Monday, 7 March 2016

The Importance of Play - Games in the Classroom

I have been working with an incredible young entrepreneur in Toronto. Kevin Munn has worked in education for seven years. He has been a Child and Youth Worker, ESL teacher and tutor. I know that I would have loved to have had Kevin work with me and my students. He is responsive to student needs and interests, creating games for them to learn and practice skills. Games helped Kevin learn when he was a student and he created games for the students he worked with. Students with a variety of academic, social and emotional needs responded positively, engaged in their learning. His games became popular with teachers and he created sets for them, even buying his own personal laminator to set up customizable games for them. 
Captain Handsome and my MIL tested the games before I brought them to the ESL class
This year, Kevin's company, Hungry Minds Academy has created "Academy in a Box" - four fully-customizable card and board games for students. I have been using several of the games with my Hotel ESL class and the Syrian refugee youth have been able to understand and engage with them easily.

Kevin is joining #cdnedchat tonight from 8-9 p.m. EST for a chat about the importance of play, particularly about why we should and how we could use board games in the classroom.

He is passionate about empowering students to learn at home and at school and has done the research to back up his product line. Tonight, Kevin's questions are based on a five-year evidence based study (including the complied results of sixty independent studies) about the benefits of gameplay on learning.
Tonight's chat will ask you to read some of Kevin's discoveries before you share your own experience. We don't usually give you a sneak preview, but here are Kevin's questions and what we'll be talking about in #cdnedchat tonight:

Q1: How do you use games (esp board games) in your classroom?

Games are inherently engaging to most students, but how they are used determines how effective they can be in a classroom.  Teachers who use games deliberately have the best results.
Many game mechanics include an element of competition, but that can be downplayed, so that learners see that the competitive aspects are not the focus. (Shauna's note: competition is not inherently evil, but competition and learning don't play well together)
Q2: How do you use inconsequential competition in class?

If games do not focus on important academic content, they will have little or no effect on student achievement.

Q3. How do you work essential academic content into games?

The studies referred to found the most common error teachers make when using games is after the games are complete.  Often teachers just add up team points and move on.  They miss out on the opportunity to debrief to go over aspects that are now clearer, were most difficult at the time, etc.

Q4. How long do you debrief after games, and what do you discuss?
Another boost in the effectiveness of games in the classroom was found in having students take notes on the game/lesson afterwards.  Or to allow students to go back and correct homework, etc. with this new knowledge.
Q5. How can you have students reflect or act on what they learned from their participation in games?

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