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. 


  1. That is so perfect how your new school's mascot is a pirate! I love it. This was my favorite chapter so far, and it got some wheels turning for ways to bring it all together in the classroom. I love your idea that an enemy pirate has stolen something from you that your students will need to work together to get back. I *may* do something similar with that this upcoming year!

  2. Love your pirate ideas! I think this year I'll be sticking to gamifying lessons and units, rather than trying to plan out a whole year.


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