I can't believe three weeks have already gone by.
And I'm super excited with my classes this year. This year I'm in the sixth grade resource ELA classroom and, as of right now, I'm loving the vibes coming from all of my students. We kicked off the year with an introduction to gamification. Our class theme is social media so all of our game elements revolve around that concept. I figured it was appropriate in the Snapchat/Instagram obsessed culture of middle school. My students have been extremely involved in the process and it seems to be going well...so far.
Our profiles where we show off our achievements and badges look like mock-Instagram pages. I let the students choose the amount of followers they have (which resulted in some saying one billion, but whatever). The students spent the first day creating their username and look-a-like Bitmoji to use as their profile picture. As per popular culture, there was a lot of dabbing.
The profiles are now locked and uploaded onto our "About" section on Google Classroom. When students have a free moment they like to go through their class "Instafeed" and look at all of the new badges.
In keeping with the social media theme, I changed experience points to "Likes". When students earn certain badges, follow class procedures, etc., they are awarded a designated amount of points. These points are accumulated throughout the year and are tracked on a "Trending Now" leader board on my class website. Students are listed by their username and not their real name (although some did choose their real name because they wanted the world to know they were trending the most).
Likes can be traded in at different points in the year. They "cash in" for things like listening to music during independent work or changing seats. They can also opt to pool their "Likes" together and earn a whole class prize, like using our outdoor classroom.
Using the points system has helped with students remembering to bring all of their necessary materials and getting to class on time. I've had less students "forgetting" to bring notebooks and independent reading books. Students have even mentioned that they were headed to class and realized they were missing some of their required things, which is awesome. Even students who do occasionally forget will immediately realize their mistake.
In order to reward students for going over and above or completing a hard challenge, I developed badges that correspond to different things throughout each unit. Some things are procedural, like getting a positive comment from an outside teacher or staff member. Some things are academic, like receiving a perfect score on an assessment. I try not to reward students for things they are expected to do, like completing assignments, but rather show them that I notice and appreciate the exceptional things that they do. I handed one out the other day because a student dropped everything to rush over and help a classmate who had come in late and missed a lot of our assignment set-up. Sometimes the achievements are silly, like being the 1st place champion in a Kahoot review game. I try to create badges so that someone receives one at least once per day and that everyone has an equal shot.
My achievement badges are created on Google Drawings and distributed through Google Classroom with a congratulatory post. I typically add the badge to the student's profile and they can check it out in the About section of our Classroom page. I do hold students accountable for some badges. For example, in our book challenge scavenger hunt, students are given a badge if they read a book that fit into one of the hunt items. Students are not rewarded by the amount of books read, but rather by crossing a hunt item off their list. For example, a graphic novel, a book published the year they were born, a book a friend recommended, etc. Students are required to submit the book title to me and tell me what hunt item it fits in order to receive the badge. Informing me is their responsibility.
Oh, and my GIF obsession is strong with these badges. The majority of them include some sort of moving component, since I just think it's cooler that way.
Badges L to R: "Be our Guest"- exceptional behavior when a guest is in the classroom, "Center Stage": volunteering to read your writing in front of the class, "Compliment Creator": get a compliment from a Sparta Middle School staff member (Discounting me or our paraprofessionals)
What I didn't Realize Would Happen...
I'm excited to see how it progresses throughout the year!
About halfway through last year (my first year of teaching), I began to see the connection between motivation and my special education students. For most, they seemed defeated by learning. Because of their struggles, many were unmotivated in class, not wanting to try and fail at something again. I was trying to find a way to change the mindset of grading and my classroom to go beyond just numbers and points off. A colleague and I started discussing the idea of gamifying our classes to help our students. Since it was halfway through the year, it was too late to get started. Over the summer I prepped and outlined how my gamification would look, unsure of whether it would really end up benefiting my students.
Every week I am going to document the process in my classroom: to evaluate student engagement and achievement, as well as the failures and complications that arise. I told my students they're my guinea pigs. If things don't work, they're going to be the first to know. We'll see how it goes!