Gamification is one of the hottest trends in education, and it's easy to see why. In today's world of smartphones and social media, students find the traditional chalk-and-talk lectures to be boring. Worse, as the literacy levels of students decline due to a lack of reading skills and the movement of more leisure activities from text-based to video-based, students are less likely to read textbooks or to absorb what they read in them. By contrast, the trend toward making learning more fun by including elements of gaming has helped to reduce wandering minds and refocus attention on the important learning to be done in the classroom.
In this article, we'll take a look at some of the best activities you can use in your classroom, whatever grade you teach, to help get your middle school, high school and college students engaged, interested, and learning. But first, it's important to review online why non-lecture activities are so important.
The Importance Of Fun Activities In The Classroom
For a few years, if not a decade, the focus has been shifting from solely educational tasks to a more significant share of fun activities for students in the classroom. Strike a balance between these two types of activities, and receive a set of benefits any teacher dreams about.
- Attentiveness. Activities capture student attention and keep them interested in learning.
- Motivation. Students are more likely to come to class and participate if learning includes games.
- Collaboration. Working together on activities builds teamwork skills.
- Social Bonding. Participating together in activities can promote connections between peers.
- Reinforcement. Activities allow students to practice and reinforce classroom learning.
A Few Ideas To Get You Started With Fun Activities
You don't have to start with something very demanding— no need for hours of preparation and complex games that bore kids right from the beginning. Here is a brief but helpful list of fun classroom activities you can start with at any time:
1. Live quizzes or trivia contests. One of the easiest activities is also one of the most powerful. Quizzing students on their knowledge of lessons can reinforce what they've learned. When you add to it an extra level by having students compete in teams or by giving them the opportunity to earn prizes or rewards for winning a trivia contest, you can use their competitive spirit to help engage and motivate your students to learn more.
2. Charades or Pictionary. Having students work in teams to present course concepts or material in a nonverbal way not only helps them to retain information but also encourages students to think about course material using a different set of sensory and mental building blocks, creating new neural pathways for retaining information. Having a competition also can be motivational.
3. Tell Me Five. This simple vocabulary game gives students a fixed amount of time (say, 20 seconds) to compile a list of five items belonging to a category you decide. It's great for reviewing new vocabulary and concepts and can be especially effective in second language classes to reinforce vocabulary in the language being learned.
4. Show and Tell. A childhood favorite, show and tell can be adapted for almost any age group. You can up the sophistication of show and tell by asking students to present an oral report that they use their show and tell item to illustrate. You can also enhance the value of show and tell for older students by making it competitive and asking students to vote on who has the most interesting, humorous, etc. story to go along with an item tied to a specific lesson.
5. Comedy sketch. Another great activity for reinforcing learning is to divide students into teams and ask them to develop a comedy sketch about the lesson. Making fun of the lesson will keep their attention, but to be effective, they will also have to think deeply about the information and how to present it in a way that is both understandable and funny. Plus, getting students up and moving by performing their comedy for the class is sure to get them engaged.
6. Hold a debate. Almost every subject has areas of controversy or disagreement. A great way to get your students engaged in the nitty-gritty of your subject is to hold a debate and ask students to defend one side of a controversy in your field. This will encourage them to investigate areas of dispute, formulate arguments, and develop perspectives on these areas. Plus, the social interaction of working in teams to prepare for a debate is sure to promote peer bonding, while the competitive nature of debate can motivate even the least interested student.
7. Plan a product or a business. Put on your own version of a show like Shark Tank or Dragons' Den. Have students imagine how they would organize a business or market a product related to your topic. The process of thinking about markets (either historical or contemporary) and how to meet the needs of particular people can have many educational benefits, and students will need a deep knowledge of the subject in order to effectively pitch a business of a product to the "sharks"—i.e., you!
8. Perform community service. Taking learning out of the classroom can be a major benefit. A change of scenery can spark new neural connections, and community service is a great way to give back to the community. With more students than ever interested in social responsibility and giving back, demonstrating that the learning you do in the classroom has real life applications for improving the community can be a major boon. Identify some ways you and your students can apply what you've learned to develop a community service project and give back.
Classroom activities help make students more engaged, and they also can be a great way to test student learning without essays. After all, students are turning to professional academic writing services like SmartWritingService.com for help on their papers because essays leave them disengaged. Moving away from essays toward gamified learning can help bring students back to the classroom and to learning for themselves. All fun activities for students in school play an essential role in shaping education.