If you are a teacher who enjoys playing with all your students at once - chaos and loud noises included, this post should only confirm what you think about this type of game play. However, if you are a teacher who shies away from group play exactly because it is loud and something hard to manage, here are a few reasons to reconsider.
1. Group play reaches all students - in different ways
When playing as a big group, you might be wondering if all your students are really getting the best out of the experience. Obviously, the ones who are speaking the loudest and participating are easy to see as ‘’being engaged in the learning experience’’. But what about your more quiet students? If they are part of the group but are never volunteering to say the answers it’s easy to think that they are just off in their own world.
I would actually argue the opposite. While your loudest students are shouting the correct and incorrect answers, they are providing their more quiet classmates with some non-threatening review. While the quiet student is not providing the answer, they might have been thinking the same answer, and having someone else respond in their place still allows them to be part of the learning experience while not having to chime in each time.
For some students, having to answer out-loud is a very difficult experience and one wrong answer, can completely turn them off from wanting to participate at all. Having a group to rely on gives those students a quiet confidence while slowly building on their interpersonal skills… which brings us to point 2!
2. Group play builds confidence and empathy.
When a group of students is working together to provide an answer to a question or a classroom activity, they are hard at work on their interpersonal skills. The leaders of the group might be the ones most likely to take control of the exchanges but each student should be encouraged to participate in their own way.
As in the previous point, students who are more quiet, are more likely to exchange with 5-6 of their peers than with the whole group. Being able to discuss as a small team allows them to gather support for their ideas.
Finally, the saying you play as a team, you lose as a team is also very true for group play in the classroom. Once a decision has been made as a small group, students are more likely to stand-up for each other if they provide an incorrect answer. The teacher should do as much as possible to place emphasis on the ‘’group’’ so as to make each team member feel responsible for the outcome.
3. Group play fosters negotiation and decision making.
Negotiation and decision making is crucial in helping students boost their confidence in their knowledge. While they are figuring out their answer, students are negotiating with each other and ultimately deciding on the best course of action to take. In those instances, the stakes are again much lower than in a big group setting or in a 1-1 test taking instance. This allows students to take some risks and put their confidence in each other’s knowledge.
4. Group play creates classroom cohesion.
Finally, group play creates classroom cohesion as the teacher is offering students an opportunity for some friendly competition. Knowing that the teacher is willing to ‘’host a game’’ for the class - even if it’s some review in disguise, helps the student-teacher relationship. While it can be draining to have to moderate and keep control of excited students, they surely appreciate being able to try new games and activities.
A more positive relationship between students can be born out of group play as they learn to work together, win and lose together, and stick up for each other. In this optic, I would suggest to try to keep similar groups for an extended period of time (a month or so). This will allow students to learn to work together and to trust each other. From there, the game relationship will trickle down to other moments in the classroom when they are working with the same peers that they now know better because of their gaming teams.
What do you think about group play? What works and what doesn’t with your students? Are there any other advantages that you can think? Let us know in the comments!
Blended Play is looking for some collaborators for the Edtech blog. Do you have ideas and opinions that you would like to share with your peers? Are you rocking your classroom with some creative new ways to teach and would like to share? If so, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.