How to gamify your primary classroom: practical ideas

How often do you play games in your classroom? What for? Do you keep track of your students’ results after a game? Most teachers in primary (but not only!) rely on games because we know that kids learn through play (and it is fun, isn’t it?).

What games do you play in the ELT classroom? Do you assign points / badges / rewards? Do your pupils have an avatar? Keep on reading if you want to know how gamification can bring your lessons to life.

Let’s say that our next lesson with our 5th grade class will be on places around the world. The first thing we need to ask ourselves is what we want our pupils to learn. As we can see below, in this unit from Poptropica English Islands, students will learn vocabulary and facts about some countries and will talk about them using the phrases there is/are/isn’t/aren’t and quantifiers (how many, how much…).

Materials you will need:

  • A world map
  • Pictures of a door (one for each country)
  • Scissors and paper
  • Crayons
  • Leaderboard (design ideas on Pinterest)
  • Game rules
  1. Create a story that connects with your pupils’ real world and which involves problem-solving skills. For instance: “You are going to travel around the world. You will explore different places and finally pick one you like. You need to send a postcard to your family from this place. They would like to visit you so they need to learn about that country before travelling”.

         You can show a model of the postcard:

 

2. Let the students create their own “explorer avatar” (let them draw it!). If students project themselves into the role of a character, it will give them a sense of agency and the choices they make will personalize the learning experience for them.

3. Put up a world map and stick a picture of a door on the places you want your students to explore.

4. Explain the rules and put them up in a corner of the class so that they are always visible to students (eg. raise your hand when you finish a task; stop writing when the time is up; you can only open a door at a time).

5. Each door contains relevant information regarding a specific country, which your pupils will learn through the different tasks (small games).

6. Include several tasks/ games in each door, with different levels of difficulty and let them work individually, in pairs or as a team. Assign experience points (XP) when they have completed the task.

For instance, let’s open the door in Italy.

TASK A

Play picture bingo (check here for templates). Read the food names, one by one, as your students cross out the pictures on their cards. Spice it up and tell your pupils that if a student gets all food names on their card in less than 4 minutes, that person will get 10,000 XP, then the whole class will get 100 bonus XP.

Language: food (pasta, tomato sauce, basil, cappuccino…)

TASK B

In one minute, in pairs, students should write a list of all the animals they remember. Then, give them another minute to compare their lists with another pair and add the ones they didn’t have. Finally, read a short text about animals in Italy. Do your students have them on their lists? If so, they should circle them. Assign XP according to the number of names they got.

Language: animals (bat, deer, salamander, wolf…)

TASK C

Show a set of picture(s) which include some general characteristics of Italy (flag, people, geography, etc.). Students study the pictures for a couple of minutes. Cover them and play a True / False game.You can make your pupils stand up when they think the answer is true and remain seated when it’s false.

Language: Other facts (flag, people, geography…), there is/are…

Example:

      

  • Italian people like coffee.
  • There aren’t any important monuments in Italy.
  • Venice is in Italy.

You can assign bonus XP to students who also write T/F sentences about those pictures for their classmates.You can also leave the pictures visible, make multiple choice questions, etc.

Include the results on a leaderboard and hang it on the wall. As the students complete the tasks, they will be getting to new levels (which you can match to skills). Students will not only receive immediate feedback but they will also be able to see how they are progressing through the lesson / weeks. Remember to discuss the results with your students (what did you do here?). Students like to talk about games and without noticing they will be doing self-evaluation.

Use the leaderboard as your assessment sheet and then transform XP into letter grades.

I would suggest that when your students have finished these tasks, you check the results through other means. Did the games work for your objectives? If not, what is to be changed?

 

Images from Unsplash, Pixabay and Google Images

You might also be interested in ….

6 easy word games for the English language classroom

10 great sites with free games for practising English

What if homework was playing a video game?

Gamification and stickers

 

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About Elena Merino

Teacher Trainer for Pearson. I lived 1 year in Ireland and 3 years in the USA, where I fell in love with the English language. I’ve worked as a teacher for twelve years in different contexts and with different age groups. PhD in Communication and Multilingual Education, I’m concerned about meaningful real-world tasks that get students to communicate, in other words, how can teachers facilitate learning and engage students in the English classroom?

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