Growing up, school was a boring place but it did not start that way. When I first arrived at school in kindergarten, it was a joy. There was play, fun, exploration, and discovery. I spent little time sitting still and more time moving about exploring my environment, learning along the way. As I grew older, school began to change into a rigid, boring, environment where I felt my voice was less valued and my creativity was being eroded away with each wave of worksheet after worksheet. Moving about the room was
When I first started teaching grade 8 sciences, the light bulb went off for me as I walked into my new classroom to find students either totally disconnected from the subject or just doing because they had to with no vested interest. There were some students who were engaged but it just did not feel right. Enter gamification!
“What if school were treated like a game?”
So what is gamification?!
I chose to prep students for real scenarios but totally revamping everything that I did from content delivery to assessment, to work creation. The results were spectacular! I saw engagement, unlike anything I had ever seen. Grades (although I am not pro emphasis on grades) were rising and teamwork skills were increasing. On a personal note, I was also having so much more fun in my classroom, and my joy and enthusiasm began to permeate through to my students.
Here are the different elements that are built into my gamified classroom. You can incorporate any of these to any degree. A gamified classroom is quite dynamic!
Gamification Starting Points!
Story & Narrative: Like a good book or movie that captures your attention, having a long-running story with a target to reach, coupled with a running narrative of people you meet, help and interact with keeps the engagement moving forward as the story deepens.
Cross Curricular Design: Although I teach science, I have incorporated multiple elements from different subjects. Movement, arts, mathematics and language arts are all present to some degree in this program. The running narrative contains a rich vocabulary challenging students of all reading levels and comprehensions.
Money Management: I give them currency as a reward for all kinds of things. They then learn to save and plan with their money for larger items and strategy becomes a focal point. It also teaches them the value of money – something many people think doesn’t exist in our youth.
Teamwork/Guilds: You are randomly assigned a team to work together throughout the game. They learn about teamwork and collaboration. The most successful stick it out and work together. They learn that changing to be with friends doesn’t always work – they learn the grass isn’t always greener. They walk out better group members.
Negotiations: Players can barter, buy, sell and trade items with me and their peers. They learn incredible negotiating and planning skills. The things kids have pulled off are incredible. The perks and slick speech is nothing I could teach them traditionally.
Observation: Science is about observation. That didn’t happen enough in my past classes. I add puzzles, treasure hunts and open-ended clues that force true observation and strategy. They are so much more observant of the world around them now.
Leaderboard: A way to track the progress between different players and different classes and teams. Tracking your progress allows you to plan ahead and strategize. I also offer up multiple bonus missions to cement knowledge for people who want to move and do extra. Emphasizes growth versus the traditional vantage point of school which is lost.
Game Cards: A basic form of extrinsic motivation that allows students to circumvent rules in the game, as well as the traditional classroom. Help develop a sense of accomplishment.
Theme: The class is redesigned to fit the feel of a medieval world. Using basic props and some creativity I have developed a space that helps students feel like they are in a different room and/or era of time. I would argue that theme is the single most important thing to consider because it is where everything stems in your design. It is like the trunk of the tree and everything branches off from there!
Guild Battles (Review Games): Using fun and games is great! By revamping old board games and tweaking the rules I have been able to create unique ways to review for tests.
Badges: Sometimes you want to reward students for doing things when no one is looking or for doing some great! The badge system is a set of custom stickers the can earn just like an X-Box achievement, you know the name but not how to earn them.
So, the biggest gripes I tend to receive from educators who
For teachers interested in learning more about using gamification in the classroom, please feel free to explore my website. It contains a blog, a store, examples, and tutorials about how to do things both big and small; or my YouTube channel where I am slowly but surely creating instructional videos for teachers on this concept; and a teacher’s guide full of examples, templates and blackline masters to help anyone learn how to design their program to best fit their students, any grade, any subject, and any school, budgets big or small.
Teacher to teacher, never be afraid to change your classroom and never be afraid to be the loudest voice for your students. In the real world, we would never stand for a company that refuses to progress but in education, we are OK with it. Why? Just because something has been done one way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it needs to remain that way. Be the agent for change your students need.
Press start to begin!