Gamification – A way into engaging students more

Let’s start by defining gamification, which according to Oxford Dictionary is  the application of typical elements of game playing to other areas of activity. In our case, it’s the is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate students to achieve their goals.

Games have existed for a very long time and are considered an activity, normally voluntarily, performed within a timeframe and space according to established rules with an end or a goal in itself which provide a bit of tension and joy, according to Flora Alves (2014).

When we apply these concepts to our lessons, our aims are to engage students and help them learn better without paying much attention to language, as their main focus would be the game itself. Some researches present the fact that the brain acquire more information when using more than one capacity, I mean, when performing more than one action or activity is involved.

It is quite obvious that not all the class could be transformed in a game, but several of its elements could.

In order to gamify the activities, we have to consider certain characteristics of the games and they are:

  • Challenge;
  • Cooperation and/or competition;
  • Rewards;
  • Transactions;
  • Turn taking;
  • A bit of luck;
  • Getting resources; and
  • Feedback, which is a very important feature, from my point of view.

Several tasks of a language lesson can be turned into a game, in the sense of promoting more engagement. Doing an exercise for the sake of doing it or merely to finish it using the correct vocabulary or grammar point may be regarded as boring or very mechanical, but adding a bit of spice to it, may give students another drive to perform the activity.

Possibilities such as making common exercises such as ‘complete the sentence’ can be turned into a game if we add choices with distractors, groups of students working together in turns, if we set a time, if feedback is provided within the task, to mention just a few items.

Sometimes, teachers can also claim lack of time to prepare such adaptations, but this can even be asked to students as homework. The teacher can discuss in class certain rules or ideas and students, at home, adapt some of the tasks to apply to peers. In this case, not only you, as a teacher, would not devote more time to your planning, but you would get a plethora of possibilities and your range of tasks would increase. Think that most our students do play games and they have a knowledge of its elements.

I found a quote on the Internet that describes well what that is: ‘That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning.’ – Raph Koster [A Theory for Game Design].

Beatriz Meneguetti

Mª Beatriz Magalhães Silva Meneguetti Teacher, teacher trainer, school director and sworn translator with over 30 years’ experience, graduated in English, post graduated in methodology, linguistics, school management and marketing. Holder of major proficiency certificates from Cambridge and Michigan Universities and holder of the DELTA and MA in Professional Development for Language Education from Chichester University. Academic director of ABCI - Brazilian Association of Culturas Inglesas.

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