Are the children in your classroom often bored?
Are they motivated for school-work?
Do you often organise the activities, so that the children are playing games?
Do the children in your classroom tend to do a lot of work sitting and filling up the workbooks?

Motivation and engagement are prerequisites for the completion of the task or encouragement of a specific behaviour. In education, the reasons for low performance include boredom or lack of engagement (Gamification of Education by Wendy H.H and Dilip S.).

C00lSch00l Games for Young Learners

Gamification is usually connected to computer games, even in classroom use. However, every activity can be turned into a game, as long as the elements of the game are incorporated into the activity (Gamification in Education by Gabriela K. and others).

In everyday practice in schools, games are often not considered as being serious enough for classroom use. Why is that, I wonder, when research shows (Giang V., 2013) that game approaches lead to higher level of commitment and engagement and improve the results by 40%?

All well and said, but there are different types of games and not all of them lead to a 40% increase in the academic performance if they are not designed properly. 

The purpose of using 'games' in education is, mainly, to level up the academic performance, but also to practice social skills.


In order to call the activity a game, it has to include:
  • Participants are actively involved;
  • Different levels of performance (participants can level up according to their accumulated points);
  • Points (that are accumulated as a result of completing a task);
  • Badges, Stamps ... (or something that serves as a reward for completing a task);
  • Ranking of users (according to the accumulated points);
  • Well defined rules to know the consequence if not following them (added by the author of this article).


Game Inspired Designs ... 

... are the activities that do not include the elements of a game but are rather playfully designed. I use them a lot in my ELL classrooms and are very welcome as warm-up activities for either preparing children to a listening activity (concentration) or to introduce the topic/activity of the lesson.

Listening discrimination activity is a good example of a game inspired design and is described in my post 'Positive Emotional Environment'.

Serious Games ...

... are games/activities, designed for a purpose of learning a predetermined objectives through fun. They include all of the aforementioned elements of a game.

To me, serious games are the basis for education with young learners and the approach presented at C00lSch00l workshops is based on them. 

One such game, for example, is a type of cooperative structure 'Numbered Heads Together' (Kagan & Kagan 2009), which I practice with the participants at each project we run at our Saturday meetings

The aim: practising social skills, any language aim (for example sentence structure, vocabulary practice, spelling ...)
Topics covered: any
Project stage: social games
Material needed: depending on the language aim
Age: 6 years old and older (depending on the level of the game and the development of children's social skills)
Levels: many

The cooperative structure:
Children are divided into groups, (optimal is 3-4 children per group). The same task is given to all the groups. Let say that we practice sentence structure 'There is/are (something) + (somewhere)'. The teacher describes one object. Children in groups guess what the object is and they need to agree to one solution. Once they agree, they put together a sentence. Let's say that the described object was 'a chair'. Children in the groups have to come to a sensible sentence that also describes the place of the chair. Solutions are more that just one: There is a  chair in a classroom. There is a chair next to the desk. There is a chair under Mark, etc. 

"Numbered Heads Together in action at the workshop"

The rules:
Children are allowed to talk and discuss only when there is a 'discussion time'.
Once the teacher indicates that the discussion time is over, silence is required.
Only the called child can give the answer.
If the given answer is correct, the group earns points.
Level 1 - only a word is guessed. There is no sentence formation. (1 point)
Level 2 - forming a 1st level sentence: There is/are (a what). (2 points)
Level 3 - forming a 2nd level sentence (There is/are (a what) (where) (3 points)
Extra points can be given for correctly forming the plural/singular of the nouns. 
A group which earns the most points gets some kind of reward ( a stamp, a sticker ...) At the end of the month, rewards are summed up and the final winner-group is announced. The winning group gets a special treatment.

As you've probably realised, it would be better understood if I showed you the activity 'live'. Come to one of the workshops, and you'll be even involved in one. You know what B.F. said: 

The good thing about serious games is that one type of game can be tailored to so many different topics and different levels and therefore repeated so many times children really get the opportunity to get to know the game and the rules. Furthermore, they practice their social skills in their function. 

Well, there might be some challenges at the schools, which are too rigid about a lesson lasting 45 minutes: that is simply not enough time to perform such a game. (But, we'll discuss the solutions for that obstacle in my next post ...)

Games ...

... as a general term include everything mentioned above only, they are meant for entertainment.


In view of the aforementioned game-related information, there is one other aspect I have discovered in a context of language learning: 

How do the games present the usage of the language?

Low-level language-function games ...

... are the games, which focus on memorising isolated vocabulary with no apparent connection/relation to the function of the vocabulary used in a game.

an example:

Basketball: There is a basket in the middle of the room. Around it, some pictures are placed face up. One ball is also needed to play the game. 

Children take turns in stepping on/next to a chosen picture, naming the object in the picture and then they throw the ball into the basket.

The aim: memorising/pronouncing the chosen vocabulary.
The function of the language: none.
The context: none.

Mid-level function games ...

... are the games, in which the game is related to the vocabulary usage/function.

an example:

Find the right shelter: There are hoops of different colours randomly spread around the room. Children move around in a way to present one character, let's say they are the bees. As they are buzzing around, the teacher shouts: "Beware! The hornet is coming! Find the shelter!" Children run to the hoops, but they can 'hide' inside the hoop only if the colour of their clothes matches the colour of the hoop. (Which item of clothing counts is pre-determined.) The teacher checks out if the shelter was correctly chosen: Children show and tell the matching colour with the item of clothing.

The aim: memorising/pronouncing the chosen vocabulary.
The function of the language: colour is used as an identification (adjective) for a noun (clothes, hoops).
The context: The game is tailored from the story 'The three Butterflies'.

High-level function games ...

... are the games, in which the language is used beyond the isolated vocabulary use.

They are the types of games described above under ''Numbered Heads Together'.

A cooperative game in one of the Slovene state schools, where they are introducing the 'C00lSch00l' approach.

Instead of a summary

You know, there's no such thing as a 'bad game' or 'bad activity'. All of them are okay when you know:
  • that you need to use all the varieties of them (not just stick to one type);
  • what you want to achieve with a certain game;
  • to know where and how to place it in a scaffolded programme.

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