Is this how you game? : An attempt at Gamifying 6th Grade Language Arts

I am not a Gamer. The whole idea of Gamifying the classroom was incredibly difficult for me to conceptualize how it worked. I understood it in theory, and thought it was a great idea, but could not picture how it would work in reality. I especially found this difficult to apply to a 6th grade Language Arts classroom, which is much more subjective than math or science, in terms of linear order and clear answers.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out all the way, but it’s something I’m excited to  learn more about.

Based on reading and the videos I watched from Michael Matera, I realized that I needed to start small. I wanted to focus on one small piece of my classroom. Maria, my partner, and I, talked about options for what would work and ultimately settled on focusing on vocabulary because the very nature of word study allowed it to be Gamified somewhat naturally.  I have vocabulary set up to operate on a 10 day sequence. Day 1, students are introduced to 10 new words. Day 2, students answer prompts related to the words (what is something that might be submerged?, what is an antonym for obscure?) Days 3-5 students work on a variety of vocabulary assignments that help them get to know the words. These assignments are created by the curriculum my district adopted and I just modify them to meet my needs. Days 6-9, students take a short review quiz each day that asks them to match 5 of the words to definitions, or to fill in a blank in a sentence. Students take one of the words they missed on each of those days and complete something I call “vocabulary images”, which requires them to write their own definition of the word, find an image to represent the word, and explain how the image represents the word. On Friday, students have a vocabulary quiz that I have already been leveling based on Depth of Knowledge, or an attempt at them. Level 1 is matching words to their definitions. Level 2 of the test is writing the definition of words. Level 3 is putting words into blanks in sentences, and Level 4 is writing their own sentences.

Vocabulary is something that has proven to dramatically improve students’ reading comprehension. As a 6th grade team, we have chosen to focus on vocabulary because of how big of a different it makes for students. By gamifying this aspect of my classroom, I am hoping that students will take some ownership of their learning and will encourage others on their teams to do well. Vocabulary is one area that students are often not instrinsically motivated to succeed in – other than wanting to get good grades – so gamifying this process may cause students to take more responsibility for this learning.

Because this process is concrete and more objective than other things in Language Arts classrooms, this seemed like a good place to start, but I had no idea where to take it. Based on few things I read, I started by checking out Class Craft and noticed that it was almost perfect for what I wanted to do. It allows for customization for “behaviors” and “health points” which allowed me to tailor it to match our vocabulary work. I wound up with the following rules for XP points, Health Points, and Sentences – which are consequences if a student loses all of their Health Points.

Because we had just taken a test, it was very easy to give students XP points right away. One of my concerns with this process, especially how I’m approaching it, is because able to use it on a regular basis. Without consistency, students won’t have the same buy-in that they will if it’s present almost daily in the classroom. I have already discovered “The Makus Valley” which is a volume meter, and “Boss Battles” which allow for quick whole-class formative assessments, similar to Kahoot but connected to Class Craft. I also did not originally have the behavior of “complete a vocabulary assignment with 80% accuracy” but added this so that I could more frequently award XP points.

I have only been using Class Craft for two days and can already see that it is engaging to students. Students truly enjoy being able to create a character and are excited by the options they will have as they level up to customize their character. I know that it’s the new, shiny toy, so I know their level of interest may dwindle as the year progresses but I am thrilled by the level of excitement students have already.


Curricular goals: Students will require using  mental processing to be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas.
Standards addressed:
ISTE Standards: 2b. Students engage in positive, safe, legal, and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices
Iowa Core Standards: 21.6-8.TL.6 Essential Concept and/or skill: Understand the underlying structure and application of technology systems.
L.6.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

 

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