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Education Pedagogy Teaching

Classroom Gamification

There are a lot of ideas for classroom gamification on the Internet listing features you could add to your classroom game. Instead of listing a bunch of random ideas, I decided to take a more structured approach and classify games by the time scale, because short and long games need to be planned differently.

Decide your time scale

There are gamifications that are meant to be used inside one lesson, or perhaps the game will take two consecutive lessons. In either case, this is a one time game and easy way to test gamification for the first time.

The other option is that you built a long lasting game in your classroom. You should plan this very carefully before launching. Otherwise there is a risk that it will just fade away and some students that did get excited will feel disappointed instead.

In this post, I will talk about both of these types of gamification, let’s start with one time games.

One time games

Existing gaming environments

There are so many opportunities to use pre-build games that even listing them is impossible. But here are some wider concepts:

  • Board games. Many board games are specifically built for learning, but you can also have board games that take place in some real world geographic location in order to learn about that area. Or, you can play some familiar board games in different languages.
  • Online quizzes (like kahoot) that often have question sets that you could use, if you only check the question set first.
  • Real games are also used to teach some ideas. Often used example is Minecraft for chemistry. 

Creating your own one time game

One way to create games for a lesson or two is to use existing worksheets and add hints for them. For example 

Worksheet gamification example

Here, when you solve one task, you will get a letter. That letter will fit somewhere in the grid, but you will get the letters in random order. After you have finished all the tasks, you get a short sentence. That can in turn lead to the next phase of a larger puzzle, like finding a treasure or escaping a prison. 

Long-lasting games

You can build games that will last the whole semester, but with long games, the intensity will have to be at lower level. By that I mean that there will also be other things happening in the classroom, and the game is referred to only now and then. 

It’s likely that with a long lasting-game, you have to do some game building yourself.

What are YOUR goals?

Before designing the actual game, you will need to think what you want to achieve. Some boost to the ordinary curriculum? Getting to know some special phenomenon?

Can the game be played through? Is there a winner or can the game lead the players to different paths so that students won’t be ranked? The latter would be kind of nice because otherwise the winner may end up being the same person who would get the best grades anyway.

Game Characters

A really cool feature would be, if your players could create their own characters. For this, there could be some superpowers they could select from. Here are a couple examples I can think of (but don’t let them chain your imagination!):

  • Using google once in a lesson (this could be called “Power of technology” etc.)
  • Using reference book once in a lesson (“Master of old wisdom”)
  • Asking from a friend once 
  • Using a calculator
  • etc

During the character creation, each pupil gets to choose one superpower. When the game goes on, the learners will earn more superpowers. After acquiring enough points for an upgrade, they can select a new skill or have another point of the same skill. By another point I mean that exercising a certain superpower once in a lesson becomes exercising that superpower  twice in a lesson.

Rewards

There can be various rewards for different achievements. For example:

  • Rewards for general progression, such as tasks completed
  • Rewards for using at least x words to give an answer. This will encourage more reasoning and/or more complicated sentences. 
  • Rewards for heroic reasoning
  • Make sure you have some supportive rewards in your backpocket in case some of your students start to feel discouraged at some point.

After collecting a certain amount of rewards / experience points, your players can choose new superpowers for themselves. Don’t forget cool badges, they make rewards feel… well, more rewarding!

Connection to grading

There are different laws / guidelines concerning grading and of course you have to keep all those in mind. But, where applicable, you could give some connections like: if you get this far in the game, you will get at least this grade OR completing x in the game will affect positively in your grading.

If you want something learned by heart, you could add some magic spells here: By uttering a spell, which is the content students should memorize, they can guarantee something for their grade. 

The ultimate goal

There has to be some great ending for the game, preferably so that all players’ achievements are combined and the whole class achieves the goal. What could it be? Perhaps

  • A field trip
  • A party in the classroom
  • A treasure of golden (chocolate) coins
  • Or whatever is the right fit for your class

Whatever you choose to do, remember to pull everything together and create a clear ending to the game. I personally think that the first long lasting games could be two to three weeks long, and when you learn more about leading the games, you can extend the time period. There is no upper limit to how long can it be, but if you are planning to play actively, maybe one semester is a reasonable upper limit, so that you can learn from the previous game round and then build a new, better one for the next semester if you want to. 

Summary

Distinguish a one time game and a long lasting game in your mind. They both have a place in classroom gamification. Here is a summarizing table: 

One timeLong lasting
Time5min – 2h2days – a semester
Pre built versions
available?
OftenNot likely
Long-term effect
on learning
RarePossible
Including different
learners
MaybeYes, if properly
planned
EffortVaryingA lot, but can be rebuild
next year with less effort
Classroom gamification – one time vs. long lasting

See also: Helping students process new content, Why my students dislike me?

By TheBrightestKid

Hi! My name is Jenni and I used to be a math teacher in Finland. I have a master's degree in math and also studies in computer science and pedagogy. Talented students are close to my heart, hence the name of the site. But I also might write about other stuff.

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