Do Classroom Games Help Students Learn?

It’s been a long week, an endless winter. Students file into my classroom, looking weary.

“Can’t we just play a game today?” one of them asks.

In the last thirty years, many standard teaching methods have lost favor. We are discouraged from lecturing, drilling,  and other teacher-centric teaching methods because they do not ‘engage’ students. Group work, hands-on activities, layered curriculum, differentiated instruction are all the rage.

Games fit neatly into a child-centered classroom. But are they a valid way to teach? Do kids actually learn better by playing games than through other activities?

My answer: sometimes, but usually not.

In a foreign language classroom, we do many things: we read, we write, we listen, we talk. The goal is to form habits of memory and use.

There is a time limit for these activities: fifty minutes a day, five days a week, 180 days a year. Three years of instruction add up to 27,000 minutes (before subtracting announcements, assemblies, and other random interruptions.) As any language teacher (or learner) can tell you, this is barely enough to learn to communicate in another language. Many people think it would be nice to be able to speak another language, but have no idea of the time and effort demanded.

Where do games fit in? More

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