Motivational Games for High School Students


Teachers often struggle to find ways to motivate students, since students sometimes lose interest in school as they get older. High school students can become very bored by school if they do not feel engaged by the material. Knowledge about human motivation can help educators find ways to boost student interest.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations

  • Students are motivated either by intrinsic or extrinsic rewards when learning about a particular topic. An intrinsic reward is one that comes inherently from learning about a particular subject. For example, if a student enjoys learning how to draw, the process of drawing is rewarding in and of itself. However, in other cases, students learn something because they want something else in return. So, a student might learn how to drawn to impress a friend, with the impressed friend serving as the extrinsic reward.


  • Games can serve as a strong source of motivation because most students are used to playing games. If the game is considered fun to the students, they will play the games for their own reward instead of playing the games as a means to an end, such as when the student wants to master a particular piece of course content.

Class Rewards

  • When students spend time doing what they're supposed to do, such as reading course content and completing assignments, the teacher can provide the student with tickets. When the students accumulate enough tickets, the students can get a reward, such as pizza for the class. Teachers can also reward students with tickets that have extra benefits, such as more time playing a computer game or a no-homework pass. Students can trade these tickets, helping them learn how to assess value.

Redeemable Tickets

  • Instead of assessing students the traditional way, students can demonstrate their knowledge of course content through contests. For example, students could play Jeopardy, with the game show containing questions from the course. When students get questions right, they can win prizes such as tickets redeemable for benefits and also extra credit. Teachers could even let students decide the rules of the game, since providing students with control over the game satisfies the need for power and autonomy.

Computer Games

  • Computer games inherently motivate students. These games give students heavy visual stimulation, challenge and immediate rewards for carrying out tasks. Teachers sometimes motivate students by trying to educate them through video games that have educational elements to them. Educational games can teach students about history and quiz them over math problems. Computer simulations can help students understand complex and abstract topics. For example, a simulation could show how precipitation works by simulating the evaporation, condensation and precipitation process.


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