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Learning Library Blog 5 Ways to Gamify Your Classroom
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5 Ways to Gamify Your Classroom

By Michele Haiken
February 12, 2021
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Many of our students play video games regularly, and you might, too. That's a good thing. When my 13-year-old is playing video games, he’s using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context, and he gains actionable feedback he uses to win the game.

When he fails to level up, he doesn’t give up but continues playing until he progresses to the next level. He also seeks information online to help him find Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. He teaches his friends how to power up with each level of the game. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.

How can we use this pervasive and engaging gaming phenomenon to redesign and supercharge the blended learning experience? Here are five ways to gamify your classroom to boost engagement, collaboration and learning in remote, hybrid, and in person learning environments:

1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use.

Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, Connect Four and Scrabble have been around for decades and can be adapted for classroom learning. Put vocabulary words on bingo cards and see if students can match the words after hearing the definitions. Working in groups, students can play Scrabble by spelling out answers to content-specific questions. Try a scavenger hunt. If students are remote you might provide students with a list of items to find around their home and then share on Zoom or during a Google Meet. In a hybrid setting consider putting students in teams using the app Goose Chase to create digital scavenger hunts by sending students off to take pictures, create a video or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.

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2. Play digital games. 

Students love playing Kahoot!, Quizizz, Quizlet Live, Gimkit and the newest online trivia and games, Blooket. These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from the thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking in online learning.

Quizzes are a form of retrieval practice, which is firmly rooted in the learning sciences as a method to help people remember and cement their learning. A summative analysis of over 200 experiments conducted across 70 years indicates that retrieval practice, that is when you force yourself to remember — whether it’s a quiz, a flashcard or a game — you are more likely to remember and learn the content than if you were to flip through your notes a few times.

Need help meeting K-5 curriculum standards? Read this book on Infusing Tech in the K-5 Classroom.

3. Create a quest.

A quest is a mission with an objective. Every year my students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events reading. Students who correctly answer a specific text-dependent question earn points. The student with the most points after six weeks wins a prize. I post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn extra points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.

4. Battle it out with a boss battle. 

In gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. On the gamification platform Classcraft, teachers can create their own boss battles and quests using questions from any content area. Teachers can also create boss battles using Google Forms or Google Slides, creating their own unique fictional boss.
5. Earn a badge for mastery.

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with badges, which go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadges or can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding of subject matter. Whether teachers are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, they can use gamification elements to enhance learning and student engagement and address the ISTE Standards.


Michele Haiken is a literacy teacher at Rye Middle School in Rye, New York, and an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. She is the ISTE author of New Realms for Writing: Inspire Student Expression with DIgital Age Formats, Personalized Reading: Digital Tools and Strategies to Support All Learners, and the Jump Start Guide Podcasting for Students: Tips and Tools to Drive Creative Expression. Learn more about applying gaming techniques to learning in Haiken’s ISTE book Gamify Literacy: Boost Comprehension, Collaboration and Learning.