Five for Friday (7/29/16)


Happy Friday! Where has July gone?!?! It has been forever since I've linked up for Five for Friday and this is why...
We moved across country. We left our house in Texas, drove all the way through New Mexico and Arizona and kept on going up to Northern Nevada. Texas is big, y'all. We spent almost the entire first day just driving out of it. If I never have to do that again, it'll be okay. This was my view for about 1,700 miles:

When we finally saw this, it was such a relief: 

But we love our new house and our new town and we're getting settled in. AND the new house has it's own built-in pencil sharpener. How cool is that?!

As soon as we got the house unpacked, I ran up to my new school and took as much stuff up there as I could. School starts in a month and my classroom is ALMOST ready. It just needs a few finishing touches. Here's a little sneak peak:

I'm going to hang anchor charts and things for each subject in the different sections. More pictures will come soon. 
While we were waiting on the internet to be set up (a week without internet is TOO LONG!), I got started on some projects for the classroom and Teachers Pay Teachers. I LOVE this new calendar set I created:

 Who doesn't love the rustic shiplap look?

And I finished off my new brag tags. They're more "grown up" than what I had for my kinder babies and include Multiplication Master tags. You can grab a copy here

But it wasn't all work. We took time to check out the town and hang out at Lake Tahoe. The kids have grown a little since we've had all five of them together here last. 

This view never gets old.

That's about it. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to visit again on Tuesday for our Explore Like A Pirate book study. Now go check out some more awesomeness at Doodle Bugs Teaching Five for Friday linky. Have a great weekend!

Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 8

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Welcome! We're back for another installment of Explore Like A Pirate! We've been learning all about game-based course design this summer (you can get a refresher here) and now it's time to take a closer look at Tools and Treasures. 

In this chapter, Matera goes over a description of some of the badges and items his students can earn in his game, but says "ultimately, they won't work the same for another game or classroom. Badges and items are intimately tied to the game that is unique to the classroom." In other words, you're going to have to design your own. 

In his class, Matera has two types of badges: leader badges and mini-badges. When students complete quests, they can earn leader badges (we'll talk in detail about quests next week). When he needs students to really focus on the lesson, he uses mini-badges tied to the day's activity to keep them on their toes. The badges have experience points tied to them as well. 

Matera also has several items (pictures and descriptions on baseball cards) students can earn for various special powers. Some items are simply a locker pass while others allow for the use of notes on a test. 

Whatever types of items or badges you decide to use, make sure it's tied to your game's theme. When I think of badges, I think of the ever popular brag tags. It's a simple way for you as the teacher to manage badges. They're super simple to make and keep track of. This is how I displayed our brag tags last year. (We call them pride tags in our class because bragging is considered rude, but being proud of yourself isn't.)

For items, I think of baseball or Pokemon cards. These can be made with a simple document, printed, and kept in a baseball card sleeve inside your students' binders. These can be as simple or as intricate as you'd like. I'll be teaching 3rd grade next year, so I'll be using a pretty simple setup. 

I would think you could also use those fabulous mini-erasers to represent different items in your game as well. Students could keep them in a container that matched your game's theme. My only concern would be students taking them home or playing with them. 

Do what works for your classroom and your students. You may find that using badges is just right for your students, but that items are too much for your class right now. Or vice versa. It's your game. Design it how you want. The whole point is to keep your students engaged in the content. The rest is details. And the beauty of game-based design is that you can change the rules or add things at any time!

I hope this was clear for you. There's a lot of ambiguity in this chapter because each game is different. If you want to see how Matera's badges and items are setup, you can read the book here. (It's free on Kindle Unlimited right now.)

Join us next week as we go into detail about these quests he keeps talking about. Trust me, you'll love it! Now check out what others have to say about chapter 8 below. Have a great day!

Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 7

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Ahoy there! Welcome back for chapter 7 of our Explore Like A Pirate book study. We've spent the last few chapters wrapping our heads around what game-based course design is. Now it's time to begin creating our own. If you need a refresher, you can check out the previous posts here
First off, we need to talk mechanics. There are several things that go into a good game that need to be accounted for. Matera discusses many factors in detail. You may or may not use all of the game mechanics outlined. In order to simplify things, I'm outlining a few of the key elements. 
Experience points are points awarded to a player throughout the game as he or she masters certain aspects of the game. In class, these can be awarded for "extra credit" or "side quests," or given durning review games, etc. You can use experience points to "level up" your players. Experience points MUST be tied to the game and not just awarded on a whim. Otherwise, the points will loose their value and the game will loose its effectiveness. 
Levels "represent where a player is in the game." Think back to playing Pacman. Each time you completed a level or challenge, you moved up a level and the tasks became harder. You mastered the skill at that level and went on to learn new ones. The same can be true in your classroom game. Use your experience points to "level up" your students. 

It reminds me a lot of the "Super Improvers Wall" in Whole Brain Teaching. In that structure, students earn points or stickers and move up different levels of leadership. (Check out pictures of it here.) 

Name your levels something that goes with your game's theme. For instance, with a pirate theme, your students may start as scalawags, then become deckhands, then fishermen, and make their way up to captain. For a sports theme, your players may start out as draft picks, then rookies, and move on up to MVPs or coaches. Use your imagination! Get creative!
Leaderboards show where students are ranked within the game compared to everyone else. This is NOT a student's grade. If you have only one class or a small number of students, this could be a poster on the wall with moveable names and point values. If you teach multiple classes, you may want to go digital on this one. 
Guilds are a group of students working together to earn points or complete tasks. This is simply game talk for student groups. You don't have to call them "guilds" either. They could be tribes, ships, houses, families, etc. Tailor it to your game's theme. Student groups teach your class a lot about how to work together. Students learn to look at their teammates' strengths and how each person in the group can contribute best to their quest. Keep groups together for quarters or semesters in order to maximize teamwork among players. 
Onboading is getting students into the game and building excitement for the possibilities. Keep it short and sweet but high energy. Matera starts his onboarding by creating houses and issuing the first house challenge. That way, students learn by doing. 
Achievements can take on the form of items or badges. Students earn badges after certain achievements. This made me think of the brag tags we already use in our classroom. Adding point values to your badges keeps the momentum going when certain guilds don't always win every game. 
Quests are "missions with an objective." Matera suggests starting with projects you already have and adding your theme to it. We will go into detail about quests in chapter 9. For now, think of it as extra credit for experience points. Students go deeper into the course content on their own time with open-ended guidelines from you. 
Items are anything a student can earn to help him or her with their game play. If you're familiar with Minecraft, you'll know players can earn a pick ax and other items to help them along with their play. Likewise, players in your game could earn items (I'd make baseball card sized images of them) to help them along in their game. These items can serve as locker passes or late homework passes or could be bigger like working with a partner or open notes on a test. If you choose a western theme, maybe a player could earn a lasso or a horse that gives them an added boost. If you choose a Harry Potter type theme, maybe getting a wand would lead to a special ability. Use your imagination!
Currency is some form of money for students to purchase items within the game. Matera uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his students' currency. 
Cascading Information Theory means that "only essential information is provided at intentional points during the game…" That way you don't overwhelm your players. You don't have to go over the entire game at the beginning. Just know when you may introduce certain aspects and keep it under wraps until then. 
Life jackets are designed to help bring up players who are too far behind. Life jackets could double or triple a players' experience points or give them more time on assignments or challenges. Have them available to the players on the bottom half of the leaderboard. 

Other things you may want to consider are player vs. player games where students compete against each other for points instead of with their teams. You can easily do this with a review game of some kind. Communal Discovery games are where the whole class has to work together to meet a challenge. This is great for community building and bringing the game together for the whole class.

Don't be afraid to used timed events or take away points or items. When taking away points, set it up as a double or nothing challenge. For instance, in a review game, if a player buzzes first and gets the question right, they gain points. But if they buzz first and don't know the answer, they lose points. You could also allow students to trade earned items or create special challenges. The choice is yours! 

This is your game. Your classroom. If it seems overwhelming, start small with a one day game. Or even a one hour game! This would be perfect for Fun Friday or during a review before a big test. I know there can be a lot of parts, but as you get the ball rolling in creating your own game, you may find all kinds of things you want to incorporate into your design. 

Matera's game is designed to last the entire school year. It's much more intricate than a simple day or week long game. The beauty of it all is that you can start or modify the game at any time. You could create simple one day or one week challenges for the fall and a whole semester long challenge for the spring. It's up to you. Begin where you are ready. Just don't be afraid to begin. 

Join us next week as we go into detail about putting it all together. Now check out what other teachers had to say about this chapter. Have a great day!

Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 6


Welcome back! I hope you're ready to really get started with gamifying your classroom! Over the past few weeks, we've laid the foundations, discussed what game-based course design is and isn't, we've explored the changing educational climate, the changing language, and the types of gamers you'll encounter in your class. Now we're ready to start creating our gamified class! 
First, we need to create our story. Choose a theme for your game. Matera suggests things like space, fantasy, explorer, super heroes, underwater, etc. My new school's mascot is a pirate (what a nice coincidence!) so I was thinking of doing something piratey. If you do an intensive book study, maybe with The Narnia series or Harry Potter, you could use that for inspiration. Likewise with a unit of study in social studies like the Olympics or a specific event. "The theme…sets the stage for all the other components of your gamified class experience." I recommend choosing a theme you really love. It will be easier for you to get creative with it and keep the action going!
Next, solidify your setting. The theme is the big picture, and the setting is where all the parts come together. "Setting is one part location and two parts description..." How can you rebrand elements of your classroom to fit the setting of your game? If you go with a wild west theme, are your students getting the bathroom pass or the "outhouse pass?" Is it a water fountain or a "watering hole?" Get creative and really paint the picture for your students. Don't be afraid to include elements of your setting into your classroom decor. 
Once you have your theme and setting taken care of, you'll need some characters. Matera writes, "Your students will have their roles, while other characters will belong to the game and add to the plots and challenges of your story. Characters drive the game." In Matera's story, the king is dead which creates a power struggle for the throne. This created houses (teams of students), each of which has a backstory. Edgar the traveling salesman appears regularly with information for the students and keeps the story moving along. Your characters should help you "achieve the goals you have for your students and you." 
And finally, your story needs action. This is where the challenges come in. Students must work together to overcome these obstacles. Challenges can be small, quick activities, or much bigger adventures. Through the whole thing, students are learning content in relation these challenges. Matera's students go on quests to uncover different aspects of their current course of study. Think of ways you could integrate challenges for your students to explore within your story. For instance, if you have a futuristic or FBI type theme, studying vocabulary words could be "code breaking" and test review could be "mission training." 

Perhaps with a pirate theme, my setting is a ship. The front of the room would be the helm. the specials areas could be neighboring ships, we could go on quests to various places as the introduction to new units of study. Perhaps even a Captain Hook like character delivers a scroll with clues to the next destination. For different challenges, maybe an enemy pirate has "stolen" something from us and we must retrieve the item by solving the clues which leads us to a new island. 

Use your imagination! This is the time to get creative! Now, you don't have to create a year-long adventure the way Matera has. You could easily create a simple storyline for a Fun Friday, a week, or a single unit. I've used many Fun Fridays to "take" my students to other countries, complete with passports, in order to really get into our content. If the thought of it all overwhelms you, start small and build up as you get comfortable with it. 

I hope you have gotten some ideas for your own storyline in your classroom. It may not all come to you right away so be patient and develop your story over time. Be sure to join us next week as we work through the mechanics of our games. Check out what others had to say about this week's chapter below and we'll see you again next Tuesday. 

Explore Like A Pirate: Chapter 5


Welcome back for week 5 of our Explore Like A Pirate book study. This week, we're discussing the different types of gamers you'll likely encounter in your classroom and what motivates them. (If you need a refresher, check out our previous posts here.) This is so far the "meatiest" chapter so pull up a chair and get comfy.

In this chapter, four player types are defined: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Killers (Griefers). 

Along with the types of gamers, we need to know the four elements of game design. Jon Radoff breaks them down for us as: immersion, cooperation, achievement, and competition. In order to create the experience of gaming within the classroom, these four elements must be addressed. 

According to Radoff, games are experiences and "experiences are more about happiness than they are about things." What does that mean for us as teachers? I take it to mean that creating a memorable experience for our students that gets them excited to learn and try new things is much more beneficial than providing "things" for them to use. The "things" of games can be motivating, but it's the experiences that will drive them. 

In this chapter, Matera also discusses the SAPS Model, which is designed by Gabe Zichermann and outlines the motivating factors for different gamers. "SAPS stands for Status, Access, Power, and Stuff."

Matera puts forth a good argument for leaderboards and public display of students' achievement within the game. We could get into a long debate about whether to make this public or not, there are pros and cons to each side, but Matera's view is that it has fostered positive competition within his classroom that has lead to student gains. 

My thought is that, as long as what is posted is students' progress within the game and NOT students' academic grades, it could foster the positive competition that drives our students. Advancement through the game is very different than academic achievement and (I feel) it would give me more information about student buy-in and motivation than it would about their academic ability. 

Matera also states that the "stuff" of games should be directly related to the game itself. If you were to play Minecraft, you would expect to earn a tool (like a pick ax) for accomplishing certain tasks, not a pizza party. Likewise, an accomplishment in your classroom game should lead to a coordinating item, not a pizza party or some other non-game related tangible. 

Next week we will set sail from the shore and begin our journey in creating our game for our classrooms. We've covered the basics, and we're reading to begin crafting! Be sure to join us Tuesday for this next step in our adventure! Now, check out what others have to say about chapter 5 of Explore Like A Pirate. Thanks for stopping by and we'll see you next week!

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