Guest Contributor: Carlos Diaz, The American School, Vietnam

It is the cold truth: a video game will catch your students’ attention more than the elaborate, cool plan you stayed up all night preparing for. For some instructors, this may be a sad truth. For others, this is simply the way society is evolving. But hopefully, you can see this as an opportunity. You can use games in your classrooms to boost engagement, confidence and learning.

More and more students are responding positively to what is known as Game Based Learning (GBL): teaching strategies using games or gamification to find a better approach to learning. The theory is simple. Have you ever seen a cat learning how to hunt? How does it learn that skill? Not using lectures or homework–they do so by playing. Children apply this same concept. Many fundamentals of what they learn while playing endures longer in life. So educators began using gaming concepts to tweak their lessons, finding more engagement and confidence from the students. Here are some ways you can do so too!

1. Gamify your class

If you are not ready to use proper games to teach your subject, you can still use the main elements that make games what they are. Known as gamification, the strategy involves giving a level-based growth to your students with rewards for showing learning, consequences for not engaging, and controlled random events that make the student feel the class is an adventure.

Some instructors use tabletop role play rules (like Dungeons and Dragons) to achieve this. They give every student a character sheet where they have listed their skills and powers: perks in class, like being able to eat breakfast in class or any kind of reward you can control. Every assignment they have is an adventure, obstacle or boss they have to defeat using teamwork and knowledge. Other teachers use LMS that are already gamified, like Classcraft which is mostly free and does a lot of work for you.

2. Make game assessments

Assess learning with a game! There are thousands of online games for almost any subject, you only need patience and Google. Even so, if you are like me and like customization, you can create your own game. PowerPoint is a powerful platform for point and click games or choose-your-adventure games. There are even tutorials to learn how to best use it for game design, so you can be sure the game will address the exact standard you are looking to assess.

3. Use self-made games to teach a subject

You can also create a more complex game to make a point, explain a standard or have students use subject mastery to win. Think of it as creating an adventure for your students to learn as they go through it, and you as a game master to help them get there and save the day. The key is to make it interactive enough for the students to feel their choices are making the game flow. It is all about empowerment!

4. Encourage game design

You can also have your students create their own game related to the subject. They can be simple, complex, board game or digital. You can help by providing a template and guiding them to the game creation process: rules, consequences, gameplay and rewards. Most importantly, you’ll help them keep subject mastery as the main point of the game. You can even make a game day with them and test out the best ones!

» For even more ideas, view our other posts on gamification in the classroom.

And always remember, having fun with learning is what makes it last the most!