Way back in February of this year I remember reading other CI and TPRS teachers’ PD opportunities in the various Facebook groups, and I remember thinking to myself: why can’t we do that here in Iowa? I quickly reached out to other local CI and TPRS teachers in the Teaching CI in the Heartland Facebook group with my idea and had instantaneous support from so many amazing Iowan teachers. Now that #CIIA16 is done and over, I am still extremely humbled by the selflessness of all who presented on Saturday. In addition, I am shocked by how many teachers came in on a Saturday during their summer vacation to share and learn, and I am rejuvenated by how positive and collaborative everyone was.
I would also like to extend a special thank-you for all who attended my session Gamifying the Classroom Novel! This presentation was a long time in the works. My interest in gamification in the classroom began my first summer in my Master’s program at Concordia College. Our third course that summer was AMLA 604 – Motivating Students via Technology and we read various parts of Present and Future Promises of CALL: From theory and research to New Directions in Language Teaching by Arnold and Ducate. I remember reading an excerpt about how a teacher used Second Life for their college Spanish class. The author describes a Día de los muertos island and how students “rode” horses on the beach in Costa Rica through Second Life. It sounded so cool that I may or may not have downloaded it and tried to play in class during the rest of discussion. However, Second Life is open to everybody and this means it is not safe for my 8th-12th grade kiddos.
So I was über excited when I discovered Classcraft on Twitter this past fall! I tried it out in my Spanish 2 classes, but quickly discovered the way that it was initially set up (which I had not tweaked to better fit my classroom) was NOT conducive to my CI-based and novel loving curriculum. Rewarding kids for correctly answering a question in class? Kids do this SO many times in a CI class! Punishing kids for not having their homework? I don’t assign it! I discovered that with TPRS and CI a lot of those typical “bad” behaviors weren’t so prevalent and/or my philosophy of what constitutes “bad” had changed. Unfortunately, I let Classcraft sit on the backburner after two unsuccessful weeks and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I still thought it had a LOT of potential for a CI classroom and for when reading novels, but I needed time to process it. I feel a little pressure to use technology at my new school because they are 1:1 and very progressive, but I also don’t agree in using technology simply to use technology. I believe Classcraft will allow me to maintain a CI-based classroom through technology and that was my hope in creating my presentation. Feel free to check out my #CIIA16 Presentation – Gamifying the Classroom Novel! here or continue reading for more tips.
Classcraft is FREE (although the paid version has extra perks like additional ways to administer quizzes in a game setting, the players get pets and other clothing choices, your players can use “money” within the game, etc.) and available in multiple languages. Once you find where to change the language settings it is fairly quick if you need to switch back and forth. To begin, you will want to introduce your students to the characters and their powers. I think this alone could take a week if you begin with TPR, move on to PQA and have a few sentences for students to translate, and then do an oral story, read a story with the key vocabulary and structures, and other input activities to recycle the stories. Students will be placed in teams and each team will need at least one mage, one healer, and one warrior. I recommend milking the set-up process: have the kids tell you what character s/he wants to be, set-up the character for them on the screen to give them tons of input as they make their selections, ask them about the landscape and crest for their team, etc. all in the target language. I think this took me a full day. Now you’re reading to play while reading!
The following can all be changed within Classcraft and thus adapted to better fit a classroom that is reading a novel:
- Team Names: Create team names that reflect key characters or groups from within the novel. I also teach the geography (regiones, capital, big cities, seashores and coastlines, etc.) of the novel and these would also work!
- XP: positive points that students receive from positive reading behaviors and they allow students to level up. Positive reading behaviors for me are: being the narrator, reading as a character, being our vocabulary person who reads annotated vocabulary at the bottom, creating our sound effects, making a prediction about what is going to happen, describing the images/drawings, etc.
- HP: negative points that students are deducted for negative behaviors while reading. Some negative behaviors students do while reading: checking cell phone, head down on the ground and not looking at the novel, talking to a peer, etc.
- Powers: these are the rewards students can gain as they level up. Each character will get special powers and the powers can be for one player or for all the players on their team. Reading rewards: choosing to read on the carpet or in desks, getting help with one reading question on a quiz, switching spots with another student, getting to sit in a comfy chair, allowing them to bring in special drinks/snacks during reading time, etc.
- Sentences: these are activities students can do to get back in the game should they lose all of their points and are difficult because you don’t want to pick activities that will cause students to hate reading. Some ideas I came up with are to translate a chapter into English and agree to do a “reading job” (as described in the XP points) for the next chapter (but not for XP points at the same time).
- Boss Battles: this is a fancy way to give a quiz!
- Random Events: these are exactly what they sound like – random events. You can edit them and what happens as a result, but I do not change these because I don’t want to give away parts of the book.
There are a lot of other great aspects of Classcraft that I can see being beneficial while reading a novel. There is a section to add content so you could add key vocabulary or other helpful chapter resources for students. There is also a Wheel of Destiny that will select an individual or group for you. It’s like the new, pretty and techy version of popsicle sticks with names that my teacher used to select who would answer questions sometimes. I’m sure the paid version has even more goodies for us CI teachers.
If you have any ideas on how to use Classcraft for a CI and/or TPRS classroom, please share your ideas below!
I look forward to sharing students’ reactions to and reflections of using Classcraft after I use it in the manner I described above this fall.