5 Ideas for Blending Gamification in Your ELA Classroom

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I have been reading Michael Matera’s EXPLORE Like a Pirate: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners as well as participating in weekly twitter chats about each chapter of the book with amazing teachers who have gamified their content area classroom and Michael Matera himself. These chats allow me to curate ideas and rethink how I am using gamification in my own eighth grade English Language Arts classroom.


I have used game based learning in my middle school classroom for a few years now and I have catalogued some of the games that I have created in my classroom and other gamification tools I use to engage and enrich my students’ classroom experiences below.

1. “Amazing Race”Style Learning Stations – Why not spice up learning stations with an Amazing Race style activity? Teams of students stop at different locations around the classroom (or utilize the entire school) completing various tasks. Check out the To Kill a Mockingbird Amazing Race Activity I created and describe in a previous blog post.

2. Avatar Autobiographies – I am currently using Classcraft Games, a gaming platform throughout my English class. Students earn points in order to unlock special privileges in my classroom. These privileges can be extensions on written work or free passes on notebook checks. Each of my students has an Avatar — an character representing them in the game. Students are able to change the outfits of their Avatars, purchase equipment, and even buy pets for their Avatars depending on the Experience Points they earn in class. I have my students write autobiographies about their Avatars to bring them to life and to offer creative writing opportunities in the class.


3. Boss BattlesHunger Games Style – Maybe you have a test coming up or you want to review an idea or concept with your class. You can use tech tools like Kahoot! or Plickers to test students knowledge. Once the teacher creates the questions or assessment,  students use a mobile device or computer to answer the questions with Kahoot! Pickers makes unique QR Codes that teachers can purchase and the teacher uses a mobile device to collect the formative assessment data based on the position of the QR Code which reveals their answer. Teachers can make their own boss battle reviews and assessments against a villainous character too. Students work in teams or independently to beat the “boss” within a few seconds. Getting a correct answer earns points where as the wrong answer can cost someone health points. Check out the amazing Boss Battle Assessment Mallory Kesson created for her students.

4. QR Code Quests & Micro Challenges – I love QR Codes for the ability to link digital media quickly to as activity or assignment. Over the past five years I have made a number of QR Code Quests that allow my students to investigate a concept or theme we are covering in class. I have made QR Code Quests for review, like this Figurative Language QR Code Quest and to learn about new information like with this music history QR Code Quest on Woodstock, 1969.

5. Adventure Quests – Throughout the #XPlap (Explore Like a Pirate Twitter Chats) there have been a series of Trivia type questions for participants to answer. Each week one question is asked within the chat to be answered on a Google Form. The questions are timed and for every question answered answered correctly, participants earn points. The person with the most points wins a bundle of gamification tools at the end.  Who doesn’t like winning free stuff?! Based on this idea, I created an Adventure Quest for my students. We are embarking on an investigative journalism unit and throughout the unit I will offer one question based on something happening in the news. The questions will unfold throughout the upcoming weeks and allows students to earn experience points as well as the possibility of winning a prize (to be determined). I will share more about this Adventure Quest and the questions asked in a later blog post.

Have ideas how to gamify your ELA class please share in the comments section of this blog.



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5 thoughts on “5 Ideas for Blending Gamification in Your ELA Classroom

  1. Y. Bauer says:

    My class enjoyed using Jenga blocks as part of a review – individuals or teams would pull a jingle block if they got the question right. We also played “Would you rather…” in a pass-and-go style. That was a lot of fun and created great writing prompts for opinion pieces when students had to give three reasons for their choices.

    • Board games are great tools to bring in gamification. I have had students play life size scrabble and also put together theme based puzzles in a short amount of time. The Jenga idea is a fun idea and I see myself writing the questions right on the Jenga blocks to answer. Thanks for the great ideas.

  2. Joy Kirr says:

    I don’t have new ideas…yet. I’m still gathering many after reading Michael’s gem of a book. 🙂 I’m wondering… do you gamify all year long, or by quarters, or another term? Do you have a theme? I cannot think of a good theme that would last all year long for my 7th grade ELA class. I can see myself imagining them for certain units, but for the entire year? All I can think of is “Scholar Quest” or something kind of lame like that. I need help with a theme, and then I can think of side quests and XPs and such. Help?

    • I love the idea of a “Scholar Quest” and I do not think it is lame at all. This year I have brought in Classcraft and use the game platform 90% of the time. Articles of the week at optional homework and are for game points, monthly twitter book club chats earn game points, quiz grades are also applied to game points. Class activities are for game points. So gamification is all year. Each quarter and unit of study I try out something new to apply like the Boss Battles this winter and now I am working on the Adventure Quest for this unit of study. Some activities are theme based or text based. Any side quests for XP or gold pieces are always an added bonus for student motivation. Sometimes I am inspired by something on twitter or outside of school and the quest/game reveals itself seamlessly and other units I recycle an old idea. Gamifying your classroom is an ongoing process. What are you reading or working on your class? Subject and inquiry often lends itself to a quest, mini games, challenges, and earning badges. I would love to know more in order to help or possibly collaborate in creating something.

      • Shelley Burgess says:

        I know this is an old post – and I am hoping you receive this message. I am going to spend the summer trying to revamp my 7ELA class lessons. I want to include gamification and PBL … I am extremely visual – and CAN BE creative – but ALWAYS need a spark to get me started. SO WISH I was independently creative – just not smart enough – LOL …. Could you please email me at sburgess@esd.k12.ms.us? I was very interested in the reply you gave above – and would like to know more. I looked at Classcraft a couple years ago – but I was completely confused.

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