Game Based Learning: Make Fast Teaching Games with SMART lab

Formative assessment and game based learning make a powerful combination in the classroom. I love SMART lab, a new feature of the SMART Learning Suite. Recently, when they sponsored several of my 10-Minute Teacher episodes, I tested SMART Notebook.

While testing their software as part of the vetting process, I fell in love with SMART lab. So, here's a tutorial. Set up a free trial and try it yourself.

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In this article, you'll learn how to use SMART lab to build fast games and lessons.  We'll also look at how using this tool changes the lesson planning workflow. For example, for me, the SMART Notebook makes it easier to present student games, formative assessment, and content in a smooth, seamless way.

Tutorial: How to Make a Fast Game Based Learning Lesson with SMART lab

[callout]This is a sponsored post by SMART Learning Suite. Download a free trial.[/callout]

My Typical Workflow for Teacher-Guided Discussions

Typically, when I have content and am going to teach it directly in the classroom, my workflow goes like this:

  1. Create an open-ended response activity
  2. Make the slides
  3. Make the formative assessment games and activities
  4. When I'm presenting, switch back and forth.

Admittedly, I do teacher-guided lessons far less than I used to — maybe 30 minutes a week per class. However, when I do, I want my lessons to be fun, exciting and promote cooperative learning. So, game based learning is a big part of most lessons. I also know formative assessment works and use it heavily.

What are SMART lab and SMART Learning Suite?

So, for those of you who are curious — SMART Learning Suite is the software that comes with SMART Boards. However, you don’t need a SMART Board to use their software. (I didn't know that or I would have been using it already.)

A screenshot creating questions for Monster quiz in SMART lab a gbl game based learning tool for the classroom.

This is an example of how you enter questions quickly into SMART lab. Once you have your question bank entered, you can quickly pull the questions into a variety of fun, fast games for the classroom. (See the video tutorial for how I did it.)


 I was very excited when I learned the SMART software could be used on my board for one big reason — Smart Exchange. I remember many years ago looking at all the resources and wishing I could get a SMART Board just for the software.

SMART lab Overview

The SMART lab feature is my favorite part of the SMART Learning Suite. Think Kahoot but with lots more options. My students like that the questions appear on their screens. I like that I can enter the questions in a bank (as I demonstrate in the video above) and make many different games off of one set of questions. That way, I can mix it up.

Ok, so I have already shared my workflow.

Not surprisingly, my big problem was just getting confused. I'd have PowerPoint or Keynote open. I'd have multiple Kahoot quizzes to open. I'd also have a Socrative ready to go. I didn't have a flow. I'd get confused. The students would have to go into several things. It wasn't a method I could really recommend to other teachers.

Now, my presentations flow.

Monster Quiz is part of SMART lab a gbl game based learning tool I use in my classroom

Ninety-five percent of my students prefer monster quiz to Kahoot as the questions show on the mobile devices. There are other games that do not require individual devices. This is just their favorite.

My Workflow Now with SMART Notebook

So, this workflow is much easier in the SMART Notebook:

  1. I create my presentation and embed my games in SmartNotebook.
  2. I start the notebook and launch into full screen and we're ready to go.

The only tip — because I use the activities in multiple classes — is to end the activity and remove the students before the next class arrives. Now that I know how to do this, it takes less than a minute to set up between classes.

Most of the games can be played as a class from the board or projector.

My Favorite Game

The overwhelming class favorite is the Monster Quiz game. (see video) My students like seeing the questions on their own phone. I had them vote and compare and in each of the two classes. I had 95% of the students prefer the monster quiz game to Kahoot.

Monster quiz has every student use a device and is much like Kahoot but with one big difference — the questions are randomly shown on each student's screen. Each student has their own quiz. Furthermore, if they miss the questions, they are presented the question again.

The program makes setting up teams a snap. I feed the points into our other game-based learning activity so their avatars can level up in Classcraft.

I timed it, it takes me less than 5 minutes to put in a quick 8-question game to play. It takes us about 4 or 5 minutes to play it, making this a fast formative assessment tool. I also like that I can go from activity to activity with a quick click like from one slide to another. I don't have the long process of stopping a game in Kahoot, finding the next one and starting it again.

How SMART lab works with my students?

So, last Friday I had presented some material to my ninth graders on programming concepts. On Monday, we played a review game about programming concepts. Then, we reviewed and discussed. To finish, I ran the game again with different teams. The students recalled the concepts and I found them using the terminology in class.

So, then I tackled my very big project — SAT review. I've got SAT slides and review games scattered everywhere, so I'm using SMART Notebook to bring it all together in one place.

I've created a quick tutorial video (above) to show how to find and add things to the SMART Notebook. There are lots of learning objects in the gallery. From graph paper to graphics, pretty much everything a teacher would want is in the software. At first, I just browsed, but then, I started searching in the box for what I wanted to add.

Second, you have the option of going to SMART Exchange and finding things other teachers have made. There are ways you can import and export and share with just other teachers at your school but SMART Exchange has lots of features in it.

There is a new Math Equation editor that I’m using for the math review portion of the SAT.  Also, you can insert objects and items from Geogebra.

I also found a robust library of material for grammar review.

A tip for multiple classrooms

I did find out that I need to make sure that click “end activity” before I open the next activity. Also, keeping a separate notebook for the different classes is best.

I think SMART Learning Suite is a much better way to have games, content, and my presentations put together. I highly recommend that you download the trial and play Monster game for yourself. See what game based learning can do for your classroom.


[callout]Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) [/callout]


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere