Review: Teacher-Gamer Handbook, a guide for TTRPG educators

Teacher-Gamer Handbook is a guide for educators to learn the ins and outs of effectively running a tabletop RPG class!  This book covers class outlines and activities, detailed explanations of the skills kids learn through TTRPGs, tips for addressing common concern points, and SO much more!  As a teacher-gamer who uses TTRPG elements in the class that I teach, I loved getting to check this out, and I hope you do too!

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What is Teacher-Gamer Handbook

Teacher-Gamer Handbook by Zach Reznichek is an engaging, jam-packed, and meaningful guide for educators to learn how to run a class based entirely around tabletop RPGs.  In a very easy to read discussion-esque tone, it details what students can learn from TTRPG-based classes that they don’t from traditional teaching, covers everything you need to start your class, and even explains how to get buy-in from schools.  

Random table cards and character/game building guides that optionally come with the physcial book

The primary system used for the examples is D&D, though this can be used with other tabletop RPG systems, and it goes much further than the D&D core rules to create the class.  It dives into making detailed and personal characters, integrating maker-space activities for students, and outlines 30 lesson plans that teachers can use to cover three 10-week classes. 

And there is so much more that’s in here.  This was roughly 300 pages that were FULL of fantastic information and ideas all about using TTRPGs to teach.

Who would Teacher-Gamer Handbook be great for?

Teacher-Gamer Handbook is made specifically for teachers who are gamers (or are willing to learn).  It looks at what educators need and are interested in for their students and how that connects to the unique elements of a TTRPG class, so it is a resource that, while beneficial to many, does have a very intentional audience.

Educators using this should have some familiarity with TTRPGs or be willing to learn and study a bit because, as the book points out, if you’re going to teach a TTRPG class, you should know TTRPGs like you do any other subject that you are going to teach.

That all said, I think it is GREAT that it has this specific audience!  Using tabletop RPGs to teach in a classroom setting is, in and of itself, a specific situation that has its own nuance and requirements.  While I don’t run a “TTRPG class”, I do use TTRPG elements in the class that I teach, and I was able to connect with this material much more than some of the general educational TTRPG guides I’ve found.   If you are an educator who wants to teach TTRPGs or use them as a core part of your lessons, this is very much for you.

How Teacher-Gamer Handbook is made FOR teachers 

There are a lot of differences for running a classroom TTRPG than there are for running a regular TTRPG session or even a TTRPG that is educational (and not for a class).   You need to consider lesson plans, school board approval, curriculum targets, politics with other teachers, class prep, assessment and measurement methods, grading, and so much more.  This book goes through all of those. 

Teacher-Gamer Handbook gives tips for getting approval and buy-in, like bringing on a co-teacher so you aren’t going solo or working with other teachers to compliment their courses, to help with getting approval.  

It explains all the benefits that students see from this (more detail later) so you can both make your class in a way that will intentionally integrate these unique benefits and can also back up your proposal with a solid explanation to others, conveying your intuitive knowledge of these benefits.

There’s a 30-week lesson plan outlining how to create characters and worlds that teach these skills along with a GM checklist to get you set up for your supplies and prep, tips based on experience from teaching, and examples that show common situations that you may need to navigate with parents and students which are unique to a TTRPG class. 

Another topic that teachers need to consider with a TTRPG class is assessment and grading.  Many schools use graded homework and quizzes as their assessment tool to measure growth, and while this book offers ways to work within that system, if it’s required, it also suggests alternatives to issuing mandatory homework and evaluating and measuring growth without needing to issue a grade.

How Teacher-Gamer Handbook emphasizes life skills 

Teacher-Gamer Handbook focuses on the unique elements that TTRPGs teach: life skills.  There are 36 life skills covered in the book including basic life skills, like active listening, problem-solving, and goal setting, and more advanced life skills, like community sustainability, diplomacy, and self-validation.  The handbook also does not just cover them – it gives examples and ways to integrate them too and breaks those skills down over and over so, as you continue to read, you understand and feel them.

It also integrates other very hands-on life skills into the curriculum in the maker-space section, which I think is extremely important and is something that I hold near and dear in my own class.  Kinesthetic activities teach and practice so many skills in a highly tangible way that means a lot more to students than reading about them in a book or just being told.  For example, creating a physical 3D model for a map as a group teaches collaboration and group problem-solving AND it teaches math as you need to calculate scale, can involve architectural research as you make it period-accurate, and may require some engineering education as you experiment with different bridge or truss structures.

How Teacher-Gamer Handbook is written as it plays

Teacher-Gamer Handbook has A LOT of information, and is presented in a way that stays engaging throughout the whole book because it is written true to how it suggests to run the classes it supports.  

In addition to the discussion where you are told information about TTRPG classes, it also uses examples and analogy so you learn and connect with it more thoroughly, which is very similar to how TTRPGs use implicit learning to teach life skills.  Some of my favorites were the example conversation with a parent about their children getting excited about class, using Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel to explain implicit learning (which… has an extra layer of using an example to help with understanding implicit learning), and showcasing how skills awareness is important via Hawkeye’s part in The Avengers.

The whole book also takes on a very motivational and playful tone.  Lists are presented like roll tables, stories bring key points to life, and there’s a sense of wonder in the discussion about how and why you, as a teacher, can have so much meaning in a student’s development.  It’s a very informative book, but it’s also joyful, just like a TTRPG.

My overall thoughts on Teacher-Gamer Handbook

Teacher-Gamer Handbook is perfect for teachers who are looking to make a TTRPG-based class, allowing them to ease the learning curve that comes with being one of the first in your area to start something new, by drawing from the experience of someone who has walked that path before. The advice here is relevant, meaningful, and presented with a contagious passion.  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to read and review this book, and I hope it helps you too!

Find a copy of Teacher-Gamer Handbook

You can find a copy of Teacher-Gamer Handbook on DriveThruRPG and the Teacher Gamer website!If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!

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