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How to use games to promote learning

Sara AustinAugust 17, 2022

How to use games to promote learning

Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now

Games are powerful tools for enhancing student learning. They can be used to increase engagement, improve retention, and boost problem-solving skills. Educational games can also be used as assessment tools, helping educators measure students’ content knowledge and track progress toward educational goals.

A 2015 research study on game-based learning found that using games in teaching gives students an opportunity to gain new knowledge and practice new skills in a low-stakes environment. This practice empowers students to take on challenges and motivates them to take risks. 

Let’s take a look at how to use gameplay in the classroom to promote learning. 

Popular types of classroom games

When it comes to using games in the classroom, not just any game will do. Gameplay in the classroom should always: 

Engage and motivate learners 

Interactive games are great for engaging students and capturing their attention. Students are flooded with new information all day long and it’s easy for them to loose focus. Fun classroom games are a way to break up the monotony and spark real interest and engagement. 

Foster relevant skills and promote knowledge acquisition

Games are a great opportunity for students to learn without the process of learning feeling like work. By using games that build the right knowledge and skills, you advance students towards their goals while also showing them that learning can be fun. Games can support the development of problem-solving and social skills or give students practice in academic areas such as reading, writing, and math. 

Include every student

Games can be a great tool for equity in the classroom when they are designed to include every student. Every student should be encouraged and empowered to participate. That means giving students of all abilities a path to success. It’s important to avoid games that include some students while excluding others.

Role-playing games

Role-playing games are a great way to engage students in learning. They can be used in the classroom to help teach history, geography, science, math, and more. Using a role-playing game as a teaching tool, students can immerse themselves in the material and learn more about the topic from a first-person perspective.

Role-playing games (RPGs) are commonly used in the classroom to engage students in learning. RPGs can be used to provide a virtual world for students to explore and learn about different concepts, such as math, science, history, etc. RPGs have been shown to be effective in engaging students in learning by providing a fun and interactive environment.


Scenario-based games are another great way to engage students in learning. They allow educators to create customized learning experiences for their students, and they can be used in a variety of settings. Scenario-based games can be used with students of all ages, and they can be used in both formal and informal educational settings.

Scenario-based games offer students a way to practice conflict-resolution and problem-solving skills in a low-stakes environment, giving them greater confidence when facing future difficulties. 

Oregon Trail was a scenario-based computer game that was very popular in the early 1990s. Players attempted to get their families to Oregon from Independence, Missouri, while avoiding predators, injury, disease, and other hazards. Players tried and tried again to make it to the end, learning from mistakes such as not packing enough food or failing to find water. 

Oregon Trail was more than just a game of hunting, trading, and battling the elements. These games ask students to immerse themselves in someone else’s experience, which is an important aspect of empathy-building. Students can learn a lot about themselves and others when placed in a new context or novel situation.  

Quiz games

Quiz games are perfect for assessing student knowledge. Some quiz games are designed specifically for the classroom, and others can be used for any type of assessment. There’s a variety of quiz games available, so it’s important to choose the game that will fit the needs of the class and the assessment goals.

Kahoot! is a very popular quiz game show app. The user interface is very simple, and it’s easy for teachers to find appropriate quizzes that have already been created or to design their own based on their students’ needs and knowledge gaps. The game works by displaying questions on a screen in the classroom. The students then respond to the question via app or in written form. Students enjoy a sense of camaraderie as they all work to answer the same questions. The app version also lets students compete against their peers to complete quizzes covering recent lesson content. 

Quizziz is another popular quiz game show app but with a twist. Students using the Quizziz app work independently to answer questions on their devices. Instead of having all students answer the same questions, Quizziz offers a different quiz to each student. Some teachers are using Quizziz to eliminate their need for worksheets as well! 

Virtual games

Virtual games have been shown to be an effective teaching tool in the classroom. Virtual games can help students learn new information more effectively by providing a stimulating environment and engaging content. Additionally, by grouping students together in online gaming environments, teachers can observe and assess individual student progress.

Virtual games are increasingly being used in the classroom as a way to engage students and improve learning. They can provide an immersive experience that engages students, creates a challenge, and allows teachers to assess student progress. Virtual games can also be used to teach concepts or skills or to motivate students.

Werewolf is a virtual game of deceit and deduction. Students become villagers or werewolves and work together in their teams to eliminate the werewolves before they get bitten.  

Among Us is a video game that many have adapted into a virtual game for playing in real-life groups. Described as a “party game of teamwork and betrayal,” Among Us gets students working together to solve a murder mystery. 

Collaborative games

Relationships are everything. Some students still need help learning how to work well with others. Collaborative games for kids are a great way to get students working together effectively. In addition, they can be used in the classroom to help students learn new skills, practice teamwork, and have fun. 

They are perfect for use in the classroom because they allow students to learn how to work together and problem solve. Collaborative games also allow students to practice turn-taking and sportsmanship – all of which are important for healthy relationships with others.

Bingo and Tic-Tac-Toe are popular collaborative games that can be tailored to all types of learning. As students answer content-specific questions, they can put marks on a board until a winner is declared. This game is a great way to get kids talking about history, science, mathematics, and more. 

To play Pictionary in your classroom, students can take turns drawing a word from a bowl and giving its definition. The player who first correctly defines all of the words wins the game. As students compete to define the vocabulary words correctly, they and their peers see their learning reinforced through repetition and recitation. 


Even in the absence of a traditional game, gamification can still be used to motivate and engage students. Gamification is a technique that uses gameplay mechanics and rewards to encourage desirable behaviors in learners. In education, gamification can be used to engage students in learning activities and improve the retention of information. Some examples of gamification applications in the classroom include using game-based learning platforms, awarding points or badges for completing tasks, and incorporating games into classes as interactive exercises.

When it comes to using games for more engaging and rewarding classroom experiences, the possibilities are endless.

Photo Credit: Google Education

Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now


Better middle school PBIS begins with better implementations

Download your free PBIS implementation guide to access best practices and an implementation checklist to build a better program in your middle school.

Download the guide now