- Finding that standardized test prep is more necessary than he originally thought, and setting out to help his students review material taught months earlier, Ohio 5th-grade science teacher Pete Barnes writes for Edutopia that he wanted to create a better way to help them engage.
- In what he calls a "Science Ninja Training Unit," he uses the movie “King Fu Panda” as a starting point, showing clips of the movie to students over two weeks and having them work through different exercises meant to be fun, such as a scavenger hunt. While they’re still reviewing for state tests, they're also more deeply embedding their learning.
- In some instances, students get to make more independent decisions over their work, some of which is hands-on and involves, for example, putting images of things from outer space in order of size. Other exercises are done with Barnes, with each student working on what they need to prepare.
Games have proven to be an effective way to deliver information to students. The youngest of students can tap into game-based models even when academics are not the primary goal. Winning at the game hopscotch, after all, requires basic counting skills and numeric identification.
However, the use of game-based learning can also bringing additional benefits beyond test prep, as Edutopia reported, and help to develop more than academic skills. Using games in a classroom setting can provide students an opportunity to develop social and emotional (SEL) skills — tools that traditional test preparation methods may not offer.
Educators already know that bringing SEL skills into classroom lessons is important. Gameplay is one way to do this, as students need these kinds of skills to even engage in a game successfully, collaborating with their peers and also handling disappointment. Knowing how to move forward when they lose and start up another round without reacting badly is ultimately equally important to winning.
Finding ways to embed those skills into things students are already doing, whether that be everyday assignments, test prep or another area of curriculum, is crucial. Finding a way to do so through a game-based model, where students benefit from collaboration, peer learning opportunities, and the lessons in empathy that come with them, is a natural fit.