Classroom Gamification Helps Me to #LoveTeaching

Classroom Gamification Helps Me to #LoveTeaching

I have always loved integrating games into my high school social studies classroom. Generally, students also love it because it lets them take their learning less seriously for even a short time, and do something that is fun with their friends. Several years ago, I discovered Classcraft,  a gamification platform for my classes that focuses on improving student behavior and rewards them for helping others, turning in completed assignments on time, and keeping the classroom environment clear, organized, and safe- (things they should be doing anyway). Additionally, sometimes the kids who are gamers are not the most socially adept, and being good at the game can give them an “in” with their classmates who scramble to try to get them to join their teams!

Last spring, like most teachers, being sent into quarantine broke my heart. I teach because I love the interaction with my students in the classroom. I love their wit, I love their idealism, and I especially love their silliness because as teenagers, they are too often concerned with their “reputations” to let go and be truly silly.

This is another important reason why I love using Classcraft in my classroom.

We have a “Random Event” every day in the game that usually requires one or more students to do something in order to earn experience points, or avoid losing health points. If I ask a student to make up a silly poem about something in the classroom, there is no way they would consider it; however, if I offer them 150XP, they are falling over themselves to write the weirdest, silliest poem they can! Quarantine was the worst since we were not able to be synchronous with students even once or twice a week, so that meant that Classcraft had to fall by the wayside.

Fast-forward to the current school year. We have been face to face all year, except for a mandated statewide shutdown of high schools in November-December, and a current short term, full school shut down due to community spread. However, the days in-between have been some of the best.I think students are even more willing to get out of their comfort zones and actually behave like the kids they are! Of course, there are always those one or two grumpy kids who just aren’t interested. However, that’s when it seems the universe intervenes, and the exact best Random Event pops up. It is one of my absolute favorite events, and it’s called “Dance or Die.” The upshot is, I put on a fun song and students have to get up out of their seats and dance or they lose all of their health points and have to complete a “Pledge” to continue participating in the game. Additionally, to encourage a good group dynamic and positive peer pressure, their teammates also lose a few health points when they “die” in the game. So their teammates don’t want a snowball effect to happen to their team, and they don’t want to lose a teammate because they may need that particular teammate’s special game skills later in the day or week.

This is where the beauty is - the teammates rush to the seat of the grumpy student and physically pick them up out of their seat and proceed to move their arms and legs around to the beat. It doesn’t take long until they are all laughing and dancing and enjoying themselves. The song finishes and everyone returns to their seats with smiles on their faces, refreshed, and ready to get to work learning about world history. It’s quick (I pick a great, upbeat 80s or 90s song), and it creates a strong sense of team among the small teams and the class as a whole. It makes me smile every time to see students help each other and push each other just to have fun.

What a fun way to #LoveTeaching!

Kymberli Wregglesworth is a high school social studies teacher at Onaway High School in Onaway, MI. She has a BA in History from Alma College, an MA in Education from Michigan State University, and an MA in American History and Government from Ashland University. Kymberli was chosen as a James Madison Fellow in 2011 and has been honored as the High School Social Studies Educator of the Year by the Michigan Council for the Social Studies, and as the Region 2 Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Department of Education. She has also been a Gerstacker Education Leadership Fellow and has served on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Return to School Advisory Council and Student Recovery Advisory Council. She is a Classcraft Ambassador, iCivics Educator Network member, Google Certified Educator, Edpuzzle Coach, Flipgrid Certified #GridGuide, and Kami Hero. When she’s not teaching and learning, Kymberli enjoys spending time in northern Michigan’s amazing outdoors with her husband Keith and their daughter Kacie.

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