How can we make grammar more engaging for our students?
This was the question posed by three middle school English teachers in Bellevue Public Schools (@BellevuePublicSchools #bpsne) that resulted in the start of a journey to gamify their grammar curriculum. The goal was simple, to complete all the grammar curriculum but to do so in a way that made it more meaningful and enjoyable for both the students and teachers. Elizabeth Lambert (@LambertClass), Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis), and Santha Walters (@santhawalters) are all teachers in the district’s iPad Academy (#ipadacademy), which means they are teaching in a 1:1 classroom environment with iPads.
This is the story of how district curriculum meets the powerful combination of gamification and blended learning. This blog series will provide readers with an inside look into three different classrooms that are in the process of transforming their grammar curriculum.
The best part is that although these three classrooms have a number of similarities, they are all implementing gamification differently in their classrooms. Follow along the journey as each blog post will have one guiding question with three different perspectives.
This week the focus centers on why these three teachers chose to gamify their grammar!
Santha Walters – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School
Why did I start gamification?
Think about this for a second. The students in my classroom are on track to be the generation that goes to Mars. Mars.
In this day and age, worksheets hold very little fascination for our students. They are accustomed to mile a second, lightspeed paced video games which they play for hours without a tangible reward. When kids play games I see engagement–full, engrossing, exclusive engagement.
I wanted to give them something like that in the classroom. I wanted them to have a flow and a purpose beyond “well, I have to do this to get a grade” (which is what motivates most of our “traditional” students. In the classroom now, they do the work (without a good or bad grade) and earn experience points to help their team just by attempting the work. They don’t have to be proficient to earn points for their house. They don’t have to do anything but try and defeat the goal of the game.
As the world continues changes, teachers are seeing many more students who are differently motivated. I only hope that gamifying a portion of the curriculum will help these students as well as the traditionally motivated ones.
Liz Lambert – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middle School
Over the last several years, I have struggled teaching English to middle schoolers. It’s not that I don’t love teaching English, I do, but there was one facet of English that just never clicked with my kids- grammar. I really struggled with how I could get students to not only understand the different grammar rules, but also help them to CARE about the grammar rules enough to implement what they learn into how they write. Let’s face it, not every kid loves to diagram sentences in their free time. These were the kids that I was desperate to reach; the kids that don’t love or even like English.
When worksheets fell short, I turned to technology. I have spent hours searching for at least one app that would make grammar practice fun for the kids, but I found most of them to be completely lackluster. When some of my colleagues invited me to get together over the summer to talk about how to make grammar more engaging through gamification, I was all in. I was desperate to find a way to motivate my students, and I was willing to try anything at that point. In that meeting, it was as if the lights finally turned on. I had my ah ha moment, and things drastically changed for myself and more importantly, for my students.
Phillip Loomis – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School
When I first heard about ‘gamification’ in education, honestly, I was very hesitant to even consider it. ‘How in the world could a teacher run a classroom by playing games?!? No self-respecting professional would use games to teach in a classroom.’ That is where I was less than a year ago, my friends. Now, I see a vast world of possibilities using gamification to successfully teach grammar in my English classroom – that’s right, I said it – GRAMMAR!
What changed my mind? My own kids! I listened to two of my near 30 year-old kids during a summer reunion talk about a popular first person shooter game. For over 30 minutes they shared what they had learned to defeat a scenario; how they tried over and over again until they were able to complete a mission. They weren’t satisfied with just a meager passing rating, but worked until they earned the highest rating possible. This is when it clicked! This is learning, this is persistence, this is not settling for mediocrity, this is determination, this is all FUN! And this, is what I want for and from my students each and every day. Got game? No? Well follow us into a beginner’s voyage of gamifying three different classrooms in three different ways…
And so it begins, the story of three different teachers, in three different classrooms, with three different styles, all turning to gamification to transform the teaching and learning of grammar! Now that you know the why, we will start digging into the how. Make sure to follow this blog so you can be notified when the next post drops!
Wanting more information on gamification? Below are a list of different resources Walters, Loomis, Lambert, and I have used to get started down this path of gamification.
- Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning by Matthew Farber
- Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners by Michael Matera
- Level Up Your Classroom: The Quest to Gamify Your Lessons and Engage Your Students by Jonathan Cassie
Twitter Hashtags & Chats
Written by Jeffrey Bernadt, Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, & Phillip Loomis