Since playing more games in my classroom, I've been stumbling though the implementation part of it. Trial and error really. My hope with this post is two-fold. For one, I want to reflect on my lesson/game planning. And two, if any of you are considering using games in the classroom perhaps you can learn from my trials (and errors).
This is a little tricky, since different games have different objectives. For instance, some games are created to introduce a topic and should be played before the lesson. However, other games are meant as more of a review or reinforcement and would be played after the lesson. Here is my flowchart of a unit of study.
The idea of previewing a topic before pre-testing is new to me. Typically I would start by giving students a pre-test. I read about previews in the book Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci. The book suggests that before giving a pre-assessment, to quickly preview the material. It even states that 5 minutes or less will do. We could show a few examples on the board, watch a short video clip, or have a class discussion.
I teach Algebra 1 and most of the material that I cover has already been touched in to some degree in previous courses. But how much was covered and how much do they remember? You won't know unless you pre-test them. Remember to share the results with the students, but be careful with their egos the first time. I seem to get students who are not accustomed to pre-assessments. They often tell me they feel stupid. Once they become familiar with pre-assessments they understand that they will feel better once they have the chance to compare the pre- and post- test results.
Play the Game:
Most of the games that I play with the students introduce the topic so I'm going to focus on game play that takes place before the lesson. I generally don't tie the game to curriculum with introductory games until after game play. Every once in a while a students will say something like, "I enjoy playing this game, but shouldn't we be learning some math?" Ah, but you are. I like this element of surprise when I show them how the game is actually teaching some math concept or at least a connection to a math concept. I think this sudden and surprising learning experience is effective.
Teach the Lesson:
When game play is over and it's time to teach the lesson, I often refer back to the game.
"What numbers would you use to capture this city?"
"Pretend this ordered pair is one of the character in the game. How would you get him to this ordered pair?"
Just as it is important to help student make connections between topics in our curriculum, it's also important to help them make connections between the game and the topic it covers.
Once I feel that almost everybody will be successful, I give the post-test. However, once in a while I will give the students a test even when I know they're not ready. I use it as formative assessment to see what areas still need reinforcement. Sometimes this includes the game and sometimes it doesn't.
Repeat as Necessary:
I feel it's important for students to know that the teacher will work at their pace. If a class is struggling with a topic, the teacher will go back and help them.
There you have it. This is my general guideline for playing games in the classroom.