Teaching With Games

Gaming Tips

Some games don’t require substantial background or prep – and they can be played as a class, in small groups, or independently. Provide just a little bit of context for your students before-hand, or challenge them to dive right in and figure it out themselves. We’ve got a few ideas for you, below.

Are you using these games with your students? SUBMIT your own lesson plan ideas. Each month, we’ll choose the three best and present the winners with a BrainPOP t-shirt!

Incorporating game play into your curriculum:


  • Consider academic standards! All GameUp games are aligned to state, Canadian, and Common Core Standards. Use our Academic Standards Tool to make your life easier!
  • Decide on the most conducive setting for game play. Some games work well with whole groups, others small groups, partnerships, or even individually.
  • Consider different ways to use gameplay in your class.  Is gameplay in your class core to your instruction strategy, a reward, an introduction, a competition?

For introducing a new topic:

  • Invite students to explore a game to help them build background knowledge. Make them hungry to learn new information, to help them complete the game,  then revisit the game.
  • Begin class with a few questions, have students play games, and return to the questions.

For reinforcement:

  • Have students play game individually or in partnerships after learning about a related concept.
  • Some games are terrific for practicing and skill building.
  • Some games are better for helping build conceptual understandings of complex systems.

For assessment:

  • Use games as an alternative means of assessment. follow game play with written assessment and ask questions like:
    • What strategies did you use to play this game?
    • How did playing this game help you learn the concept?
    • Do you think other students will enjoy playing this game? why or why not?

General Tips for Teachers:

  • Use headphones! (or have students turn off background sound that may be distracting)
  • If your students need help,
    • Encourage them to tinker, take risks, try again.  If it was easy, they wouldn’t be learning, The struggle is core to learning!
    • Take a few minutes with no questions, if and when they are still stuck, explore together how are why they stuck?
    • have students who’ve figured it out demonstrate!
    • Have students document their own progress, create a game play reflection diary, like the one we provide with Guts N’ Bolts.

You may also be interested in these Game Based Learning (GBL) success stories.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released  research from the Games and Learning Publishing Council initiative. They conducted a series of case studies and a national survey, Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom, was undertaken in collaboration with and support from BrainPOP®. Its findings were released along with the first in a series of five related video case-studies of individual teachers who integrate digital games into their curriculum in exciting and innovative ways.

This video features Joel Levin, a school technology integrator, who works with second graders at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. Through his use of MinecraftEDU, a version of the popular commercial game Minecraft modified for educational purposes, Joel leads his 2nd grade class through structured game-based scenarios that emphasis self-directed learning, collaboration between students, and positive social interactions.


This video features Lisa Parisi, a 4th grade teacher in New Hyde Park, NY. This particular subject in the case study makes excellent use of freely available games from BrainPOP and Manga High to engage her students in challenging math and science content, as well as promote self-directed and project-based learning.


This video features Ginger Stevens, a 6th grade special-education teacher at Quest2Learn in New York City. This video case study shows how she utilizes the intentionally game-like environment of her school to maximize learning for students with special needs.