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“Gamification” of the Classroom

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

It’s blowing up all over Twitter, “Gamification in the Classroom”. How do we create more games to use in the classroom? What resources are already out there for those teachers who don’t have the time to create games? Students today are motivated by earning points and winning something in the classroom. They want to do more than sit down, take notes, and regurgitate information over and over and over and… well you get the point.

As a high school English teacher, here are my personal tips and tricks with things I’ve had success with.

Gamification Tip #1 Always have your students in groups.

This allows for any lesson to be turned into a game. Groups become teams in a single instance. This builds the relationships between group members, they learn each other’s strengths, and as games becomes team building activities, they learn how to better work together for normal assignments.

Tip #2 Assign point and provide a bonus puzzle question at the end.

Now, any activity, any day, any time can become a game if you add a prize and split it up into a variety of tasks. Say you normally use a set of post-read questions every year. Take those questions and make them each worth a certain amount of points. As teams bring up their questions to be checked, put their points on the board, and give them a letter. These letters will be used later for a puzzle that they will solve once all of their questions are complete.

If they don’t get the question right the first time, they can still earn the point once they get it right; however, they cannot get the letter. If they have to attempt the questions a third or even a fourth time, start taking points off. Make sure the puzzle is solvable without needing all of the letters for students who may not get all of them.

For example say you have 10 post-read questions. Question 1 gave the team five points, and if they got it correct the first time around, they receive the letter “A” on a sticky note. Questions 2 same thing except they receive an “R”. Questions 3-10 they get the 5 points and the letters associated with those questions are “C”, “T”, “H”, “C”, “A”, “I”, “N”, and “E”. All of these letters can either be printed out and laminated, one set per group, or (if your like me, just write it all down on a sticky note.

Once the group has finished all ten of their post-read questions give them a bonus puzzle. You can even give extra points for this final puzzle. My example question here is, “What is the literary device where the author is slowly introducing information about the characters’ personality, motivation, and looks, called?” Then underneath I will have sixteen slashes all together to let them know it’s one word, 16 letters long. They will use the 10 letters (or less if they didn’t earn them) to try and put the puzzle together.

This activity is optional and not required. The answer: characterization. If they get this correct I will add 10 points to their overall scores. The group(s) at the end (once all of the questions have been turned in) with the most points get some sort of pass or prize. You can choose to make this for first place only or (as I’ve found more effective) the first three groups. I give three HW passes for first place, two for second place, and one pass for third place. This way students who didn’t finish first don’t give up and hurt their grade. They will instead keep pushing themselves to try and win a pass. I still make the questions a grade to encourage the rest of the groups to play the game. Plus, if it’s not a race and it’s about accurate answers to earn the points, it’s anyone’s game. This will continue to encourage students to keep going.

End of Year State Test-Prep Game:

Students hate having to do drill and kill activities. Instead, start off by printing a story with multiple choice questions that mimic their end of course exams given by the state. Give them a time frame to read the passage in their groups.

Next, start a new timer for students to start answering the multiple-choice questions. Walk around with the answer key and check work on a first come first serve basis. Circle answers the groups missed and make them try again. The first three groups to get all of the questions correct earn different prizes.

Last, as a class discuss why the correct answers were the correct answers verses a different choice (focus on what you saw as a common mistakes among the entire class). This will be helpful in motivating them to start answering those same types of questions on their own later on. Their confidence in answering questions after reading a passage will increase and their abilities in answering those types of tricky questions will also go up.

Anything can become a game of BINGO

Maybe put up a character list for students to put one character names into each box of their BINGO sheet. Or if you’re NOT ENGLISH TEACHERS whatever important vocab terms/concepts you’ve been learning about that week. Maybe a list of literary terms if you are English Teachers.

What you do next is simply ask questions with the answer being one of those terms, concepts, or characters as the answer. Students put the words on their sheets in a random order and got to pick whichever they wanted on their sheets. So, it’s anyone’s game. Make sure you have a cheat sheet to check students’ BINGO cards and be ready to give them some sort of prize when they do get BINGO.

Musical Chairs Quiz Game

This is always an option. Even if you’re coming up with questions off of the top of your head. You can check student understanding of the text as they play musical chairs in the classroom. I mark THREE desks with a color. I tell them the blue desk will go first, green goes second, and red will try last then we’ll open it to the floor. Students earn points for getting correct answers and landing in those special chairs. I play the music and stop the music but NEVER TAKE ANY CHAIRS AWAY. This way no students are “out”, everyone gets to keep playing and trying to earn points. It will take playing through a time or two before you see the excitement from a group of high schoolers, but I promise they’ll love it.

What I do when I don’t have time to create a game of my own and my students need a break?

I immediately have students log into and pull up a topic that we’re learning and have them play Kahoot which is like a quiz game. I always save their scores for a grade, and make sure everyone types in their actual names so I can give them points for their grade. Students love the immediate feedback. In the Magical Realism Bundle I include a pacing guide that has students working on different Kahoots each week related to the literary terms and literary pieces they were reading that week. You can create your own Kahoots or find ones other teachers have made in a matter of seconds.

Teachers Pay Teachers Games are EVERYWHERE

Again, for those of you without time it’s an easy and quick search to find games that other teachers have created. We here at ChalkItUp2Kropp have created a FREE game for English teachers. Click to try out our FREE Literary Term Rotation Game. You never know what else you will find. Try out Escape Rooms and Scavenger Hunts with just a quick search. There’s so much room for fun in the classroom.

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