It begins with a thought that inspires and ignites a teaching concept. It could happen while I am reading a book or listening to NPR on my drive to and from work. It’s like the pull on your sweater that you tug at and it begins to unravel into something bigger than you first intended. This is what happens when I am teaching. I will often get a kernel of an idea in my mind about a unit of study or lesson and the more thinking and tinkering, a completely new concept emerges.
I just finished teaching a dystopian literature unit with my eighth grade students and I thought how can I make this unit more hands on, more self directed, and more engaging so that my students are successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers. At the same time, I want them to draw connections between the fictional dystopias and our world today. What if I gamified it and my students become players in a dystopian environment I create in the classroom? How will it impact their learning, understanding, and thinking?
Welcome to the Dystopian Reading Quest:
The Backstory – We are going to adjust some of the ways our classroom community functions for our next unit. These changes will incorporate technologies we haven’t used in the classroom before that I think will improve communication amongst us. The changes should also ensure that all students are treated equally and are given roles in the classroom that reflect their strengths. We will explore new freedoms we haven’t explored before.
- No one will be allowed to talk in class at all without my permission. In fact, talking will be very limited from now on.
- You will instead communicate with one another via online chat in Google Classroom. I will have access to everything you say in your chats. No other form of communication will be allowed in class unless it is with me or is conducted with my permission.
- The class will be divided into 3 groups based on grades. Students with the highest grades will be in one group, those in the middle will be in another, and those with the lowest will make up the third group. There will be no communication allowed outside of these groups in class.
- We will no longer be discussing historical connections to our texts. We will be free from the burden of thinking about the past. We will concentrate on the here and now and the future of our classroom. History is not important.
- You may not discuss your family, interests, or cultural background. The culture of our classroom is more important. These other details distract from our task at hand. We are all equal. Our differences are not important.
* Other rules may be added depending on the current culture of the individual classroom.
Complete the following badges throughout this unit to earn privileges and unlock powers. The more badges you complete towards mastery, and complete correctly, the more privileges you will gain and unlock the Oracle of Dystopian Knowledge. Not completing these tasks will result in punishments. The badges are to be completed in sequential order.
Students complete six badges while reading different dystopian texts independently to show their understanding and thinking. As a result, students are self directed and working at their own pace towards mastery. The expectations are clearly articulated and students must include evidence and links to their learning. The badges build on each other, it is not a menu board. Rubrics and checklists will be provided as guidelines for mastery learning.
“I think these games are gonna be different.” — Haymitch Abernathy in Catching Fire (2013)