Saturday, March 20, 2010

Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement

Robert Marzano's article "Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement" presents a number of valid points in favor of using games to enhance student interest and achievement. In my own experience I know that I always learned more in classes where teachers made learning fun and got students involved. Incorporating educational games into classroom teaching not only allows students to learn necessary content, it allows teachers to engage their students while providing an opportunity to gage student understanding. In his article, Marzano points out that one of the few places students regularly don't play games is in the classroom. To some this might seem natural, but in today's technologically advanced world I feel that we are really doing a disservice to our students if we refrain from using technology to enrich the learning opportunities of our students. That being said, I know that with increasing budget cuts and lack of funding schools often find it difficult to keep up with the latest technological advances. Many teachers have games pre-loaded educational games on classroom computers, yet due to the many curriculum demands would prefer students to learn the required content through the completion of paper and pencil tasks. Also, many teachers are uncomfortable with the technology themselves and thus refrain from using it in the classroom. This is understandable, but I feel that more has to be done in this area in order to encourage teachers to use more games (and technology in general) in their classrooms.

Marzano points out that students thrive in classrooms that use games that include: stakes that are not too high, target important academic content, and allow for student/teacher discussion of more difficult questions. I agree 100% with Marzano's closing comments where he points out that games are a useful tool in addressing even the most difficult content in a lighthearted and engaging way. An example of this in my own teaching involves a game that I developed to assist my students in preparing for their most recent Social Studies test on Canada's Pioneers. I devised a Jeopardy style game board (on my blackboard) that included titles such as Family Responsibilities, Aboriginal Peoples and Clearing the Land. Under each category I wrote a number of questions that dealt with each topic and assigned a point value to each correct answer given. When we actually played the game I divided the class into two teams and had students work as a team to answer the game questions. Both teams had a lot of fun and I could easily see what topics they had mastered and what areas I needed to review prior to actual test. What I would like to do in the future with the help of technology (i.e. a Smart board) is have the game transferred onto the computer and allow my students to play the game using that format.


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