Gamification in education: Students are your best resource

Guest post contributed by Classcraft Ambassador Michele Haiken

I learned about Classcraft less than a year ago, after attending EdCamp Southwest Connecticut (#EdcampSWCT). An English teacher took his rote vocabulary lessons from a Wordly Wise workbook and gamified his class with Classcraft to entice students to enrich their everyday vocabulary. By introducing Classcraft into his middle school ELA class and having students write weekly journal entries for their game avatars using the Wordly Wise vocabulary, he was able to incorporate creative writing, vocabulary building, and gamification into his class.

I was hooked and immediately set out to gamify my own 8th grade ELA class. I have to admit — gaming, a huge trend in education today, was not my expertise. But to use Classcraft in your classroom, you don’t have to be a big-time gamer. And this is where your students who are obsessive gamers can step forth and help out. I knew that I was going to need some additional help in addition to the online tutorials and blog posts in setting up my Classcraft teams and quests, so I turned to my students for assistance.

Gaming is all about collaboration, and you want your students on your team.

Luke (all names have been changed to protect student identities) was one of my students last year who was just going through the motions of school. You know, the one who is too angry with his parents, his weight, and his social status in middle school to even pick up a pencil in class and take notes or complete his homework. But he listens in class and still is able to pass the tests enough to get by each semester. The only time I saw Luke happy and smiling was at lunch time, when he was sitting with his friends talking about gaming and the newest, best, greatest game being released or his recent high score. I knew he was the one I could tap and help me set up Classcraft and also help teach the ins and outs to his classmates.

So, during class one day, I told Luke I needed his help with a game I found online and asked if he could help me set it up. That afternoon, he returned to my classroom, and I showed him the website. He went home, created his own class, and learned the elements of the game to help me the following day. He came back the next morning to tell me that the game was cool and how I could best organize the teams in each class: two Mages, two Warriors, and one Healer. I set up my four classes, and the next day I asked Luke to help me show the class the game. All of a sudden, Luke was on top of the middle school social ladder. He knew everything about gaming and just enough about Classcraft to lead the class. The majority of the class is competitive, so my students got super pumped the moment he showed the website on the Smart Board. I had instant buy-in from all my students.

One of the things I love the most about Classcraft is the fact that teachers can personalize it to their content area and class needs. My students earn Experience Points (XP) by completing homework (it’s not graded; they’re only given points for Classcraft) or participating in our Twitter Book Club outside of the classroom. Students also earn points by answering questions in class, working well with others, and since I use Interactive Notebooks in my classroom and students are always cutting and folding papers into their interactive English Notebooks, I created points for Fastest Foldable when putting theirs together. My students were cutting and writing in their notebooks in record time!

Luke was beneficial when I was setting up and introducing the game to the whole class. As a gamer himself, he took more ownership of his work and collaboration in my class. Luke would check in with me after school from time to time to see if I had any questions about Classcraft. I did get the hang of Classcraft after a while, but I still credit Luke for his help.

Our students are our best resources. Use the expert gamers in your class to help establish teams, add additional powers, and share opportunities to earn XP. Gaming is all about collaboration, and you want your students on your team.

Share your ideas: What experiences have you had with gamification in education?

Michele Haiken, Ed.D. is a middle school English teacher in Rye, New York, and a Classcraft Ambassador. Classcraft is a non-negotiable in her classroom, and she is trying to convert the rest of her colleagues to create the first-ever Classcraft-driven school! To find more about Michele’s classroom endeavors, check out her blog.

Photo credit: racorn / Shutterstock.com

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