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Why students should be playing video games in the classroom

Amanda ClarkNovember 14, 2018

3 students pointing at a laptop screen

You’ve probably heard your students talking about video games at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve caught them playing Angry Birds on a tablet hidden in their desk or eavesdropped on discussions about Fortnite.

You might even be a fan of mobile games yourself or still have a slight obsession with Candy Crush. The reality is that video games are everywhere, and kids love them! Teachers sometimes feel like they’re competing with technology, but why not use our students’ passion for video games in an educational way?

For years video games have had a bad reputation due to violence and gore. Some parents and teachers aren’t aware that there are educational video games that teach students about spelling, ancient civilizations, math, and other school subjects. Research has even found that playing video games can improve moods and problem-solving skills.

If you’re looking for a fun way to motivate and educate students, check out these platforms that make it easy to integrate video games into your classroom.

Introduce gamification to your classroom with Classcraft.

7 educational platforms that bring video games into your classroom

Classcraft Quests Screenshot

1. Journey on educational quests with Classcraft

Classcraft is an excellent tool for project-based learning, but it’s also a good way to integrate video games into your classroom.

Teachers can customize specific quests based on their curriculum, and students can collaborate with each other online in a colorful RPG world. Sit back as your kiddos partake in discussions, take quizzes, receive points for assigned behaviors, and fight bosses in preparation for exams.

Classcraft presents beautiful characters and animated lands that your kids won’t be able to get enough of. They might even ask to play a quest for homework!

Use this educational platform to enrich any educational unit. Teachers and parents alike will appreciate that students are enjoying a game as well as learning.

Scratch Screenshot

2. Learn programming basics with Scratch

Did you know that some colleges like Champlain College and Full Sail University offer official degrees in video game design? Give your students a leg up by introducing them to Scratch — a language that even Harvard uses at the very beginning of its CS50 Introduction to Computer Science course!

Scratch is a super-simple visual programming language that lets you create animations and games as you learn the basics of computer programming. Teachers can easily integrate it into their STEM curriculum, especially for students interested in programming.

Trust me, your students will love creating their own games and animations. And you’ll be amazed by what they create!Civilisation Screenshot

3. Build a society with Civilization Revolution

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about how one of my favorite projects is having students create their own countries. Well, Civilization Revolution is like the video game version of this project!

It’s a beautiful strategy game where players get to develop their own civilization from the beginning of time to the modern age. Players compete with NPC (non-playable character) civilizations and win by advancing their own civilization the most. They do this by researching new technologies, managing their economy, developing cultural monuments, and possibly even going to war (don’t worry — it’s all kid-friendly). With this educational video game, students can run their own society, role-play scenarios, and learn about specific time periods.

Teachers can successfully integrate Civilization Revolution into social studies curriculum to study the decisions that civilizations have made throughout history. And you can easily play it on in-class devices. So what are you waiting for? Get your students excited about history with this educational game!Nasa kids screenshot

4. Get spacey with NASA

Want an accessible website that lets students play educational video games? The NASA website does just that! Students can play many different video games while learning about space and applying logic and math, too.

Use this site along with a space unit to capture kids’ attention. The easy user interface and game varieties will have them hooked! Best of all, it’s free.

Imagine assigning students to play NASA video games after reading about the space race. You’ll be a rock star (even more than you already are).Vocabularyspellingcity screenshot

5. Boost language arts skills with Vocabulary Spelling City

Vocabulary Spelling City is one of the neatest programs I’ve used with my students. With it, teachers can customize their own spelling lists or choose from premade teacher-created lists.

But I loved using this in my class because students can play video games involving the vocabulary words I’ve assigned them. There are numerous games on this platform that students can choose from. Some are simple like crosswords and word finds. Others, like Speedy Speller, are highly addictive — this one was an instant hit in my classroom! The kids loved typing their spelling words as quickly as they could. When they spelled a word correctly, they’d move on to another one.

There are even scoreboards like the old arcade games, and my students loved the competition. They would “study” for hours to earn the first-place title. And then they’d usually ace the test!

This program has so many video games based on spelling and vocabulary words that can quickly boost your kids’ language arts skills. Vocabulary Spelling City tricks students into learning, and teachers are all about that!Nancy Drew screenshot

6. Put on your detective hat with Nancy Drew

If you have any Nancy Drew fans in your class, then they’ll surely enjoy the PC video games that enhance critical thinking skills and involve a lot of on-screen reading.

There are so many Nancy Drew video mystery games where students play the detective and have to use trial and error to solve a crime. Don’t worry, the crimes in Nancy Drew are much tamer than those of CSI! These games are recommended for ages 9 and up, but I admit that I love to play them, too.

Throughout each video game journey, students have to read numerous conversations and questions on the screen. Then, they pick the most logical response. This video game provides opportunities for students to read and solve critical thinking puzzles. Plus, it might spark a desire to read some Nancy Drew books, too!Minecraft Screenshot

7. Integrate premade curriculum with Minecraft

What kid doesn’t love Minecraft? Many teachers don’t know that this game has an entire set of premade educational lessons that can cater to almost any subject and enhance your students’ in-class learning. I taught at one school that even had a Minecraft club!

In this fun online world, students can maneuver characters and collaborate. They can also learn about the ancient Egyptians or take an online trip to the zoo. Students can even collaborate to form their own government as well as develop critical thinking skills by deciding what they want to build.

This video game has an endless supply of resources that can benefit your classroom. And it’s certainly more education-friendly than the Sims!

The benefits of using video games in the classrooms

Incorporating video games into your classroom can motivate students and provide another way to reinforce learning. And since video games are so popular, they’re probably not going away anytime soon (if ever). Since this fun mode of technology captures student’s interest, why not educationally integrate games into the classroom?

Who knows? Maybe playing educational video games in a supervised environment will encourage students to make wiser choices when it comes to video games at home. After all, part of being a teacher is encouraging our students to make smart decisions and preparing them for the future. 

When it comes to video games, modeling positive gaming behavior and offering good choices certainly falls into that category. 

As a teacher, you also know that students tend to understand more when they’re actively interested. Video games are one more way to motivate students to learn. And that’s a solid positive!

Photo credit: John Schnobrich /