Why classroom games matter – Why children learn more effectively
While education officials continue to argue over creating a zero-tolerance policy against dangerous and/or inappropriate play in the classroom, research conducted at the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics has found that students with added physical activity in their lives appear to learn more effectively and show fewer behavioral problems than students who didn’t experience any extra physical activities.
Among fourth-graders and first-graders, behavior problems dropped 33 percent and 35 percent, respectively, among those who spent time playing an appropriate combination of games in elementary school compared to those who didn’t play at all.
What would children take away from this kind of report? How can physical activity, whether played through games or simply outside, help children learn? Or make learning easier? These questions are now under the microscope among school officials across the country and in many other areas of study to figure out what their kids need to be successful.
For schools to be successful, the primary focus must remain on education rather than disciplinary actions. From game choice to teacher behavior, children must be valued within their schools, and parents must be engaged, as well.
But what games can help children learning?
According to this report, the key to learning with games is the partnership between physical activity and “active play.” When school leaders connect physical activity to game play and games themselves are leveraged as dynamic learning tools, children are able to make success happen.
The value of additional games
Clearly, many students use games as study aids, but the importance of game use becomes even more clear in light of the lessons learned through these classroom strategies that are now being implemented by third-grade teachers in the classroom, in community programs like V-Sport that works with children in low-income areas, and via the popular online games like School of the Future and Inventor’s Academy.
“Sexting, pulling weeds, spelling and gym class are the topics children on third-grade school play are involved in,” said David Brewer, the third-grade math teacher who created IN! With the numbers on the board we used to check how closely we were matching the number of random numbers in the box,” explained retired high school math teacher Karyn Ryff, lead teacher and creator of School of the Future. “This usually happens during weekly class activities that are often 21 minutes or less. At the beginning of the school year when we get kids back from summer break our goals are set. We want the kids playing well and being active. We do work on math and our reading and spelling has a game component. But we also hope to get kids excited about math through making math fun.”
Another issue of student learning versus social issues
The research for this study shows the importance of physical activity in addressing social issues. “At the end of the year we have huge success in helping children improve their overall social skills,” said Brewer. “In an extreme low class we are actually doing this. What we saw this year was they are getting better grades and performing better in extracurricular activities.”
If you ask these educators why physical activity and games have this correlation, they will tell you because education is what we live for. They can’t believe no one is doing this type of study. There are so many questions that still need to be answered.