George Lucas Educational Foundation
George Lucas Educational Foundation

Motivating Teens With Classroom Competitions

Making games a regular part of class can get even the coolest high school students engaged in the content—and help them recall key concepts and vocabulary.

April 19, 2024

In Nicole Goepper’s French classes at Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Virginia, games aren’t something extra: They’re woven into the structure of the classes, and they happen every day. From learning new vocabulary to conjugating verbs, kids can’t wait to win. “I think when there’s, like, competition and, like, a prize involved or whatever,” says 10th-grade student Kiersten, “it really helps motivate us to want to, like, beat each other.” 

Each table group is a team (named after a French comic character, such as Asterix, Lucky Luke, or Caillou). And throughout class, teams have the opportunity to win paper euros, which can be cashed in for prizes. 

On any given day, students may participate in a verb conjugation Riff-Off (inspired by Pitch Perfect) or whiteboard relay, the colors game (where students race to different walls to touch the color that Mme. Goepper names in French), the numbers game (where students line up and form complex numbers, say 1789), or the body parts game (where students must hit certain body parts on a drawing of a human body on the whiteboard, using colorful fly swatters), to name just a few.

“To the people who say, ‘Oh, she can do that because she’s teaching a foreign language,’” says Goepper, “you could take any of those games and put it in a math class, history class, science class—songs for concepts, for periods of history, for math equations.”

“In classes a lot, you’re just kind of in your own little bubble, in your own little shell,” 11th grader Addie points out. “But for this, it’s like everyone’s having fun, and it creates a good environment, a good space to just kind of get a break, which I think is really important in schools and classes. I think it motivates students to learn.” She also points out that the verb songs she learned in beginning French are still in her head years later, proving that Mme. Goepper’s techniques seem to be working.

Fauquier High School

Public, Suburban
Grades 9-12
Warrenton, VA

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Filed Under

  • Game-Based Learning
  • Brain-Based Learning
  • Student Engagement
  • World Languages
  • 9-12 High School

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