How to use gamification in education

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Written by: Ruth Martín
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Genially offers tons of resources for applying gamification in the classroom, a strategy to help strengthen teaching and learning. Want to eliminate boredom and lack of motivation in your classes? Check out these tips we’ve put together to gamify successfully!!

The power of play should never be underestimated. Gamification involves using this power as a lever to achieve certain objectives, and its efficacy when it comes to improving the learning experience of people of all ages has been proven.

If you continue reading, you’ll find various examples of gamification in the classroom courtesy of our great templates which are perfect for gamifying your classes in any format; whether in-person, online, or blended.

Why are games great for teaching? 

If gamification in the classroom is new to you, you might be questioning its effectiveness in the world of education. Games are for entertaining and having fun, right? Well, for that same reason, they are a powerful educational resource.

The reason for this is in our brains: when we play, we produce dopamine, a substance related to learning and memory. When we feel pleasant sensations when we solve a problem or get an answer right, for example, we release dopamine. That’s why we tend to repeat actions that provide us with some kind of satisfaction or reward.

And beyond the reward, we are attracted to games because they happen in a stress-free fictional environment where the player can more or less control the situation and decide whether or not they want to play.

As you can see, there’s a strong case which shows that gamification fosters teaching and learning. And what’s more, they allow your students to have lots of fun and increase their curiosity and desire to learn.

Now it’s time to discover what gamified resources we can take to our classes. In Genially we divide them into 4 categories:

  1. Educational breakouts
  2. Escape rooms
  3. Board games
  4. Interactive games

Each one of these dynamics develops different skills or abilities or strengthens certain content. Want to know how to get the most out of them and successfully implement them in your classes? Let’s go!

Educational breakouts

Present your students with a motivating story! Invite them to overcome challenges to unlock boxes or uncover surprises. To do this, they’ll have to accumulate correct answers by solving questions, math problems, translating words or phrases, placing events in chronological order, and more!

Educational breakouts are a fantastic tool for gamifying the classroom because:

  • They can be adapted to any kind of content
  • They’re perfect for activating prior knowledge, and also for revising
  • They promote collaboration and teamwork
  • They teach students the value of persevering in the face of challenges
  • They develop skills like problem solving and critical thinking 
  • They activate higher-order cognitive functions, such as analysis and evaluation
  • And they’re really fun! 

Take your students on an adventure with an educational breakout like this one. Their mission is to find the 4 gems to activate the sword which will slay the fearsome dragon of the dungeon. 

To enrich the learning experience even more, you can combine it with other activities before and after the breakout. For example:

  • We can open the session with a learning trigger which will generate curiosity. Going back to the dungeon breakout, the protagonist must pass all the tests until they obtain the powerful sword to defeat the dragon. But what if before the breakout, we play an audio message from the mysterious person who forged the sword? As well as capturing students’ attention, the audio can contain clues which will help them resolve the challenges in the breakout.
  • Once they’ve completed all the challenges, raise some questions to help them auto-evaluate their performance, such as:
    • Would you have resolved any of the challenges differently?
    • In which challenge do you think you helped out most (or least) and why?
    • How would you change the story of this breakout?
    • What 3 new things have you learned about your classmates (or yourself) in this challenge?

And don’t forget to make note of their responses! They’ll help you create the next breakouts so they’re even more successful with your students.

Escape rooms

Though escape rooms and breakouts are very similar, they’re not the same. In breakouts you have to open or unlock something, such as a box or a padlock. But in escape rooms the main objective is to escape from somewhere.

Their benefits as gamification activities are also very similar. And even more so if played in teams, as it promotes cohesion in the group and each team member’s strengths can be valued.

It’s Friday, almost hometime, and WHAM! Oh no! The school doors have suddenly slammed shut and we’re trapped. There’s no one around to help us! Who could have devised such an evil plan? Will your students be able to resolve each challenge and escape before nightfall?

As you can see, the possibilities for personalization in this escape room are endless. To keep your students hooked from beginning to end, start by writing a text or story in the introduction. Edit the characters and include clues and information. All the characters can be suspicious!

Finally, you just need to edit each of the tests or challenges. Want to make it more exciting? Set a time limit in which to complete the mission and escape.

As with breakouts, you can make your escape room more immersive by drawing on prior learning, surprising them with extra objects or resources to set the scene even further, and reflective questions at the end.

Board games

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring the fun of your favorite board games into your class and have your students learn at the same time?

Gamifying your class with board games is possible and has lots of benefits:

  • They promote observation, concentration and imagination
  • Depending on the age group, using board games in class can help students consolidate concepts and content such as vocabulary, numbers, etc.
  • They invite students to solve problems, make decisions and strategize 
  • They teach students to respect rules (acceptance of the game rules will translate to house rules, school rules, and other real-world contexts)
  • They improve communication and cooperation 
  • They help students to control their impatience and tolerate frustration (they can’t always win!)

Everyone has a favorite childhood board game. Maybe yours is one of the classics, like checkers or 4 in a row, or maybe you prefer to discover new games with more original and adventurous rules or boards, like this awesome Jumanji-inspired board.

Board games are so adaptable that you can use them to teach or revise materials from any subject. Even gym! In this Jumanji example, we can work on cross-sectional content related to sustainability, for example, such as getting to know the flora and fauna of our planet and their environmental importance. We’ll show you how.

  1. Start with a video that introduces the theme you’ll be working on and whose protagonists are the most representative animals of each continent. The aim of the game will be to get to the end and reunite all the animals. But to do this, they’ll have to overcome obstacles!
  2. Try different kinds of tests or challenges in each interactive square: riddles, topic-related questions, physical challenges, and whatever you can think of! Include text, images, gifs, or videos to illustrate it and make it more fun. An example of a physical challenge could be: ‘If your turn you don’t want to lose, hop 10 meters in a kangaroo’s shoes’.
  3. We get to the final square and… JUMANJI! Don’t forget to say the code word aloud to get all the animals back together.

That’s what happens when you open the Jumanji board… you can’t stop playing until you finish the game!

Interactive games

Are you a fan of game shows and competitions with a grand prize at the end? Take the excitement to your classes with one of our interactive games. Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, the list goes on!

These games are great because:

  • They transform typical revision activities into something that’s much more fun and exciting 
  • They boost students’ desire to achieve, by awarding points for each correct answer
  • They downplay students’ errors and encourage them to keep trying 
  • They improve students’ self-confidence 
  • They allow you to easily identify the content that needs revision 

Want something simple, but super fun and motivating? Gamify your classroom with this game inspired by Wheel of Fortune. You and your students will enjoy every spin of the wheel and adding more and more points for each correct answer. The grand prize awaits! What will it be?

You can adapt the Wheel of Fortune with questions and answers on any topic. But, if you’re in a face-to-face class, you can also give them tests to work out in the classroom before coming back to the genially to select the correct response. For example, if it’s a geography question, you can ask them what the 3 longest rivers in Europe are. To find the answer, they’ll need to work with a physical map to find and select the correct answer.

It doesn’t matter if you play individually or in teams, in a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid… When you gamify your classroom there’s always one clear winner: MOTIVATION!

Ruth Martín
Ruth Martín
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