Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Gamification to Increase Student Motivation

I love games, perhaps maybe even a little too much. Not only did competition take place every day with my siblings growing up, but some of my best memories of games include those that took place during school. I will never forget winning one event in particular—the Utah Bee. It was an exciting competition throughout fourth grade between different classes in my area. It tested our knowledge of everything about Utah. So I guess when I started teaching English and Spanish at Sorenson’s Ranch School, I naturally looked to see ways I could add healthy competition into the activities. I have tried many different things in hopes of improving engagement. It can be hard to find the perfect activity that matches the content with something that interests the learner. In addition, some students may feel left out or bored if they do not know a lot about a specific topic. Admittedly, for various reasons, I have not done as well as I had hoped in creating a classroom that regularly uses student gameplay. In any regard, I believe that when I can effectively weave components of games into learning, students increase their participation, motivation, and social skills. a One aspect of class where I have tried to include games is during our daily starter. In English, our “Gotcha Grammar” accompanies a challenge to see who can be the first to complete the corrections needed. It adds a bit of excitement, and it helps kids into their seats to do schoolwork at the beginning of class. It also helps captivate students who maybe would not usually do the starter or be a disruption. Ultimately, I found these little grammar games are most effective when there is something to win. A small treat has done wonders in helping students give their absolute best effort. It naturally creates an environment where students look to work together to find an answer. Another occasion I have tried to add movement and fun activities is near the end of class. Researchers analyzing the average teenager's attention span, do not appear to be unanimous in their research. But, I believe that if a student can achieve roughly thirty-five minutes of studying, they deserve to have some fun. I have tried to include fun activities that have a Language Arts twist. One game is where we take a ball and play hot potato, but in this version, each student has to come up with a part of speech and not repeat what has already been said. If we are playing with verbs, one student may catch the ball and yell "to run," and the next student may catch the ball and yell "to fly" until a new verb is not thought of or repeats itself. In that case, the student leaves the game. Most students like playing these games at the end of the class, as it is a relief from studying and other stressors. It also creates a sense of community among the students and builds relationships. Teaching Spanish at Sorenson’s Ranch School has also brought many opportunities to engage students in fun activities. One lesson which I thought did well to motivate students was “Simon Says” or “Simon dice”. In this classic game, students follow the orders but with the newly learned Spanish vocabulary. Again, it has some goal resulting in a prize, like the last one standing gets a sucker. A game like this is great because it is familiar to everyone and can bridge the gap between languages. It also requires a lot of physical movement, which works as a great brain break and engages the kinesthetic learners in the room. Overall, gamification is a tool that creates a vibrant class culture and suits my teaching style. Classroom instruction should include a variety of methods to engage all types of learners. One of my challenges now is to find ways to motivate those students who perhaps are not as excited about competing over school topics. The question is if I am doing everything possible to get as many students participating and motivated as possible. It is a never-ending quest, but the more I connect school topics with the love of the game, the more motivation learners can find to succeed.

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