There are just some students who are disengaged simply by walking into your class. This was the case with me. It wasn’t me, my content, nor the school. They just didn’t “play school” well. It wasn’t their fault either. But as the teacher, I needed to find a way to get them involved and engaged. There was nothing holding these students back besides a lack of engagement. In 2013, I started to gamify my class to solve this problem. Here are 3 ways you can make your class an awesome game. And engage the most disengaged students.
Who Was I Doing It For?
My target was 9th grade disengaged boys. 14 year old boys are a tough audience to teach world history. If it has anything to do with life outside of wars, it was a tough sell. To engage them more in the awesome adventure of history, I started to reward progression with badges and achievements.
If you are a teacher who wants to gamify your class, but you do not know how to get started on it, then you might check out Classcraft. Classcraft is a great new way to turn your class into an online game that is similar to an online role playing game. But, it doesn’t mean that you encourage your students to play online games while in the class. Classcraft offers one way you can make your class more interactive, engaging, and generally awesome. But you can do it simply by adding any of the following elements to your class.
#1 Add A Sense of Progress and Achievement
I used badges to signify the completion of a unit. It was an easy way to show students how far they progressed in a year. These were digital badges that students collected in my online classroom page on Schoology. They were publicly displayed and after a number of them were collected, visually, it signified progress. You could also do this with “Experience Points”. I give out experience points as a part of their assignment grades and for behavior in class. It is another way to engage students with a sense of progress … and making your class an awesome game at the same time.
#2 Encourage Mastery Learning
Mastery learning is a sense of progression when learning. The end goal of any mastery class is not the collection of knowledge, but the mastery of skills. One of the basic requirements of mastery-style course is the ability of students to demonstrate mastery of skills overtime.
These elements are in games too. Every game besides Tetris, allows players to replay levels. Games give players extra lives or the ability to try a challenge again. Making your assessments more than one-time challenges engages students because it gives them the hope of progress and growth. You are engaging students because you are changing their mindset from a “one-and-done” quiz attempt into a challenge that needs to be overcome.
Have you played a electronic game recently? Many, if not most, have a social aspect to them. This is done on purpose. Humans are social creatures. In your class, in-person or online, you can make your class into an awesome game by focusing on the close collaboration of students within groups. These are not just for the one time final assessment, the dreaded group project. Instead it is a mindset. You literally move your tables and chairs to form groups. The ideal grouping is between 3 and 5. Any more than 5 and the efficiency starts to drop dramatically.
But you want students to be able to group up on the average, everyday, learning task. You don’t even need to encourage them! You can engage many of your disengaged students simply by putting them in groups and simply not telling them to work individually. Many will instinctually just start working together. This is good. Encourage it. Encourage them to share and to teach each other. In doing so, they will be more engaged, learn more, and will think of your class as not a lonely effort to learn, but an exciting place that groups of people can face similar challenges.
3 Ways Classcraft Makes Gamification Easy
Ok, I know what many are probably thinking… this seems like a lot of work. It doesn’t need to be a second job. I have used Classcraft for about a year and a half. It has solved a lot of my gamification problems because it makes it easy to make my class into an awesome game. Here are some of the reasons why I would recommend simply starting with an online tool if you feel comfortable.
#1 Risk & Rewards
Literally, classcraft is a role playing game, wherein the teacher is the game master and the students act as the players. The students choose to be classes of warriors, mages, and healers. Each class has their own set of powers and they then get additional powers by getting “experience points” throughout the year. I give out experience points for class participation and assignment performance. On the other hand, bad behavior such as disrupting the class immediately results in the student losing health. When their character of the student runs out of health their entire team takes additional damage and they are temporarily out of the game. Risk and reward elements of Classcraft can easily help make your class an awesome game.
#2 Game management
Managing all these points and levels and powers can be a lot of work sometimes. Classcraft helps me mange it. I usually start class with a daily event that takes about 5 minutes. I appoint a student to be the daily “king’s hand”, a la Game Of Thrones. Their job is to run the game during class. And then Classcraft just sort of runs in the background. It is a part of the class but isn’t the central focus, the learning is.
#3 Teamwork and Collaboration
In order to do well in this kind of game, the students need to participate and work and help each other. This will later give them extra or additional experience points in order to keep them progressing. In any group, there will be those who fail to do their part. That is why there is a social peer pressure to work hard. If a student is being negative or off-topic, they would receive damage. By gamifying, I addressed bad behaviors (cell phone use, disruptions, inattentiveness) and made them less confrontational.
The point is still made that these things won’t be accepted but it is less of a spectacle. If they want, the person’s teammates can also use their personal powers to help protect a member from having a punishment. In this way, the teacher does not only encourage the students to work as a group, but also teaches them to help their classmates on their own will. Classcraft does all this fairly easily and makes your class awesome at the same time.
Gamifying a class can really change the way students look at learning. Gamifying content and lessons can take an ordinary lesson and transform it into an adventure. Students are happier and more engaged. And I will be honest, this is not going to immediately raise student scores on the yearly state assessment. But your teaching will. Use this to engage students and they will want to learn more to progress in their skills, abilities, and levels.
**If you want to try Classcraft, click here and when you sign up you get 2 free months of premium! I take care of my guild 🙂
Question: Gamifying is all about taking game elements and adding them to a class. What was/is your favorite game and why?…mine is Risk…or Civilization (can’t decide) Let us know in the comments below!