At-Home Learning is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.
Using game-based learning in the classroom allows teachers to turn students’ hobbies into learning tools. Games excite students and teach them soft skills like empathy, cooperation and how to make other social and emotional connections. They also learn to work with others while reinforcing content from their classes. Integrating games has also been proven to help improve students’ focus and reading ability, including those with special education needs. Whether you are teaching in person or virtually, adding games to your teaching is a win-win.
Tool 1: Kahoot
Kahoot is an online game platform used for learning. You can use Kahoots (quiz-based games) that have been created already, you can edit Kahoots made by others, or you can make your own. This program has a limited free version but offers a greater access and variety through the paid plan.
This particular game platform is known to improve social-emotional skills in children. “Playing video games socially with others can boost a child’s soft skills, such as empathy, which can help students with career readiness,” according to Learn to Give, an organization focused on teaching children about philanthropy. Kahoot can be used to promote these soft skills and teachers can model empathy and understanding in the classroom during play.
Here is some helpful information on how to get started with Kahoot:
- An example of a Kahoot quiz on colors
- Article about how Kahoot can be used in special education
- Video on how to create your own Kahoot quiz game
Tool 2: Quizlet
Quizlet is a web-based program that allows you to create flashcard study sets, which are a great way to develop and improve retention of information. The application also integrates games and other learning tools — all for free.
Here is some helpful information on how to get started with Quizlet:
Tool 3: Minecraft
The incredibly popular video game, Minecraft, has many educational benefits that teachers might find surprising, such as its capacity to complement learning reading, writing and history, as well as for instilling STEM knowledge and a global perspective in players. The purpose of the game is simply to build, explore and survive. You can play by yourself or online with others. In classrooms, students can use Minecraft to showcase animals and habitats, discuss important moments in history and recreate the settings and characters in their books. Minecraft can also be used in an offline mode without screens. Students can create and plan their Minecraft worlds with paper and pencil and create blocks using boxes and cube cutouts to make real-world Minecraft crafts.
Here are a few helpful examples and tips to get started with Minecraft:
- A video showing an example of a Minecraft butterflies habitat
- An example of a Minecraft escape room via Google Forms
- Article on Minecraft and social-emotional learning (SEL)
- Article on how Minecraft supports SEL
- Article on using Minecraft for students with autism
- Article on how to make Minecraft accessible to all students
- Article with 10 offline ideas to connect with kids who enjoy Minecraft
- Article with fun offline activities for kids who love Minecraft
PBS Kids has also developed an extensive collection of online learning games that pair up programming with social and emotional learning. Here are a few examples:
- “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” Neighbor Day
- “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” Story Creator
- “Molly of Denali” Beading Art
- “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” Hero Maker
- “Curious George” Bug Catcher
- “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” Hide & Seek
- “Sesame Street” Sandbox Search
Have questions? Want to show off how you are using these tools or share other ideas with me? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Penchev is an innovation lab teacher and instructional technology coordinator. She has taught ECE-5th grade and currently teaches K-5th grade social studies lab, where kids do STEM-based project-based learning. Penchev founded Girls Building STEAM and is a local award winner for the National Council for Women in Information Technology, plus she received a 2019 honorable mention for the STEM Excellence award from ISTE. Check out Penchev’s website for more resources and follow her on Twitter @penchevable.