Download our student character sheets to gamify your classroom.
It’s difficult as a teacher to watch your students fall asleep in class or constantly look at the clock, with glazed eyes. You may remember days like that when you were in school. Perhaps it was a class you were uninterested in or a subject that never intrigued you, but those days seemed to drag on. Fortunately, there are ways to “gamify” your lessons to keep students engaged.
Gamification in the classroom is nothing new, but the exponential growth in video games and board games has made the idea more widespread. Popularized in the early 2000s, gamification does not mean playing games to teach a lesson – it means taking inspiration from video games and translating motivation techniques into non-game environments like the classroom. Author and TED Talk speaker Tom Chatfield presented key takeaways from video games that can be used as engagement techniques: experience bars to measure progress, long and short-term goals and rewards. These are factors that drive video game players to keep playing – and students to keep learning.
It sounds fun, but what does it look like to gamify a lesson in the classroom? At its core, games showcase visible progression, smaller goals, and a significant payoff in winning. The feeling of watching your poker chips stack higher or reaching the finish line are all feelings we can bring to the classroom. Here are a few fun ways to gamify your class!
Every game has an end goal, but having smaller quests, or side quests, can help students see their progress throughout the year. From reading five books in a month to turning in an assignment on time ten times in a row or asking questions in class three times a week, there are countless opportunities for your students to complete smaller tasks in short to medium time spans that aren’t reliant solely on grades. In fact, gamifying a classroom often means looking beyond grade performance to give struggling students incentives to improve and stay engaged in assignments. In addition, you can reward students for simply attempting to reach their goals. Failure can then become motivation if you see that your student is, at the very least, trying to engage.
Track progression & give rewards
What good are side quests without rewards? Think about a Monopoly payday when someone lands on your hotel or a fancy new set of armor in a video game. The engagement you receive from your students during quests will reach its potential when they can track their progression and be rewarded for it. For example, reading a certain number of books can unlock new sets of books; level 2 books, you could say, which may be more sought-after or at a higher reading level.
A cool way for students to get involved is by letting them track their progression through a “Character Sheet” or “Stat Sheet”, where “stats” signify their growing proficiency in certain areas. Does Alan ask great questions? Give him a +1 in his “Inquisitive” stat. If Morgan has been great at helping other students with their class worksheets, give her a level in her “Team Player” stat. Throughout the year, teachers can slowly fill in a student’s stat sheet when they show progression.
Throughout the year, it's great to be able to reward your students for the progress they have made. While unlocking new reading levels can be an excellent incentive, having more significant rewards will keeps students invested during the entire process. Trading in hard-earned points gained from earning levels for homework passes, class parties, or a popular trend of class auctions can be the perfect chance to cash in on weeks and weeks of individual progression.
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Tom Chatfield’s TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyamsZXXF2w.
How Gamification Motivates: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321630855X .
Using Gamification to Engage and Motivate Undergraduates: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/josotl/article/view/22119/29442.
Class Auction Video: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/JGxTo-kEEss.