Saturday, July 16, 2016

Playful Learning: Part 3 (Fostering Collaboration Through Social Gaming and Team Building)

When you strive to gamify your classroom, the first thing I would recommend is to think about the games that you or your kids love.  These might be casual mobile games like Words with Friends, Angry Birds, or Candy Crush.  They might be board games like Monopoly, Pictionary, or Candyland.  They might be video games like Minecraft, Supermario, or Halo. What makes these games fun for you or your students?

Consider what makes games so fun for you and your students.

There are a few ways which I think can make student learning more "game-like" and thus more fun.

Here are some elements that I have believe to be the most important to foster playful learning in your classroom.  In this post I am going to discuss social gaming and collaboration:
  • Friendly Competition
  • Social gaming and collaboration
  • Having choice
  • Achievements and Badges
Social gaming
As I mentioned in Part 1, many gamers are motivated by the social aspects of games.  When kids can play with their friends, they are often more engaged and work toward goals for a longer period of time.   

My students love to play "I have...Who has..." games in teams to try to work together to beat the fastest time.  This game requires good communication and teamwork to be completed successfully.

Many children love to play video games like Minecraft where they can create entire worlds together.  Some educators have even found very effective ways to use this  popular game to teach standards. My students love to collaborate with their peers using apps like iMovie, Garageband, or Toontastic to create a movie, or podcast, puppetshow.  In my afterschool Technology Club I challenged my students to work in teams using the Minecraft app to build a pixel art world using patterns that I had printed out. They produced amazing results.

Even games that are competitive can have a social element.  Few would argue that playing the game Words with Friends isn't improved by the social aspect of the game.  It is certainly MUCH more fun to play against a friend or even a random stranger than sitting at home playing making Scrabble words by yourself.  My point?  Even games where students compete can help build social connections.

Building Community with Team Building
Another way to build camaraderie in the classroom is to do team building activities.  In the past, I'd do a few teambuilding activities at the start of the year to help set a positive tone.  Last year, my teaming partner and I decided to do this weekly, and it was tremendous success. Here are a few examples of team building challenges we tried:

  1. The Marshmallow challenge.  If you're interested in doing this I'd watch this video from Ted Talks about the interesting research into this activity.   This site has a nice description of how to do the activity.

  2. Breakout games.  You probably have heard of these escape or breakout games as they are all the rage for adult outings. If you've never done one, I'd highly recommend it as it is a ton of fun!
    One we played in Nashville
    The goal is usually to solve a series of puzzles to get out of a room in a set period of time.  Did you know you can do these in your own classroom, too?  Checkout for ideas on how to do this.  These are SO FUN!

  3. Body through an index card activity.  This activity is great for teaching "grit" or perseverance as there is certain to be a lot of failure with this activity.  Make sure you have lots of index cards!  Here's how to do it.
  4. Cups challenge.  This is great for groups of 4.  Read a description of how to do this fun activity here
  5.  Lego challenge.  This simple activity my teaching partner thought up involved 2 sets of identical Lego pieces.  Students would be partnered with a barrier between them so they can't see what the other built.  One partner would build something and then the other partner would have to build it based on their description.  This was great for practicing communication skills.

  6. Do the impossible. For this activity students sit on each other's lap in a circle.  See this video for how it is done:
  7. STEM related challenges like "Save Fred."
  8. Untie the knot activity.  Take groups of students form a circle and have them randomly grab the hand of someone else inside the circle.  Then have the untie the knot by stepping over or under arms as they untie and forma circle again.
  9. Group puzzles.  I just discovered this fun puzzle on TedTalks.  I had fun trying to figure it out.
  10. Magic Carpet - Students in groups stand on a blanket and are challenged to stand on the others side without stepping off.  Read a more detailed description of the activity here.
Most teachers know that building community in your classroom is more difficult some years than others based on the students you have. What I learned this year was that aside from doing team building activities the first weeks of school (which I always did), students benefited from doing this all throughout the year. It reminded us to communicate positively and to work together for a common goal. It helped strengthen friendships and improved the relationships of students who weren't best friends, too. 

I hope you found a few ideas here that you can use in your classroom.  Have some team building activities or other ways to build community in your classroom? Leave your ideas in the comments.

If you'd like to read more check out my blogposts on
Playful Learning :

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