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Q&A: Why Gamifying the Classroom Helps to Motivate All Learners

Lizzy Lean, a fifth grade English Language Arts teacher at Coral Sunset Elementary School in Boca Raton, Florida, has created a fun and engaging learning environment for her students through the use of games that revolve around her students’ use of the i-Ready program for language arts and math instruction. She shared with us some of the advantages of using a gamified approach to fully engage students and help them achieve their academic goals.

Why did you decide to gamify your classroom?

In a gamified classroom, students compete against themselves and each other in a high-energy environment that motivates them to improve their academic skills. Playing games and earning awards can also serve as an instant confidence booster for diverse learners. It’s important to offer different types of games to engage students at various skill levels so they can all work at their own pace and experience success with this approach. Some students can handle a longer-term marathon competition where it takes some time to acquire an award while others do better with short-term games that result in instant awards. 

Incorporating data

Each month, we hold data chats when teachers meet with students to review their individualized data reports. These reports include detailed information about the student’s success with new vocabulary and progress with both informational and literary texts. From there, students are asked to set independent, realistic monthly goals. These regular data chats help students realize that it’s important to really focus on the work they’re doing on their individually assigned computer-based lessons and quizzes in order to earn points in our classroom competitions. To help students succeed with their individual lessons, we have them strategize with the help of i-Ready graphic organizers and use “think journals” where they “stop and jot” to process what they’re reading. We set goals for students to pass two quizzes a week and work on their i-Ready lessons for 45 minutes a week. If they are successful with each of these tasks, they experience solid gains on their next data report and a chance to win in different categories of our “i-ReadyMania” challenge. 

What are some ways you keep students engaged through games?

Our themed i-ReadyMania display outside of our classroom provides a visual for students to track their progress. When they pass a quiz, they advertise their success by sticking a star above their name on ‘Our Class is Stellar’  board outside the room. This display is accessible to every teacher that works with these students, including ESE, ESOL, remedial reading instruction teachers, and even administrators. It also serves as a reminder for teachers to pull aside students who may need further assistance. 

We hold several i-ReadyMania competitions a year to give students the opportunity to win prizes in a variety of categories: most quizzes passed, highest overall average, most improved average, and most improved number of quizzes passed. Students at every learning level in the classroom can achieve their goals and win a prize during this challenge. 

From August to December, students play i-Readyopoly, and from January to May, they play i-ReadyLand. These fun games reward students every time they receive a 100% on i-Ready computer quizzes, helping them to reach their highest potential. 

When students pass a quiz, they move their game piece around the board. Each stop includes rewards for students. Examples of rewards include skipping the lunch line, lunching with the teacher, receiving special school supplies, taking shoes off for the day, and moving their desk for the day. These instant rewards make the game exciting daily! And for the most part, these prizes are free, and no expense to the teacher. When students haven’t moved their game piece in a few days, “flash sales” appear on the game bulletin board. Students can take advantage of these flash sales by earning rewards when they pass a quiz, even if they don’t receive 100%. This way, prizes are plentiful and constant. 

Gamified learning environments are fun for both teachers and students. Our board games, and the i-ReadyMania display are bright, colorful and inviting. This approach helps motivate students and gives them the opportunity to succeed. I would tell any teachers who are considering this approach to get started, and let the games begin! 

Further Reading
  1. Education Dive - 5 tactics for turning around a failing school
  2. edCircuit - Beyond the Science Experiment: Building Soft Skills with AR and VR
  3. edCircuit - Connecting the Dots of Educator-Student Relationships


This post includes mentions of a partner of MindRocket Media Group the parent company of edCircuit
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