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Key Functions of Playing Games in the Classroom

Key Functions of Playing Games in the Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Learning through games has become more common over the years. The traditional academic-oriented learning method of repetitive memorizing is slowly becoming outdated, and most students prefer to learn in a fun and interactive environment.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Katherine I. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Boosting Curiosity and Creativity

Children of all ages love to play, from the tiny infants to the toddler who sings ABC songs, to primary children who plays memory games. Children learn important skills by playing. Playing enhances children’s ability to problem solve, memorize, concentrate, imagine, be creative and interact with others (EYLF, 2009 p.15). By learning through games, children will be exercising their brain power and be having fun at the same time. Learning through games in the classroom can also spark children’s curiosity and creativity. Children are more inclined to interact, discuss and ask questions about the things surrounding them as opposed to pictures in a book.

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Exams vs. Games

I was raised in a country where exam scores are more important than anything else. Growing up, I never enjoyed school. I was forced to memorize multiple chapters for our weekly dictations. Our teachers made the tests so hard that half the class would barely pass it. We were given mountains of homework every day. It wasn’t until I had graduated from university, when I became a home tutor, that I realized that learning through games can be a lot more effective. In my country, children start going to pre-nursery school when they are around 9 months old. They starting spelling words and having weekly dictations when they are in kindergarten, which is around 3.5 - 4 years old. I think the education system in my country is actually failing to prepare children for the future.

On the other side of the world, children in Finland don’t officially go to school until they are 7 or 8 years old. “They do not have national tests, no rankings, no inspections, no selective schools, and they enjoy 15 minutes of play for every 45 minutes of learning (SBS News, 2018).” Yet, teenagers in Finland continue to top the international standardized test. Finland is the perfect example to show the importance of learning by playing. For example, children will feel more accomplished and confident when they finish solving a puzzle as opposed to scoring 100 in a spelling test.

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Benefits of Games

Besides, children do not only have fun during the game, but they are building cognitive skills, problem-solving, fine motor development and hand-eye coordination skills through puzzle solving. Children might feel accomplished after scoring a full mark in their spelling test, however, the children will not have achieved anything apart from the score sheet. I asked my students whether or not they remember the spellings a week later, 90% of them have forgotten everything, so what’s the point of having those weekly tests? Instead, it would be more fun and effective if children were asked to memorize some lyrics for a school play, and the children will benefit more from it. One of my students had always been very shy and never spoke up. His parents enrolled him in a musical play one summer. He had to memorize some lyrics for the musical “The Cats”. It was obvious that he had become more confident after the play, and he is one of the most talkative students in my class now. The sense of accomplishment and the confidence he had built during and after the play is not something he can get from the textbook.

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