills needed to write clear and lively prose. Better yet, they may discover a true love of writing.”
- Mad Libs – Have fun playing this creative “fill in the blank” word game while learning nouns, adjectives, adverbs and more!
- Online Word Games – Funbrain offers a host of online word games for kids.
- Online Reading & Writing Games – Brain Pop Jr. offers a wide selection of reading and writing games.
Engage students’ imaginations and instill in them a better love of learning through gamification. This breaks down even extremely complex assignments into something everyone can enjoy and relate to.
Author Bio: Joan Selby is an ESL teacher and blogger. Former CalArts graduate and fancy shoelover. Giving creative touch to everything A writer by day and reader by night. Check out her new FREE Guide to Essay Writing. Find her on Twitter and Facebook