• Ian Gibbs

Student Tip 20: Jeux Sans Frontiers


Why is it so easy to spend a few hours playing Call of Duty, Minecraft or Fortnite and yet so difficult to grind out thirty minutes of trigonometry or crop-rotation farming?


Or is this just a stupid question?


I’m sure you’re already well aware that playing games with the stuff you study makes it a bit more interesting.


So when was the last time you used this to your advantage?


When was the last time you played a game that helped you learn stuff better?


If your answer was something along the lines of “It was when my teacher told me to”, then you’re probably not making the most of this learning technique.


Playing with knowledge helps you relax a bit.


It helps your mind open up a little more and so helps you remember stuff better.


Just because your teacher hasn’t told you to do so is no reason to miss out on the opportunity.


You can play games to help you learn better whenever you want.


What games?


Broadly speaking, there are three types: Pre-made games, Study Buddy games and On-Your-Own games.


Pre-made games are all the games that have been created for the sole purpose of helping you learn.


We’re talking about apps and websites like Kahoot! or Quizlet.


Pick your subject, do a search and you’ll find someone, somewhere, has created a game to help you learn.


The only problem with them is that because they are made for the general public, the questions are general, too.


The chance of you getting a pre-made game to help you with precisely the stuff you were doing in class today is slim.


Study Buddy games are things you can play with your partner.


Their advantage is you can easily personalise them to focus on the stuff you’re studying right now.


Of course, much depends on your partner’s creativity and enthusiasm.


But if you’re stuck for ideas, try these:


  • Test from the coursebook. One of you gets to play the teacher with the book, asking the questions. The other gets to play the poor student trying to prove they’ve understood and remembered the important bits.


  • Talk for two minutes on a theme. One of you gets to choose a topic and control the timer. The other gets to talk for the agreed time without hesitation, repetition or straying off the subject.


  • True or false. A simple but effective way of quizzing each other on the subject and at least a 50% chance of getting it right.

  • Flashcards. There’s lots you can do with flashcards, but if your creative juices have dried up, just testing each other from your own or each other’s flashcard pack can be satisfying.


If you’re having a study session with a friend or two, why not arrange to round it off with a 10-minute game?


It’s nice to change the dynamics of a study session.


Whereas most of a study session is spent reading, discussing, explaining and answering questions together, doing something which is more likely to produce laughter and a bit of friendly, creative banter can produce a welcome change of mentality, which after an intense bout of concentration, might be just what you need.


The final type is ‘On-Your-Own’ games, those you can play by yourself.


This is hopefully where all the flashcards you’ve been collecting over the weeks come in handy.


We looked at a few different ways of using flashcards to learn stuff better in Tip 14.


To make this a little more challenging, why not compete against the clock?


How many cards can you get right in five minutes?


How long does it take to get twenty right?


Keep a record of your score.


That way, you’ll have a realistic target to beat next time as well as the satisfaction (when you do beat it) of seeing for yourself that you’re making real progress.


To summarise, whether you compete against the computer, your study buddy or just against yourself, playing with your newly-learnt ideas is an effective way of getting them to stick in your head better and for longer.


Add a learning game or two to your learning toolbox and use it often. It might be just what you need to learn stuff better.


Tip 20: Playing games with the stuff you’re learning allows you to relax a little, adds variety and helps you remember stuff for longer.


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