Using iCivics and gamification to teach students about citizenship

Civic education is one of the most important things students will learn in school. Civics is where students gain an understanding of what is required of the citizens of a nation in order to maintain that nation’s political structure.

In America, this involves an active and informed participation in the democratic process. Making sure students understand the founding constitutional principles and the rights, liberties, and responsibilities that come with citizenship is vital. In a technological world, presenting this information to students in game form is a wonderful way to help them gain civic understanding.

One way to do this is to use a platform like iCivics. ICivics includes lesson plans for the teachers on all of the important concepts in civic education. It also includes games and activities the student can use to promote learning. All of the games are well-developed and help teach an important civic concept. Some games are more targeted at elementary school, some middle, and some high. I teach high school government, so I have more experience with games at that level.

3 iCivics games for high school students

iCivics - Do I Have a Right?One of the games I have found to be most helpful in my classes is “Do I Have a Right?”. This game has two versions, one that focuses on just the Bill of Rights and one that covers all amendments. Students play as a lawyer who must decide if the person has a constitutional issue, then help people by matching their problems with the proper amendment. This is very helpful when trying to teach students their amendments. Because this game has two focuses, teachers can choose which aspect will best help their students.

Another iCivics game I have found helpful is “Win the White House.” This game walks students through the election process, from Primary to Election Day, from the perspective of the candidates. Students choose a party affiliation and issues that are important to them. They then must use fundraising, press conferences, debates, and advertising to gain the most electoral votes. The game also does a great job teaching the electoral college structure as well as highlighting some of the problems inherent with its continued use in a technological age.

The last game I always use every year is “We the Jury.” Students act as a member of a jury hearing a court case. This game simulates debate and discussion between the jurors on the facts of the case. Jury duty is one of the responsibilities of American citizens that students need to know about. I use this game to introduce several important court cases and talk about their importance and how they were handled.

Other tools to gamify civic education

iCivics is not the only great site to use if you want to gamify civic education. The ReDistricting Game is another great way to promote civics learning through games.

ReDistricting Game focuses on the purpose of redistricting and the problems of gerrymandering. Students must redistrict an area to create safe seats for their preferred candidate, remove a seat from an opposing party, or disenfranchise a specific group. This game provides a hands-on learning experience for one of the most important civics issues. The site also contains lesson plans for the activity and links to ways to get involved.

These games can be used to spark discussions on issues that are important to students, such as discrimination or problems within the election cycle, that lead to personal connections and teachable moments for the whole class. This creates interested students which leads to engaged, informed citizens.

Since I began using gamification in my classroom, I have seen a sharp rise in students’ civic interest.

Photo credit: Orhan Cam /
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