In the month leading up to the blog’s second birthday, we’re going to run some posts from the archives that deserve another airing. Here’s one Jo Sayers wrote before he was on the team.

It’s easy to think gamification is only for the tech savvy. Or to be put off by the buzzwordiness of it. But actually you can incorporate it into your classroom without having all the latest tech tools. Below are 3 ways to gamify your classroom with and without tech.

If you don’t mind the EdTech bingo word, it’s still worth a reminder what we mean by the term. Gamification is the use of game mechanics, such as high scores, badges, levels, tasks, and rewards to help people focus on tasks and activities that are not in themselves ‘games’. This generally works by using people’s natural desire for competition, success and status, but it’s a misconception that gamification can only promote a focus on the self; it’s totally possible to use gamification to help people work together, help others, share knowledge and generally be all round nice people.

Here are some activities:

Scores

I imagine that this is something that most teachers incorporate into lessons anyway. But with a bit of structure, it can work as a fully gamified classroom layer.

With tech: Use triptico to set up a ‘score tapper’ and get different groups to decide their team name. Have the tapper in the background for the whole lesson and add points for all kinds of things during the lesson (working alone, working together, working quietly, working loudly etc.). And don’t worry about being consistent either, studies have shown that humans thrive on a system of inconsistent rewards.

Without tech: This one’s easy, just section off a part of the whiteboard (or even blackboard!) and write the teamnames up, then assign points throughout the lesson.

It’s a good idea to have some sort of reward for the team with the most points, if only a small certificate, or a stamp in their book, a congratulatory email or text message from you or something. Also, if you’re worried about this being too teacher-centred, feel free to allocate different groups to be scorers on different days, or take suggestions as to what should score points that lesson.

Badges

Badges allow people to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. But they don’t always need to reward the fastest times and most correct answers; they can be used to encourage any kind of behaviour you would like to see in class. This could be teamwork, peer correction, autonomous learning etc. You name it, you can create a badge for it.

With tech: If you’ve got some time and technical know-how (and servers and hosting) on your hands, check out the fantastic openbadges.org by mozilla to set up a whole badge earning system. With a bit less time, you can create online badges with this online badge generator, save them and then email or send to students who’ve earned them.

Without tech: It’s time to get out the cardboard, scissors and colouring pens! Make up a load of badges for whatever you want to reward and give them out over the course of the lesson, week, term, year etc.

With badges, it’s often good if students know what they’re aiming for. It may, therefore, be good to display (in class or online) a list of possible badges and some guidelines as to what sorts of behaviour are likely to result in the badges being awarded. But this needn’t restrict you, you can also add or remove from this list when you want to. And you can also take suggestions from learners about what they think should earn them badges.

Levels

Completing a level and moving up to the next makes us feel good. The sense of achievement, the resulative motivation, the status; they all work to push us forward with the task at hand.  This can be done in the classroom (and at home) through activities such as quests. A quest is generally a search for some information, but could also be working out answers to questions, working together to find solutions to problems, or even learning lexical chunks. All you need is a set of criteria for each ‘level’ and a way of the learners showing you that they’ve met them.

With tech: Use the internet (sites such as webquest.org or createwebquest.com) to create webquests, divide the questions into ‘levels’ and get the students to report back answers for level one before moving them onto the level two questions. Using apps such as fotobabble (take a photo and record yourself talking about it), the quest could be for students to photograph and talk about a particular thing they have to find. Once they return to you with the photo and description, they get the task for the next level.

Without tech: The quest needn’t be online and could just as easily be to find information in books, magazines, factsheets etc. Alternatively the tasks could be to complete (or write) some comprehension questions for a text, and when they’ve done this, they move up to the next level. It could even be a collaborative writing task, where groups have to complete the text to a certain standard in order to move onto the next level.

It’s best to have clear levels that become progressively more challenging so that the students feel that they are progressing through, but the options for what the levels actually consist of is up to you.

The possibilities of gamification are endless, and technology certainly helps keep things new and fresh. But regardless of whether you’re a ‘techie teacher’ or not, you can still get increased motivation, engagement and effort out of your students by using a few tried and tested game mechanics.

Image by hlanchas via Compfight cc Text added by ELTjam.

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