How I Gamified

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Before I describe how I gamified my classroom, let me make sure you understand my definition of gamification. #levelupED, the Twitter chat and blog I co-moderate with Dayson Pasion, defines gamification as using game element or mechanics in traditionally non-gaming environments. Gamificaiton is not playing Scrabble or review Jeopardy but turning your classroom into a game. You can gamify anything from a small unit to your entire classroom. I am lucky enough to teach on a two-person team with Heather Newberry who shares my vision and we’ve gamified our entire team! Below, you will find the details about how our game runs including everything we created to play it. Please take it, make it your own, and then join us at #levelupED on Thursdays at 9pm EST to share your experience.

Our entire game is based on the novel Divergent by Veronica Roth. Our students have read/are reading this book in literature circles and I’m personally obsessed with it so it seemed like a perfect fit. In the novel, the community is broken up into five factions, each one focused on a different trait: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest), and Dauntless (the fearless). Children are raised in the faction in which they are born until they are sixteen. The teens are given an aptitude test and told in which faction they belong, but the choice is still up to them. The day following their aptitude test a choosing ceremony is held. The sixteen-year-olds make a choice. Stay with the faction they’ve been raised with, or choose to change factions and break away from their family, most likely never seeing their family again. They then become initiates and must learn the ways of their faction. We included all of these elements while rolling out our game.

We announced at the beginning of the week that they would be participating in a choosing ceremony on Friday and they’d be taking an aptitude on Thursday to help them make their choice. We then set aside a few minutes of each class Tuesday and Wednesday to go over the manifestos for each faction, explaining and discussing what qualities each faction valued. We needed to students see themselves in a couple of different factions and not just Dauntless, which is where the main characters spend most of their time in the novel. We also wanted them to examine what the factions stood for when they were created and not what they had turned into when the novel begins.

On Thursday, after they had time to discuss and ponder each faction, they took three different aptitude tests and self-analyzed their results. They were then told to go home and think long and hard about their top choice and their second and third choices. We were very transparent that we wanted our classrooms to be balanced and that each class would only have a five member maximum in each faction in each classroom, so students knew they might not be in the faction they really wanted.

In the novel, the choosing ceremony involves each student stepping up to a set of five bowls, each representing a faction: stones for Abnegation, water for Erudite, soil for Amity, hot coals for Dauntless, and glass for Candor. The teens step up to the bowls, slice their palm, and drip their blood into the bowl of their choice (Faction before blood!). For obvious reasons this was not an option for us. We chose black stones for Dauntless, gray stones for Abnegation, water beads for Erudite, small baggies of red sand for Amity, and clear marbles for Candor. Since we wanted no more than five members of each faction in each class (we teach two classes, two subjects each) we placed five of each object in five class high-ball glasses and let each class choose separately. We wrote every student’s name on a piece of paper and placed them on either side of the table and drew names at random. Students walked up, one at a time, and made their choice. Once they chose, they made their way to the area designated for their faction, labeled with faction symbols. We were in our school’s theater and we turned the lights off except for the stage lights. Our table was set at the front of the stage. We also played a playlist on Spotify called Factionless in the background to set the mood.

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Once all students had chosen, we had them spend a few moments talking to their new faction. They were supposed to introduce themselves (since our two classes rarely interact) and share why they chose their faction. We were amazed as we stood on the stage and watched these groups. Students had chosen factions they truly connected with, not just the ones their friends were in. Students were getting to know each other, leaning in to each other, smiling and listening to each other. They were feeling instantly connected to one another based on their choice of faction and it was pretty magical.

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We had spoken to a few former students and, with approval from their current teacher, they planned our next activity. All of the students who participated had read the novel and were well informed regarding the factions. We met with them after school for a couple of hours to ensure the plans were well formulated and to help them come up with some creative, school-friendly activities. This is when those students took over. They led each faction in pairs to discuss what it means to be in that faction, they gave out faction related snacks, and then played teambuilding games. We gave them about thirty minutes to do thisImage

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Once their “initiation” was over, we sent our former students back to class and we went over the rules and regulations of our game. We created a game manual for the students so they’d have a simple go-to if they forgot the rules.

First, we explained AP (Action Points or Attendance Points). We give the students four action points per day (one action point per core class). You earn these simply by being present. These points can be transferred into Inspire Bucks (the 6th grade’s reward system) or rolled over each Friday. Action points can also be spent on unscheduled bathroom breaks, buying a pencil, or buying a day or two of extra time on an assignment. We track these on www.classcharts.com.

Then there’s HP (Hit Points). Our school has a traditional (and wonderful) name-on-the-board discipline system. We transferred this into our HP system. Instead of putting their name on the board for an offense they lose HP. We created a physical sheet that the students keep out on their desk so we can easily mark the loss of hit points. We take them up at the end of each day so we can write detention slips or assign silent lunch. All hit points they haven’t had taken away roll over into our last type of points, XP.

XP (Experience Points) are points students earn for good behavior, hard work, or high scores on assignments. Students earn these points in the hopes of leveling up and earning different privileges. They begin as “Factionless” and have no privileges. At 121 XP they earn the ability to help the teacher hand out papers or run errands and going to the water fountain at any time without asking. Each level gets harder and harder to achieve the rewards become more desirable. All of these can be found in the game manual.

It seems like a lot, but it’s all pretty easy to keep track of. Students keep track of their own XP on their Hit Points Sheet and they are in charge of totaling them up on Friday. We told them if they miscalculate or add in points they didn’t earn they earn zero points that week. Also, if they lose their sheet we’ll give them a new one, but none of the previous XP earned that week will count. All XP also goes toward a faction total and a guild (group) total.

We also award badges, or special awards for superior behaviors. We thought about making this digital on Haiku Learning, but we decided to use paper.  We made an ID Badge with the badges displayed on one side and descriptions of what each badge means on the other. Students earn their ID Badge when they level up and they can then earn badges. We also made sure to tell them that are secret badges that they don’t know about so we can give badges for excellent behavior any time we want.

Gamifying my classroom has led to so many positive changes in how smoothly my classroom runs. I’m not an expert, and I’m sure there will be many upgrades in the future, but I’m off to a pretty good start.

Everything you’ve read about here can be found for free HERE

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