Gamifying Grammar: 3 Teachers, 3 Classrooms, 3 Styles

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!

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Santha Walters – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Why did I start gamification?  unnamed

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.  

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Liz Lambert – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middleunnamed-1 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.

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Phillip Loomis – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400When 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…

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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.

Books

  • 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

  • #games4ed
  • #GBL
  • #gamification
  • #XPLAP
  • #minecraftedu

 

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt, Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, & Phillip Loomis

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Position and Motion and Robots Oh My!

When Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms), first grade teacher at Wake Robin, described her upcoming Science Objective, EO2 Position and Motion, Ann Feldmann’s (@annfeldmann1) wheels began turning. The objective has students compare relative position and motion of objects. As they discussed possible ways to integrate the iPads, Feldmann, Bellevue Public Schools Instructional Technology Specialist, thought this unit would be a perfect fit for the Dash Robots and Parrot Minidrones.

Together, Harms and Feldmann crafted the following lesson.

Before the lesson:

  • Download the Blockly App on all student iPads.
  • Reserve the robots and drone from the technology specialists.
  • Create job cards, color cards with the numbers 1-4 on them, this was the order that students took turns.
  • Charge the Dashes and Drone so they are ready for the lesson.
  • Download the Seesaw app on all student iPads.

Day 1

The first day was a “show and do” format. First up, Feldmann and Harms took turns showing the students how to code Dash to show the basic movements. They started with forward/fast by using the Reflector app to display the iPad with a projector and showing students how they dragged the coding blocks together to make Dash move. Then, the students got into their groups and took turns coding forward/fast. They gathered the students again on the rug to show the backward/slow motion and sent them in their groups again. The “show and do” format was repeated four times and helped focus the students to assure they knew the directions before working independently in their groups. The other motions covered were zig zag, back and forth and round and round. To create the movement of zig zag, we used the “Dance: Dash Confident” block that was pre programmed and had it loop. For back and forth, we coded a loop using forward and backward. The last movement created was round and round and it was programed by coding Dash to turn left 360° and loop three times.

After 40 minutes of Dash, it was time to pull out the Parrot Drone. The students experienced the up and down motion through a teacher demonstration. Harms coded and operated the Drone, while the students described the movements. They were thrilled to see the drone fly, hover, and maneuver unmanned above them.  

Day 2

Feldmann, Harms, and student teacher, Ali Saner used the station rotation model for more opportunities for hands on learning with the robots. Each station was around 10 minutes including transition time. Three of the stations were teacher led.

Materials: job cards, Dash Robots, Drone, iPads, vocabulary worksheet, motion worksheet from logbook

Center 1

Teacher coded and operated Dash through motions: forward/backward, round and round, zig zag, and back and forth. As students observed, they recorded and narrated what they saw in SeeSaw. Here is a video of the students at this station.

Materials: One Dash needed.

Center 2

Teacher coded and operated Drone. Students recorded and narrated the video describing the motions. These videos were shared in Seesaw. Here is a video of the kids at this station.

Materials: One drone needed.

Center 3

Can you find the path? This is an independent worksheet.

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Center 4

Each student had a robot to code using the previously learned motions and then tested the code on the robots. (4 dash robots needed)

Center 5

Motion Vocabulary worksheet

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Reflection

This activity took students to a new level of understanding within this objective. The activities allowed students to not only learn the objective, but to transfer the learning to coding the robots. The experiential learning solidified the concept and 95% of the students earned an advanced score on the assessment, one student who earned Proficient was absent Day 2. The center activities, both teacher guided and student guided, were appropriately timed so students could experience the successful completion of the activities or tasks. Applying the vocabulary as students coded or viewed Dash’s motions was a meaningful way to learn, reinforce and extend the science objective (SC2.2.2).  

Tips

  • Be sure to name the robots so students join the correct robot using the Go app.
  • Make sure all robots are updated and charged.
  • Color coding the stations around the room was helpful for students.
  • Expect students to be excited.
  • It is helpful to have more than one adult in the room.

Extension

Let the students experience coding Dash by creating a course and then writing the code to move Dash through the course. This would be a fun challenge that would continue to build their coding skills and develop an increased understanding of movement.

Written by Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms) and Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)

Blending First Grade Math: The Station Rotation Model

One of my first conversations with Cassie Raymond (@casa_ray) as we began our journey to integrate iPads into her first grade classroom centered around her math stations. It was one month into the school year and her students were well-trained in the four stations she had them going to daily during their math block. As a result, the focus of our conversation shifted to how can we take the math framework that we were going to implement and merge it with the stations that have been working so well for Raymond, her co-teacher Kayla Kill (@kaylakill123), and her students.

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Image from Reading Horizons (2)

A great blended learning strategy for this situation was the Station Rotation model. According to the Clayton Christensen Institute, “The Station Rotation model differs from the Individual Rotation model because students rotate through all of the stations, not only those on their custom schedules.”1 Since Raymond and her students were already using stations we were well on our way. To transform this math instruction into a blended learning environment we needed to create a digital workflow, integrate online learning into the stations, and transfer ownership to the student.

Below is a before and after look at the math stations during the process of integrating the iPads and implementing our blended learning math framework for a 1:1 classroom.

Stations Before the iPads

Raymond’s students began their math block with their Daily Spiral Review and an introduction to the lesson before breaking off into groups to complete the four stations.

Station 1: Guided Instruction and Independent Practice with Mrs. Raymond

Station 2: Math Facts Practice (done individually or in partners)

Station 3: Math Activity/Worksheet with the Co-Teacher

Station 4: Hands-on Math (done individually or in partners)

These stations were a great combination of small group instruction with teachers, independent work for students, and collaborative work in which students were working together practicing their math.

Stations with the iPads

As iPads were integrated into Raymond’s classroom the goal was to keep the stations in place. Over the next couple of weeks the stations changed and evolved as we began taking advantage of the power of the iPads.

Students still begin their math instruction with their Daily Spiral Review, however, the introductifile_005on of the lesson is now done using Nearpod. Nearpod is a tool that allows Raymond the ability to introduce the topic through a teacher guided presentation and get real-time data on her students understanding of new concepts. She can then use this information to pull students during station work. Once Raymond is finished introducing the topic students go right into their three stations that are each approximately twenty minutes long.

Station 1: Students View Teacher Created In-Class Flip Video & Complete Seesaw Reflection (Replaces Guided Instruction & Independent Practice) – The apps used for the in-class flip include Schoology (digital workflow) and Explain Everything (to create instructional videos).file_002

Station 2: Front Row Ed App (Replaces Math Facts Practice) – Front Row allows students to do self-paced math lessons at their own individual level.

Station 3: Math Activity/Worksheet/Teacher Choice Activity with the co-teacher

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One of the changes that was made over time was to cut down the stations from four rotations to three rotations allowing students more time in each station. One factor was the in-class flip. The in-class flip transfers ownership of the math instruction to the students as they are now in control of the speed of instruction by having the ability to pause, stop, and rewind their teacher as needed. Also, increasing the time of the stations allowed students to spend more time on Front Row, which is a great opportunity for them to practice math skills and concepts at their own level and pace.

The besfile_001t part of creating the blended learning environment with the iPads is that it has freed up Raymond to work and support students individually or in small groups. Kids that need more help are able to work directly with Raymond or Kill. According to Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker in their book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, “When students receive one-on-one help from a tutor instead of mass group instruction, the results are generally far superior.”3 By implementing the Station Rotation model, Raymond and Kill are free to mentor, support, and guide students individually when needed.  

Strengths of Using the Station Rotation Model 

  1. Provides flexibility for both teachers and students.
  2. Allows teachers the opportunity to work with individual and small groups of students.
  3. Stations can be changed depending on needs, apps, and other variables.
  4. Allows students to become more independent and take control of their learning through the in-class flip and the use of the Front Row app.
  5. It is a natural fit for teachers who are in a co-teaching environment.

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt (@jeffreybernadt) and Cassie Raymond (@casa_ray)

Sources:

  1. Clayton Christensen Institutue. “Blended Learning Definitions.” http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blended-learning-definitions-and-models/ (accesed October 25, 2016).
  2. Reading Horizons. “The Rotation Model.” http://www.readinghorizons.com/blended-learning/models/rotation-model           
  3. Horn, B. Michael, Heather Staker, and Clayton M. Christensen. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. San Francisco: Wiley, 2014.