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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How I Gamified my Classroom: Gamified Lesson

As I first started reading Explore Like a Pirate this summer, I was instantly motivated to plan something interesting for my students. I started thinking about units that I could revamp, and with the election coming up this fall I decided to update my unit on American Symbols and government. The only thing is, that I did this early on in the book before it described game mechanics, so it's a little different than the other posts in this mini series. The good news is that it was engaging for the students and something I definitely want to do again!

A few years ago, I learned how to make a paper bag camera where the students could “take pictures” of things and then write about them. I've always loved the idea, but had never been able to figure out how to get it to work effectively in the past. The students would spend most of their time drawing a picture, and then would write one sentence, if that, to describe it. Well, when you're teaching how to write paragraphs that's a problem!

I still loved the idea of using the camera in a lesson, and it was on my mind while I'm trying to figure out how to revamp this unit. I got a little distracted and started looking up things to do on my upcoming vacation in Napa Valley, and then all of a sudden BAM! It hit me!

We would take a tour of national monuments and Washington, D.C. And use the camera to take pictures of the places we visited. While “on the tour” the students would learn from the tour guide, me, about the different monuments. They would take a picture, and when it was developed we would write facts about the monument or other symbol on the other side. The students love love LOVES traveling on planes and taking pictures of the monuments. I was surprised at how much of a hit that was.

Well, it didn't stop there. I wanted to create a sense of adventure to add that game aspect to this lesson and give the students a problem to solve. So one day they received a letter from George Washington saying that he had somehow traveled through time and he needed help from the smartest class around to go back and lead the country. I had this whole great plan where the students would have to find and decipher clues to spell out one of the names of the monuments to find him.

And it was a total flop.

Close up of the letter.

The students were more interested in looking for clues in the sand at recess or it on the field in the grass. They completely missed the clues that I wrote on the white board or taped to desks. Maybe the beginning of 2nd grade was a little too soon to get them to complete extra tasks to earn clues. Or maybe I didn't explain it right. It's something I'll definitely try again next year, or maybe even with another lesson this year. Well just have to see how it goes!

The good news is that even though they did not understand looking for clues in the way I wanted them to, they were super excited about learning the content. Each week when we went to library I had students come up to me and show me books about the government, Presidents, or monuments that they were checking out. They would say things like “Maybe there's a clue in here, Ms. Corrigan!”

Well, there were plenty of clues hidden in books. Only those books were already at their desks!

Make sure you check back next Wednesday, 11/9, to read about the 3D model challenge!

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