Understanding the use of games in the classroom

Understanding the use of games in the classroom

Understanding the use of games in the classroom

New research uncovers the use of games in schools to help children fall back into learning patterns.

Strategies for Teaching Children to Fall Back in Learning

For many children, fall is one of the most time-consuming times of the year. By year’s end, children finish the first round of the school year and have embarked on summer vacation.

What to do for children who find themselves in this time of year struggling to hit academic milestones? This September, many children will find themselves revisiting a classroom for the first time since summer vacation. How can we help them fall back into the learning patterns and routines they mastered last school year?

A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, demonstrates that children and adults can use games to find ways to fall back into learning patterns. Given that “learning becomes more fluid as one progresses through the year” and that we must “achieve an improved rate of progress as one progresses through the school year,” studies such as these help us understand how we can help children make academic progress for an even better semester or a year.

The “two minute discovery game” emerged as the game of choice in these research studies, given that “people have a natural ability to learn new skills in just two minutes or less.” This simplicity was something researchers drew upon when investigating the possible usage of games in the classroom. They began by coming up with 20 possible combinations, one of which was the “two minute discovery game,” and asked participants to make their way through the game using “high skill intuitive learning.” With just 20 possible strategies, it is safe to say that more games would have been better for children. However, researchers found that people can move through the “two minute discovery game” quickly, depending on what the participants want to do. While the classic “Flip the Turtle” from Game Boy was actually not quite as time-consuming as the two minute game, it remained the game of choice.

People are not the only ones to be able to achieve mastery in just two minutes or less, as research also points out that children can do the same thing with games. In one study, researchers had children work on games in just two minutes or less, after which the kids “found learning to be much easier to complete than in an ordinary test setting.” While experiments like these are gaining steam, even today, teachers use the two minute games to help their students catch up.

Gaining this type of cognitive mastery is a challenge for all children, regardless of age, according to Lisa Geddes, principal-in-charge of the Discovery Program and Adjunct Professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. “The challenge in primary and middle school is that children learn to fall back into a familiar mode of learning during the first few months of the school year.” We must identify which elements of learning are easier and which are not, and then determine what will help a child jumpstart the learning process from week to week. Learning patterns and levels in mathematics, reading, and science (among other areas) are predictable. What is less certain are the types of learning patterns in the physical world that are associated with decisions. “It is important to begin to understand these processes of learning and they can be visualized using strategies like having students simply spot and describe information they have encountered,” according to Geddes.

There are many benefits to having children fall back into their regular learning patterns before beginning the school year. Research shows that simply “referring to or reliving previous experiences of learning helps students come to a more rapid understanding of and mastery of certain levels or learning paths of learning that is evident from the beginning of each week.”

The truth is, it is not only students who benefit from having a fallback learning pattern. Of the 46 parents surveyed in this study, 10 percent had previously taught or worked with children whose academic skills were slower to return to a new routine. This explains why students are having difficulty achieving academic excellence during the first few months of the school year. “One of the most important motivations for our study was that our findings were not limited to children from more advantaged families,” according to Geddes.

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