The power of video games

By Tom Bromwich. Posted

The children used the games to aid their writing and created a display to showcase all of their work. Image credit: Cooper and Jordan School.

Tom Bromwich developed games-based lessons to develop the skills of his Year 3 students

Over the past few years, my school has been carrying out a project in Year 3 focused on investigating the positive effect video games can have in the classroom. As a gamer, I have always thought that games were a resource woefully undervalued by the majority of teachers, and that when used effectively can be far more immersive than video clips and pictures that we use every day.

When planning the topic, it was always incredibly important to make sure that the games chosen would actually help the children with their learning, rather than being there simply as a novelty. This meant there was a bit of experimenting with a range of games in the planning stage, which I am not going to pretend was anything less than a huge amount of fun.  

It was less about choosing well-known games that the children may have heard of, but choosing games that would not only help develop their written work, but also their imagination, curiosity, and creativity. This meant picking games such as Tearaway, Journey, and Overcooked, as well as slightly better known titles such as The Legend of Zelda.  

A source of inspiration

Incorporating video games into the classroom has led to some of the most imaginative, engrossing, and interesting pieces of writing that I have ever read from a Year 3 class. The fact that the children knew they were going to be showcasing their work through blogs, and also sharing it with the gaming community, has led to a huge improvement in their writing.

Carrying out this topic has also led to the children having some opportunities I don’t think would have been possible without the focus on gaming. They have spoken to a huge range of people from the gaming community, all of whom have been amazingly helpful. From curators at the V&A Museum, to games developers from around the world, everyone that they contacted was fantastic, offering brilliant answers and advice to their questions. Emailing experts in a field, I think, is something that we try to do in every topic because there are so many brilliant people out there.

At the end of the topic, the children created persuasive letters to show others how useful the games have been. They have sent these letters to Blue Peter (and received badges in return!), our local MP, as well as others from the gaming community. The children have loved receiving responses. 

Perhaps the best thing that has come from the topic, though, is the recent work the children have carried out with the charity, Special Effect. After speaking to their CEO via Skype, the children then had the chance to speak to people through the use of an AV1 robot. They also decided to try to raise money by creating an e-book containing all the work they carried out, which they are currently selling to parents to raise money for the charity. Everybody in the year group was amazed when we were the top-selling children’s book on iTunes, even beating Harry Potter!

Video games in the classroom: The students' views

“Playing Overcooked was a good experience because we learnt more about teamwork, decision making, and friendship. It was really important that we communicated with each other and stopped each other getting too stressed. We loved playing the game, even though we don’t want to become chefs when we are older!” – Nieve and Kaira

“In The Legend of Zelda, we felt amazed because it was like we were actually there in the game! We both felt like we were stood in a dark, dingy cavern, only to walk through and find columns of lava shooting up to the roof. It was terrifying, but really helped us with our story-telling!” – Alfie and Harry

“Tearway is a game made up of beautiful colours, set in a world of imagination where everything is made out of paper. The main character is a letter which needs to be delivered, and it really helped us develop our vocabulary as we described the vibrant setting!” – Lola and Lily

“I am really grateful that, through the gaming topic, I got to meet the students from Rocklands Special School. My attitude really changed after going to their school; I realised how lucky I am and not to take things for granted. Also, it was amazing to experience their facilities and to meet them. Rocklands is a fantastic school, full of compassionate, caring staff and their pupils are the nicest people I have ever met.” – Kyle

“We made a book for charity and I really enjoyed doing it. Not only because I got to do lots of art, which I love, but also because we were raising money for Special Effect, who do amazing things! It was awesome seeing my own work get published.” – Isla-Mae

“Journey is a very calm game, full of mystery. We really loved watching the character glide slowly across the colossal sand dunes. After the using the game, we packed our writing with questions and new vocabulary to add mystery. It was a superb game to use in class!” – Lottie and Daisy

“When we were asked to use the AV1 robot, I was a bit anxious, but when it arrived that turned to excitement.  As soon as the eyes flickered on, we immediately got to know each other. The experience was incredible and if you get the chance to use one you should: it was an amazing way to make new friends.” – Ylena

“Using video games in class has been awesome. It is the best topic that I have ever done in school because, when I first started playing, I realised there was so much more to them and it made lessons better. I think all schools should use games because they improved my work a lot!” – Louis


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