Using Gamification to Increase Student Engagement and Learning

by Karen Solis, ESL Teacher in North Carolina

Whether learning online or in the classroom, our learners today are struggling to engage in the learning process. Students have told me that learning virtually is harder because the teacher is not there to answer questions. Those in the classroom say that learning is more difficult because wearing masks makes it sometimes harder to hear or understand others. For many middle schoolers, they would rather be silent than to project to be heard across the room. So, what can we do to motivate and encourage students to forget their current physical state and engage in learning? Enter gamification. 

As defined by Oxford Languages, gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play). We often see this in the classroom as students earn points towards a goal or reward. This may be earning compliments as they travel to another classroom. 

At the elementary level, I have assigned avatars to students in a free platform, Class Dojo, to award points for good behavior as well as for speaking, listening, reading and writing in the ESL classroom. Teamwork, collaboration and cooperation are soft skills needed for our graduates, and explicitly modeling them and celebrating them when used properly and effectively brings students to a new level of understanding. 

Designed more for middle and high schoolers, Classcraft engages students with avatars and is more about creating an adventure experience as students travel on a journey while achieving content goals. 

Another site that I have used to gamify content is Flippity. Whether in person or teaching virtually, Flippity has resources to accommodate both. Many free templates are offered that you can customize, including game boards, flash cards, spinners, scavenger hunts, digital breakouts, and more.

Our students need a solid set of literacy skills today to be better equipped for whatever they face- with or without a mask- tomorrow. Using gamification is a way that we can engage our digital natives to stay motivated and learning.