By Kade Wells, Advance Middle School English Teacher and Founder of BuildingHeroez.com
As Dungeons & Dragons approaches its fifth decade, its influence remains larger than ever. With more than 50 million fans worldwide, D&D continues to inspire fans of all ages with the power of collective imagination.
“[In my time running games for students, I’ve found that] Dungeons & Dragons fills the creative and social gaps left in their day-to-day education,” says Zac Clay, an educator and D&D club volunteer. “Though they may not realize it while they’re fighting monsters and delving into dungeons, D&D is a great resource for social-emotional learning. The development I’ve seen in my students’ confidence and creativity has been profound.”
At its very core, D&D encourages literacy. The Player’s Handbook, one of the game’s core rulebooks, is 300+ pages, with a readability level of 1400L. While that may seem challenging, especially for students who dislike reading, playing D&D has been known to increase kids’ interest in learning how to read. Even if the material is too difficult at first, students can start out by writing down notes about their character or the world they want to tell stories in. Once their interest is piqued (and it will be!), you won’t be able to tear them away from the many books that D&D has to offer.
“I have never seen students push themselves to read the way I have with Dungeons and Dragons,” Emilie Rayner, an elementary school teacher from Ontario, Canada says. “They beg me to get more books for the classroom and at recess, I see small groups of students from differing grades reading the books together and taking notes.”
Besides improving literacy, D&D is full of creative ways for students to practice hard skills like math and writing. For example, while creating a character, players must make more than fifty decisions about their character, including written backstories and personality traits that are tracked on a character sheet. The game also incorporates basic arithmetic, asking players to add up multiple dice rolls and even introducing probability and statistics. The more students play D&D, the more they will naturally develop the educational skills they need to succeed.
In addition, D&D teaches students the importance of communication and collaboration. Players do not quest alone. Instead, they form a party of diverse heroes, each with their own special set of skills. The game encourages players to talk and listen, engaging the area in the brain tied to reading comprehension and theoretical processing. Players must work together to weave a story and accomplish their common goals.
“The experience of building a [D&D] character, taking that character through adventures, [and] struggling along with that character is a great way to develop skills teachers strive to foster, like creativity, teamwork, and perseverance in the face of adversity,” says Lizz Simpson, a librarian, teacher, and games club advisor. “The rules and the materials help build literacy, numeracy, and even social pragmatics outside of a formal classroom setting.”
You don’t need to fully understand how to play D&D to see its clear educational and emotional value. Encouraging students to explore their imaginations will unlock potential in them you may have never expected.
So, where do you begin? Dungeons & Dragons provides all the tools you need to get started.
D&D-Inspired Teaching Kits for grades 4-8
Take students on a collaborative worldbuilding adventure with imaginative activities that reinforce language arts, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. Together, you’ll explore fantastical realms as you help your students unlock their imaginations.
The Dungeons & Dragons Build an Adventure program is available at no cost for grades 4-6 and 6-8. Download now.
D&D Afterschool Club Kit
The adventure never stops, especially not after class. The D&D Afterschool Club Kit provides everything you need to start or enhance your D&D club at your school, library, or enrichment center. These resources include:
- One copy of the recently released D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle
- Instructions and guidelines for club organizers
- A quick demo and learn-to-play guide for Dungeon Masters
- Easy-to-read character cards
- A poster to advertise your club
Reserve your kit today at no cost by visiting the D&D Educator Resource Hub.
International Literacy Association Webinars
Made in collaboration with the International Literacy Association, this webinar series explains how you can strengthen your students’ literacy skills with D&D.
Watch the first of the webinars on demand now:
Register now for the third webinar in the series, Using Dungeons & Dragons to Scaffold Writing Instruction, taking place from 5-6 p.m. ET on October 11, 2022.
To learn more about these resources, visit the D&D Educator Hub.