Did you know that we have had will readings at Bement? For several years now, the culmination of a grade 7 class reading The Westing Game, students were immersed in the fiction and had to assume the role of lawyers and work together to solve our version of The Westing Game game. In other classes, math students were given a series of problems and had to work together to solve them, and at the end of the winter term, a mixed-age group of students helped a forgetful magician’s assistant gather up components for the wizard Obierton.
Creating a thematic game that delivers academic content for specific age groups is a challenge. Have you played Chutes and Ladders recently? As fun as the game is for 3 year olds, does it have staying power? Are teenagers getting together with a group of friends on the weekends and playing Chutes and Ladders? Are adults having dinner parties playing Chutes and Ladders? They aren’t because the gameplay and audience for the game skews young. It is not as compelling a game as one ages.
Would it be fun to play Chutes and Ladders with 16 people? Or would it be a chaotic mess with 15 people likely disengaged as the one current player moves their game piece? When gamification enters a classroom at Bement, we use these questions as the starting point to make the experience as compelling as possible. A game that is fun for three to five people might not be ideal for a class of 12 people.
For our annual Spring Into Reading day at the end of the winter term, one of the options is a game designed to be played in 10 minutes or less, for groups of 5-10 students, with their ages mixed and determined by the reading buddy groups: younger students paired-up with older students. This year, the theme was Reading is Magic. We created an experience where students had to read through some magic-themed books, decipher various clues, and work together to help the poor, absent-minded assistant. I am happy to report all the groups were successful.
For The Westing Game, we embrace the source material and assume the role of lawyers. Using their knowledge of the material, students must work together to play one final game for the deceased, and through gameplay, some of the lessons of the book are reinforced.
An Algebra II game presented a variety of difficult problems that pushed students to stretch their algebraic aptitude working together under the pressure of a 45-minute time limit.
There is an interesting five-digit number A. With a 1 after it, it is three times as large as with a 1 before it. What is it?
The goal is always to educate, but if we can have fun along the way, why not? The gamification of a classroom can be a wonderful experience for students, but as with any new lesson material, there is a not insignificant amount of work that must be done by the faculty. We must consider the number of players, the goal of the activity/lesson, and if multiple learning styles are accounted for. We have had games serve as graded culminating events to end a term, and we have had them at the beginning of a lesson or even beginning of a school year to bring students together in a unique way.
Creating an educational game for second graders is dramatically different than a game for ninth graders, or even one for faculty as a bonding exercise. Creating one that is appropriate for all-ages is even more challenging.
Which way is the bus moving?
A young student and an adult will approach this problem very differently.
Gamification engages students in a new way, can appeal to different learning styles, and reinforces the lesson. Gamification in the classroom most often occurs as an alternative to more traditional classroom lessons, and at Bement we have teachers who incorporate games into their regular rotation of lessons. Let us play games, and have fun, and learn while we are doing it!