Learning games can be effective activities, if they are planned and executed well. If not, students will probably enjoy the activity, but get little educational value from it. Often, it is not the game itself, but the classroom management aspects of playing the game that cause it to be ineffective.
Learning games can serve several purposes in Bible classes or other learning environments your ministry may provide.
- Students can review important facts, vocabulary and concepts. These learning games are the most popular in a Bible class environment. It is important to understand these particular games help students remember important information, they do not necessarily help them better understand or use what they have learned.
- Students can move important information from short term to long term memory. One of the methods for moving key information from short to long term memory is repetition. Games can be a fun way for students to get some of that repetition, especially if the same questions and answers are required in multiple ways throughout the game.
- Students can begin processing important concepts from the lesson. Scenario type games can help students better understand more complex or abstract biblical concepts by reframing them within the game in more familiar settings.
- Students can get necessary practice in implementing key principles in their lives. Games can be designed to give students practice in using what the lesson has taught them God wants them to do in their lives. This practice will better equip students to use what they have been taught.
- Students can practice using godly problem solving skills. Games can be designed to teach students how to use reliable sources for information and give them important godly strategies to use when they encounter a new situation requiring them to make decisions.
Whether you are using a game prepared by someone else or designing one yourself, it is important to understand the key elements of a game that is used as a learning activity. The goal of most games is for the people playing them to enjoy the experience. In a secular game, whether or not anything is learned from playing the game is often irrelevant.
Whether you are using a game in a Bible class or another learning environment your ministry provides, you need that game to enhance the lesson for students. The best learning games generally have these characteristics.
- Fun and education are well balanced. If the game is fun, but has no educational value, you are wasting valuable class time by playing it. If the game contains a lot of lesson content, but is boring, students will not want to play it. The goal is to use games that are both fun and educational.
- Educational value can be found for students at multiple levels. The very best games are easy enough for a child with little knowledge to play and enjoy, while still challenging advanced students. Often this can be achieved more by how the game is played than the actual questions being asked.
- Game rules are simple or based on a game already familiar to students. You have a limited amount of time to play the game in the framework of a class. You want to avoid spending most of that time helping students understand and remember the rules. While the content may change, many games fall into one of several game categories. Keeping the games you use within those basic categories will allow students to spend more time in actual game play.
- Learning objectives were considered when choosing or designing the game. Just because a game is a “Bible game”, does not necessarily mean it will add value as an activity to a particular lesson. The content of the game should reflect the learning objectives for the lesson, while possibly adding an additional objective. Whenever possible, consider providing a guiding question for students before beginning game play. Allow time at the end of the class period for a discussion of what students learned while playing the game.
Thinking about using a learning game that doesn’t meet these criteria? Most likely it will only fill time – not extend learning. Taking a little extra time to choose or design games that extend learning allows you to make the very best use of valuable class time.