After first nutrition break, my students were working on their Community Math Projects. I had students spread out around my classroom and in the hallway to give them some space and make it easier for them to focus. As I was working with one of the groups, a colleague came to see me with her class. She explained that she was bringing her students up to the computer lab, and she saw one of my groups in the hallway. It was then that she whispered quietly to me, “Aviva, I think they’re playing a game.” I replied, “Yes, they are. They’re actually creating a community in Minecraft as part of our Community Math Project. It’s okay. They’re working.” She looked at me, nodded, and then turned around and left.
This exchange gave me an idea. I went out into the hallway, and sat down on the ground with the group. I said to one of the students, “What are you doing?” He quickly replied, “We’re working on making our grid right now. We need a 10X10 grid, but we’ve decided that each one of our units are going to be 10 blocks, so 10X10 is really going to be 100X100. My group and I have divided up how we’re going to make this grid. See: I’m making this side, and my other group members are making the other sides. We need to count as we go to make sure that we’re exact.” He then showed me the group’s plan, and explained how they were going to design the buildings. Fantastic! Just by talking to him, I was able to learn so much. I wonder if he would have shared just as much with this other teacher. I wonder how we can get more teachers to ask what the students are doing on devices before making assumptions.
I know that this is hard. I’ve had my own reservations on gaming in the classroom, but now I’m trying things I’ve never tried before and seeing results that I’ve never seen before. Students are excited about learning. They understand more abstract concepts because the games are making them concrete and making the concepts meaningful to them. Our new Full Day Kindergarten Program emphasizes the importance of play in the classroom. Our new Social Studies Curriculum Document promotes the importance of inquiry. Students learn as they play. Students learn from their wonderings. Shouldn’t all students be given the opportunity to play and to wonder?
How do you use gaming in the classroom with your students? How does gaming promote/support “play” and “inquiry” for all grades?
Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.
She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.