Games-based learning with Nintendogs

Jo Barcas Buchan espouses the benefits of games-based learning.

Primary Teacher, Fraserburgh South Park Primary School, Aberdeenshire

I'm currently a probationer with a P2 class at Fraserburgh South Park Primary School in Aberdeenshire. When I started in August the school was already committed to games-based learning, with Dr Kawashima brain training in full swing. A class pack of Nintendo DS consoles and the Nintendogs game was earmarked for my P2s to use.


After attending a fantastic games-based learning in-service course, run by Anna Rossvoll, in November, I was keen to try Nintendogs for myself. I asked my mentor for permission to replace the existing Environmental Studies topic for the third term with Nintendogs as a context for learning. From then on it was all systems go!

Getting started

There were lots of ideas already available on Glow, and I took inspiration from these, and drew upon the children's own ideas as to what they would like to do as part of a dog-themed project.

Learning outcomes

Planning a topic from scratch was time-consuming but enjoyable, as I was able to tailor the activities and learning outcomes more closely to the needs of my own class.

I also found the new 3­-18 outcomes easier to use and more flexible than the 5-14 documents. The 3-18 outcomes, along with the four capacities of the Curriculum for Excellence, really allowed me to plan more cross-curricular learning.

How it worked

The children loved the Nintendogs from day one. Each mixed-ability group of three children shared a console and named and trained their own puppy pal, writing diaries about their pooch.

The results

The consoles promoted group work and real co-operation, and gave us many opportunities for the children to work together to solve problems.

Communication skills have improved too, both verbally and in writing. Numeracy has been extended, as children have managed budgets running into thousands of pounds, and successfully discussed place value to thousands not just the tens and units used in their maths.

We've had trips to the library to check out non-fiction dog books, a real dog in class for a visit, newspaper reporters and photographers in, a visit from Derek Robertson from the Learning and Teaching Scotland Consolarium to record a podcast, and even a TV crew in for a day.

We've learnt how to take care for a dog, made dog finger puppets, had a vet role play centre in class, looked at dogs in art and made fantastic art work in response. The list goes on. It's hard to pick a highlight, and even harder to see a lowlight! Perhaps the day the Nintendogs got fleas...


The Nintendogs project has been an amazing opportunity for me as a probationer, and has had such benefits for my class. The children are more confident, more willing to take on a challenge and more able to talk about what they are doing in class now.

What's next?

I'm evaluating the project as part of my Aberdeenshire Council probationer mini-research and I'm looking forward to sharing the work we've been doing with everyone else! I'd jump at the chance for another games-based learning project to try and am now firmly convinced of the value of technology in the classroom to enrich the learning experience.