Gamification: The Pathway to Teaching in the 21st Century

We all know the adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” And for those of us who have been teaching for a while now, our biggest frenemy in the classroom is technology. “Kids these days” are well-versed in all things laptops, apps, cellphones, tablets, touchscreens, games, games and more games, and if you have been teaching long enough, you know they have the diminished attention spans to show for it.

We live in a world now where as teachers we are competing against screen time to hold the attention of our students. But, unlike technology, we can’t simply recharge our battery and keep going and going — *insert the old pop culture reference of the Energizer bunny here*.

If you teach anything like me, it’s forced you to be even more of an entertainer in your classroom. (Lucky for me as a theatre education major, I can do silly voices and sound effects all day long to the dismay of my teenage audiences and the joy of my kindergarten classes.) But, is it sustainable? The answer is no. It’s simply not logical for our educators to always lead with entertainment 24/7.

So What Do We Do?

Step #1: Beat Them At Their Own Game

At least for me, I’ve found that inserting more and more play-based learning and gamification into my classroom has helped to engage students and give me some relief.

(Teaching Timeout! Let’s take a moment for some Vocab Review, shall we? “Gamification,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something -such as a task- to encourage participation.”)

1. Make a Review or Lesson Into A Game

Jeopardy, Bingo, Board Games, Minute to Win It, etc. Mix and match and just plain have fun with this. It makes it a much more fun class to teach as well! Pinterest has so many great ideas, but my favorite has been allowing kids to create games for the class (especially for reviews)! After all, we want interaction, right? Use the gaming experts as your resource!

2. Cooperative Competitions

For all of my age groups, I like to have teams in my class. Each team owns it and creates a team name, team cheer and team flag. Then, whenever we are doing lessons, or I’m giving out “snaps” for great classroom behavior, those teams get a point. At the end of the week (or day if points are adding up fast -don’t let any competition go on for too long), we then have a previously-agreed-upon celebration or privilege for that team and we reset the scoreboard.

3. Beat the Clock Classroom Management

This idea works for all ages. There’s just something about a time limit. Make notes of the times to beat and feel free to check out apps online to project this timer on your board for all to see.

4. Any Mundane Tasks Becomes A Game

Cleaning up the classroom? Putting away supplies? Passing out papers? Gamify it!

5. Achievements Unlocked?

Incorporate more celebration and success tracking into your classroom. We already know this, but it helps to be reminded to celebrate the small wins each day. Kids need that, too. Games do a great job of setting up those breadcrumbs in a way that keeps students interested and encouraged. Of course, we are always mindful of those bigger benchmarks, but perhaps we can put forth a little more effort in the smaller ones, too. Create a “Wall of Champions,” selfie station, a bravo board, a bragging badge, a fun bell or whistle to blow when a daily goal is met as a class, and, of course, my favorite: putting yourself in a position to do something super or silly or fun if they kids achieve something. So far, my list includes: performing a ridiculously trendy dance move in front of the class, a pie to the face, or even wearing a crazy costume to class on Freaky Fridays (our reading days).

Step #2: Joining Them: Look Carefully at the Technology You ARE Using in Your Classroom


  1. Are the apps my students are engaging in the classroom more interactive or are they purely reactive?

Companies like Lalilo are working to integrate applications that avoid turning students into zombies. They lead design with what gets kids thinking rather than just merely distracting. If you are using a game that bombards students with sensory overload (lots of sounds, bright and blinking imagery), ask yourself: “Is this tool getting my students to think?”

2. Do the games lend themselves to an atmosphere that reflects your classroom?

If not, you may find yourself competing more and more against a game instead of using a tool that supplements your own teaching style.

3. Does the resource GROW with the students? Does it show the growth so you can track individual progress as a teacher?

Education is about self-improvement, so shouldn’t the resources you use be the same way?

Needless to say, I’m a big proponent of gamification. I love designing it, sharing it, and of course, playing it. I think as teachers in the 21st century, entertainment and education have to marry a bit more. I hope this article helps you unlock some new achievements as a teacher and has allowed you to think a little bit more about how you are gamifying your classroom currently. I would love to hear your ideas! So, if you’ve already joined the Gamification movement and maybe even beat it at its own game, please feel free to reach out to me!

Please message me at if you’re a teacher who’d like to be a part of what we’re doing here at Lalilo.

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