For children and adults, play is a meaningful way to learn. In some ways, it can be more memorable than other forms of rote learning. From childhood, imaginative play is appropriate and important to build the foundations of learning. Learning doesn’t just stop as we get older. Playing games, like through gameschooling, is a large part of how we learn.
For many, learning through doing and experiencing is much easier than reading about something. For example, ask your child or student to memorize the 50 states and capitals. See how long they can remember or retain it. Now ask them to play a geography game where learning the states and their capitals lets them win. Guess which works? Students who play well have better social skills, are more creative, have stronger motor skills, and have longer attention spans than children who lack time and opportunity for play.
Incorporating games into the classroom or homeschool is a great way to harness this natural tendency for academic gain. Whether you’re a classroom teacher looking to increase student engagement or a homeschool parent who wants to incorporate more fun into your child’s day, gameschooling might work for you.
What is Gameschooling?
Gameschooling is the intentional use of games to teach academic skills. You can apply gameschooling to any academic skill. Instead of just random playing (which also has its merits, but more on that later), gameschooling focuses on teaching through play. Students remember best what they choose to learn. Gameschooling is not just fun and entertainment – this is learning.
Yes, students can learn almost everything they need to know through games. And they can learn it without tests, red ink, homework, or correction. More importantly, students can learn without judgment or failure. So you lost the game? Who cares? Play again until you win. Learn about perseverance and hard work while playing a game.
You might think I’m crazy. How many of your kids struggle to memorize five historical facts but can tell you every single nuanced rule for building in Minecraft? Did they take a class on Minecraft? No! They wanted to win. They wanted to know more. So, they taught themselves and remembered everything they learned.
Admittedly, while Minecraft strategies may not serve them in life, how about other games? How about tactics, strategy, math, finance, and spelling? It’s all there in gameschooling.
Gameschooling: A Cure for Boredom
Students often complain of boredom to stop paying attention, which stops the learning process. Gameplay breaks up the monotony of the day and adds novelty. You can enhance almost all learning with the inclusion of a game!
There are a variety of games you can adapt for educational purposes. Deciding which one might be right for your situation depends on your teaching content and the learning outcomes you’re targeting.
Incorporating games can be a great way to stimulate learning, engagement, and excitement. A good game of Uno requires knowing whether a number is greater or less than the number on the table – that’s math! Skip-Bo might seem like it’s all fun, but it’s actually a great lesson in using strategy. Risk teaches strategy and critical thinking. See? You can do this.
Many board games contain educational elements without any need to adapt or change anything. Just play. Even if the game doesn’t address the specific content you’re teaching, don’t forget that board games practice valuable skills such as taking turns, counting, moving in order, following rules, sportsmanship, and critical thinking. Additionally, many common board games can be easily adapted to address content-specific knowledge like spelling, math, geography, history, and more.
A great game of chess offers so many learning opportunities. Trivial Pursuit is fun and touches on geography, science, history, and more. Ticket to Ride and Wildcraft and Apples to Apples are more examples of gameschooling!
At Anything Academic, we offer a plethora of age-specific games. Let us know your interests, age-range, and find the perfect game right now!
Dramatic Play or Role-Playing
Dramatic play is one of the most important yet neglected play elements for young children. Unfortunately, many of our public schools are forcing out dramatic play opportunities in favor of more formal academic instruction. This is a mistake! As educators, we should encourage dramatic play by providing time and space for children to take on imaginative roles and immerse themselves in a play narrative. You can’t force dramatic play, but you can shape elements to encourage it. It sparks a love for public speaking and inspires confidence and the ability to engage an audience. These are all excellent skills for a well-rounded child.
We live in a digital world, and students of all ages have access to the world wide web at their fingertips. We would be remiss, as parents and teachers both, to neglect the many awesome academic gaming opportunities available. Whole networks have been dedicated to educational games. Many of those digital platforms can do a much better job of quickly assessing our students’ skills and deficits than us, all while engaging students in the form of a game. It is a win-win opportunity. How would you like to learn chemistry? From a textbook or saving the world from the evil mastermind in a video game? Which would your child choose? What if both of them taught lessons on carbon dioxide equations? They do!
While parents and teachers should not overlook digital games, many are concerned with the negative influences of too much screen time for children. This is where tangible, kinesthetic, or hands-on games are superior. In fact, in my experience as a public school teacher, students find kinesthetic games more engaging than digital games because the novelty of clicking a button has worn off after years of button-pushing. Students would rather roll actual dice, toss a ball, or arrange manipulatives than they would do those things virtually. The options for hands-on games are practically endless. You can enhance almost any content by adding hands-on gaming elements.
Gameschooling and Family Game Night
One of the best aspects of gameschooling is that it brings families together. It replaces homework with family games that teach while having fun. Spend time laughing around a table playing Trek and learning geography or Scrabble and perfecting spelling skills and vocabulary. Family game night can focus on learning and spending quality family time instead of working apart independently.
Gameschooling can be a primary way to teach, with some families only utilizing this educational style or, more often, a supplement to other learning methods. Whatever you choose, sit back, play a game, and learn!