The Book That Drives the Story and the Game

HELLO

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN MAYBE YOU KNOW

YOU OUGHT TO READ EVERYTHING, AND MAYBE

YOU KNOW YOU OUGHT TO READ DEEPLY. BECAUSE THERE’S

WITCHERY IN THESE WORDS AND

SPELLWORK IN THE SPINE

AND ONCE YOU KNOW TO LOOK FOR SIGNALS IN THE SMOKE,

FOR SECRETS IN THE SEA, THEN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS

TO READ. THIS IS A BOOK. YOU ARE THE READER. LOOK CLOSER,

THERE’S MAGIC HERE.

 

So begins Traci Chee’s amazing story of pirates, magic, and the power of a book in The Reader: Book One of Sea of Ink and Gold.

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This week my students and I will be discussing The Reader with author, Traci Chee for our upcoming monthly Twitter Book Club. There are so many great elements to the story that I had to reread the book again. Additionally, Traci Chee has embedded ten puzzles, ciphers, and clues throughout the story and I was on a hunt to uncover them all – in my second read I have identified 9 of the 10.

The Reader is filled with strong female characters throughout and weaves between three different story lines. Sefia, the protagonist’s story and quest is primary. Captain Reed’s adventures written in The Book Sefia reads and is marked in a different layout embedded throughout Sefia story. The third story is of Sefia’s parents which run parallel with Sefia’s chapters (until you realize who Lon and the Assassin really are in Chapter 29). Chee has crafted a compelling story that plays on words and begs her readers to ask questions about the power of words and books to control facts, truth, and history.

The main protagonists is 16 year old Sefia who has lost both her mother and father. As the readers, we are told and reminded that her parents were brutally murdered. Sefia is cared for by a family friend, Nin, until Nin is kidnapped one day by a “hooded woman” with a “sick stench of metal.” Sefia is left to fend for herself and seek revenge and resolution. In this world the people cannot read. “They had never developed alphabets or rules for spelling, never set their histories down in stone.” Stories and histories are passed around orally so they are not forgotten. Except a secret society of people trained to read and write from a “mysterious object called a book.” Sefia’s parents had the book hidden and now it is in Sefia’s hands as she uses it to find answers and understand her past.

So the puzzles embedded throughout The Reader.  .  . Some are there masterfully to reinforce ideas in the story like the fingerprints smudged throughout the book from Sefia’s paper cuts that bloodied her fingers reading and rereading the book in her hands. Another character, Tanin, carries around a crinkled, burned, and weathered paper that she reads and rereads trying to understand like a map that is presented on pages 416 -417 to help uncover just what really happened when Sefia is with Tanin and Rajar. If you look closely at burned page on page 417 Sefia’s parent’s names have been rubbed out and erased. Page 25 there are details blacked out about Sefia’s father that beg the question whether her parents are really dead. On page 211 there are words faded out to again asking the question, “What information is being held from us, the readers?” Again on page 307 specific words are bolded and enlarged when Sefia is reading about her father’s death in the book. “There was – no face left.” This hints that Sefia’s father can be alive and the body Sefia saw was planted as a distractor for his enemies. Did you catch the hidden message in the quote at the beginning of this blog post – LOOK CLOSER.

At the bottom of the page numbers there are words floating throughout. It is a poem. Oh, Traci Chee you are a clever author . . .

This is a book and a book is a world and words are the seeds in which meanings are curled pages of oceans and margins on land are civilizations you hold in the palm of your hand. But look at your world and your life seems to shrink to cities of paper and seas made of ink. Do you  know who you are or have you been mislead? Are you the reader or are you the read?

Unpacking the Book As a Theme for Gamification

In Explore Like  Pirate: Gamification and Game Inspired Course Design (2015), Michael Matera suggests that successful gamification needs a story with a theme, setting, and characters to drive the game and motivate the players into action. The Reader is my inspiration and guide for my ELA classroom. In a world where students who love reading is few and far between, and paper or tangible books might been a thing of the past, my students and players will be the chosen to uncover the mysteries and powers of the book. The goal is for students to LOOK CLOSER at their world and the information that we are bombarded with visually and in print. In books, and digitally. What is true? Do books contain magic? What can we learn from the adventures described in books and the histories that have been recorded? Can we use our knowledge and understanding to see that “everything is huge and connected. . . But the book[s] are the key, and if [we] can figure out how to use it, [we’d] be able to open the door, uncover the magic that lay, ripping and shifting unseen currents, beyond the world [we’d] experience” (Chee, 41).

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Genius Inspiration for Middle School Students

Genius Hour happens every Friday in my classroom and this year I have required my students to choose a new Genius Hour or Passion Project every ten weeks. Genius Hour allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. The genius project is self selected, as long as it taps into one of the menu choices below.

Make the World/Community a Better Place – A genius solves a problem in a way no one else could.  A genius looks at a problem with fresh eyes.  A genius is ready make a unique impact on the world; solve a problem in a new way. For this genius project choose a problem and find a solution that will benefit others on a community or global scale.

The UnGoogleable – A genius begins with a question that hasn’t been answered anywhere, ever. A question that takes time to answer. It has an UnGoogleAble answer. This genius hour project requires students to research something that goes beyond facts and summary but requires analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Students will look at multiple theories and present their findings.

Learn/Master – A genius seeks to gain knowledge about something that interests them. It takes 10,000 hours to get to mastery. For this genius project students will spend their hours practicing and mastering a personal passion of theirs.

Create/Innovate – A genius gives the world something it didn’t know was missing.  For this genius project you will create or make something. You can build, design, or create something from scratch.

Always looking to inspire my students and to show them Genius projects presented by other teens, I have collected a few videos and websites that highlight the amazing potential of teenagers. Below are TEN that I have shared with my students this year to wow them and show them that teens can make a difference, start a business, master a skill, and empower others.

Mr. Cory’s Cookies – For those who love baking and want to take it to the next level.

10, 000 hours equals mastery is showcased in this YouTube video:

Shelterpups.com – She wanted the perfect stuffed dog that looked like her own mixed breed. So, she created her own and started a business at the same time.

York School Student Projects all focus on helping others and the community.

Jack Andraka is a High School Student and Cancer Researcher. His memoir Breakthrough is a great read for middle and high school students.

Malala’s memoir  I Am Malala is one book that my students read as a part of a unit on social justice and courage. The Malala Fund helps young people understand that one person can make a difference.

Thomas Suarez designed his first app at 12 years old.

So you want to be a filmmaker. Zachary Maxwell shares insight in this TEDx Talk.

 

Seventeen year old Patricia Manubay is making learning exciting with “Dream Boxes” by helping young people get the school supplies they need.

Teen singer, songwriter, and superstar, Shawn Mendes.

 

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Powerful Writing Starts with Strong Sentences: 8 Sentence Activities to Use Across the Content Areas

“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” —J.K. Rowling,

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” 

—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

 

How do we get our students to write well?

How can teachers help students to string words together with poetry, grace, and meaning?

I recently attended a workshop on The Writing Revolution: The Hochman Method, an instructional approach to teaching writing and communication skills. Dr. Judith C. Hochman is the creator of the Hochman Method and founder of The Writing Revolution. Dr. Hochman was the Head of Windward School an independent school focused on teaching students with learning disabilities.  

We began with sentences and sentence activities. The idea is to start small in order to help students to write better. Focusing on sentences improves the substance of writing to raise the level of linguistic complexity and clarity, enhance revision and editing skills, and improve reading comprehension.

The following 8 sentence activities were presented to help student take command of their sentence writing and become better writers.

Sentence Fragments – A group of words that is not a grammatically complete sentence. Usually a fragment lacks a subject, verb or both or is a dependent clause that is not attached to an independent clause.  Teachers can post sentence fragments for students to repair. The aim is to address what is necessary to write complete sentences. For example, as a bell ringer have students identify the sentence fragments and change the fragments into complete sentences adding necessary words, capitalization, and punctuation.

the town of Macomb

does not remember her mother well

atticus finch is a lawyer

Scrambled Sentences – Another five minute do now is to have 7-9 words maximum for students to put together to make a complete sentence. One way to help students with this activity is to bold the first word of the sentence to help them unscramble the sentence.

Sentence Types – We use four different kinds of sentences when speaking and writing: Statements or Declaratives, Questions or Interrogatives, Exclamations, and Commands or Imperatives. Give students a topic or an image for them to write a sentence, question, exclamation, and command for. This strategy encourages students to think about the text and encourage precise language. To differentiate this activity  you can offer an answer and have students create a question that shows synthesis, comparison, and frames their academic vocabulary.

Q: _____________________________________

A: direction and magnitude

Possible question: What are the two defining characteristics of a vector?

Because, But, So – Because tells why, But changes direction, and So shows cause and effect. If we want students to think critically and not regurgitate information we can have students extend a sentence with but, because, and so. Each of these conjunctions help to change the meaning of the sentence.

Hammurabi created a written code of laws . . . .

Students can complete the sentence based on what they know and understand.

Hammurabi created a written code of laws because ________________________________________________

Hammurabi created a written code of laws, but ___________________________________________________

Hammurabi created a written code of laws, so ____________________________________________________

These three conjunctions can help students learn linguistically complex language and change of direction language that can help writing counterclaims. Additional transition words for but includes:  although, while, even though, however, on the other hand.

Subordinating Conjunctions – After, Before, If, While, Although, Even though, Unless, Since, When, Whenever. Rather than asking students questions about the text or material, use subordinating conjunction  sentence stems to evaluate comprehension and knowledge. For example,

Since Lennie has a mild mental disability in Of Mice and Men, ________________________________________

After Lennie meet’s Curley’s wife, _________________________________________________________________

Although Lennie promised to keep the farm a secret, ________________________________________________

Students can use a given subordinating conjunction to write a sentence about a character.

Although __________________________________________________________

Even though ________________________________________________________

If I was using the above activity with To Kill a Mockingbird, I might anticipate a student to write,

Although Tom Robinson was innocent and defended himself well, he was found guilty.

Even though Tom Robinson’s case seemed doomed from the start, Atticus agreed to defend him.

Appositives are a noun or noun phrase placed next to another noun to rename, or explain it more fully. Teachers can have students practice writing topic sentences with appositives. Another activity is to have student match appositives or fill in the appositives. Introducing appositives provides students a strategy to vary writing and help the reader provide more information. In addition, it improves reading comprehension. Another strategy is to give students an appositive and have students write a sentence around it.

Sentence Combining helps to teach grammar and usage because it requires students to gain syntactic control.

This strategy is from The Teacher’s Guide to Effective Sentence Writing by Bruce Saddler.

Let’s take the following five sentences:

People are innocent.

People are innocent according to a principle.

The principle is American.

The principle is legal.

They are proven guilty.

 

What did you come up with?

According to an American legal principle, people are innocent until proven guilty.

To scaffold this sentence activity you can give hints for students to use a conjunction or appositive. Additionally, you can differentiate the activity by giving the high fliers a challenge, the middle level students a hint, and for struggling or ELLs offer them a sentence starter.

Kernel Sentences – A simple, active, declarative sentence with only one verb and containing no modifiers or connectives. This activity is helpful for note taking because it gets at the who, what, when, where why, and how.

Snow fell.

Cells divide.

Pyramids were built.

Students state the when, where, and why.  Think of this like a puzzle, students need to complete every piece of information to write an expanded sentence.

In ancient times, pyramids were built in Egypt to protect the body of the deceased pharaoh.
Whether you try all the sentence activities or just a few, activities should be embedded in the content. Teacher demonstration and modelling is beneficial. Sentence strategies can be practiced in do nows and warm ups, stop and jots, exit slips or even test items.

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Badges for Public Speaking Mastery: Part II

publicspeaking

Why a badge driven curriculum?

Students are able to monitor their own learning and take responsibility for their work and understanding. Students are aware of the learning expectations and the work they need to master in order to successfully pass the course. Students know the end goal and are awarded badges for completing  specific learning targets and challenging and extraordinary tasks.

I have transformed my speech and debate elective class for middle school students this semester into a module based independent study where students complete different tasks to show mastery and earn badges.

The first ten weeks of the semester students are to complete three different badges for students to work towards and show their understanding and knowledge of public speaking. The second half of the semester students will focus on debating skills and participate in different types of debate.

The three different badges for Speech and Debate include:

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge

Read about the Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge expectations here.

Words Are Powerful Badge

This badge is designed to help students utilize public speaking and writing skills by crafting a non fiction speech. Throughout this bade students are working on structure, word choice, and literary devices in their own writing.

Presentation Guru Badge

Once students earn the Words are Powerful Badge they can work on the Presentation Guru Badge. This badge requires students to put together all that they have learned about the qualities of great speakers and writing strong speeches. The final part of this badge is for students to write and present a TED style talk.

Here are some of the specific learning targets and extraordinary tasks students will set out to complete this semester.

Words Are Powerful Badge Expectations

Choose One Podcast Assignment:

StorySLAM (True Stories Told) – Choose a personal story you are willing to share with others. First write your story that you will then tell via podcast for others to listen to.  Here are some examples: https://themoth.org/education/resources (scroll to the bottom)

#1 The Model & Mentor Assignment

  1. Listen to 2-3 of the sample stories at https://themoth.org/education/resources
  2. Write a Reflection that answers the following (answers don’t have to be long, but please put some thought into them and not just one word answers):
  • Write the title of the story AND give the episode a “new” creative title.  
  • Write 3 things you learned about the speaker telling the story.
  • Write 3 new questions you have you want to ask the storyteller, and WHY you want to know the answers to these questions.
  • How did the speakers make you feel?  Engage You In the Topic? Encourage You to Continue Listening?
  • What were some of the rhetorical moves the speakers  utilized to successfully present the information in the podcast?
  • What other things did you notice about the podcast that are worth mentioning and pointing out to other listeners?

#2:Write Your Story Script – Write a story experience about yourself you are willing to share with others in a 3-5 Minute Personal Story that leaves a lasting impression. Share your story script with three classmates to get feedback and suggestions. Then, share your story script with your teacher before you begin your podcast for editing purposes. Remember:

  • Stories have a change. The main character (you!) has to change in some way from beginning to end.
  • Stories have stakes. Why did this moment matter to you?
  • Know where your story is heading. Steer clear of meandering endings!
  • Be YOURSELF. This is not a monologue, a standup routine, or a rant.  

#3: Podcast Your Story –  Record on a Podcast your story for others to hear*. Turn in your audio podcast on Google Classroom.

* Almost everyone needs to practice reading aloud their story to make it exciting and interesting in terms of the words as well as one’s vocal presentation. Your voice needs to be loud, clear, and authentic.

OR

RadioLab Style Podcast – RadioLab is a show on NPR that presents topics related to science through engaging conversations, media clips, and investigative journalism. Check out http://radiolab.org for more information and to listen to a few podcasts before you get started.

#1: The Model & Mentor Assignment

  1. Choose a ONE HOUR episode of Radiolab on http://radiolab.org. Download or listen online to the ENTIRE episode.
  2. Write a Reflection that answers the following (answers don’t have to be long, but please put some thought into them and not just one word answers):
  • Write the title of the episode AND give the episode a “new” creative title.  
  • Write 3 things you learned about the topic in the podcast.
  • Write 3 new questions you now have about the topic, and WHY you want to know the answers to these questions.
  • How did the speakers make you feel?  Engage You In the Topic? Encourage You to Continue Listening?
  • What were some of the rhetorical moves the speakers/hosts utilized to successfully present the information in the podcast?
  • What other things did you notice about the podcast that are worth mentioning and pointing out to other listeners?

#2: Create Your Own Radio Lab Podcast

  1. Select and Research a topic of your choice (most RadioLab Episodes are science related).
  2. Write a script for a 3-5 Minute Mini-Radiolab Episode sharing insight, research, and findings.

Words are Powerful Badge Reflection

You will also turn in a short, 1-2 page reflective paper AFTER delivering your podcast; the reflection paper should describe the process that went into developing your project and your thoughts about the performance.

 

Presentation Guru Badge Expectations

TED is a group devoted to spreading ideas. Their national conferences and regional TEDx events are famous for offering short, powerful talks and posting them online. Present your own TED style talk, video it, and post online. The TED Talk should be informative, engaging, and inspiring. For more information check out http://www.ted.org

Part 1 – TED Talk Models & Mentors Reflection

Complete the Data Collection Worksheet* For each TED Talk you view. You are to view 3 or more Talks.

Part 2 – Your TED Style Talk must:

  • be 7-10 minutes in length
  • incorporate a slideshow that enhances the discussion with compelling images (and text, when appropriate)
  • 3 or other such “take away”
  • be supported with research, with all borrowed material properly cited within the presentation
  • include a storytelling component at some point (doesn’t necessarily have to be YOUR story)
  • be “memorized” (no notes)
  • be delivered in an engaging manner to a live audience that will then  be recorded) offer a clearly defined argument, new perspective,
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Badges For Mastery in Speech & Debate: Part I

publicspeaking

This semester I am teaching a section of Speech and Debate for 8th graders and I wanted to  create a self guided course that requires students to research, write, speak, and reflect continuously throughout the course. There are three key modules for students to show their mastery of public speaking utilizing a badge system.

Think about what the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have been doing all along, recognizing mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by recognizing student accomplishments and mastery with badges. Badges go beyond grades because they are given out at the teacher’s discretion for more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill.

In the public speaking elective I designed, students have a great deal of choice – to choose topics and projects using a badging system. This approach gives students both freedom and responsibility as they will be required to manage their time wisely and work independently (in community) toward their personal course goals.

I have organized the first ten weeks of the course into three badges (modules):

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge

Words Are Powerful Badge

Presentation Guru Badge

Students choose the grade they would like to earn the class and complete badges accordingly. Earning more badges means students will receive a higher grade. Students may submit a badge application as many times as needed to earn the badge as long as they meet all deadlines on the badging pathway. The Badge Grading System will work as follows:

● To earn an A in the course, you must earn three (3) project badges

● To earn a B in the course, you must earn two (2) project badges

● To earn a C in the course, you must earn one (1) project badge

Great Speakers Are Made, Not Born Badge Expectations

 Students are required to complete a series of reflections for this requirement. For each post that has a video/website/book/ebook as media, include APA or other citation at the end of your reflection. Below are the expectations for the reflections:

#1: Speech and Debate Reflection Google Form

#2: Great Speakers in History

  1. Watch the videos of “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Speech

             Transcripts: MLK’s Speech and JFK’s Speech

  1. Write a reflection paper (2-3 pages) in which you address the following:
  • Summarize the key ideas presented in each speech and the rhetorical devices used in each speech to make these iconic speeches. Use direct textual evidence (3-4) to support your claims.
  • Write a paragraph about the speakers themselves. What strategies do MLK and JFK emulate in their public speaking? Identify four or more public speaking strategies using direct textual evidence to support your claims.
  • What makes MLK and JFK “Great Speakers?” Reflect on the elements of these speakers and their speeches that you hope to emulate this semester in Speech and Debate. Use specific details and examples. These will in turn be your personal speaking goals for the semester.

#3: Who is “great speaker” of our time?

  1. Identify a speaker today who you think emulates the qualities of great speakers you identified in JFK and MLK.
  2. Find a video that showcases this speaker and include the video link that highlights the elements of public speaking utilized by this person. Post this video on Google Classroom for all to view, reflect, and review.  (Select a video that is 3-10 minutes in length).
  3. Write an analysis (1-2 pages) describing the strategies and rhetorical devices presented by this speaker. Use direct textual evidence to support your claim. Include specific information describing the aspects of this speaker you aspire to when speaking in public.

#4: Public Speaking Content Curation

  • Using one of the following Content Curation/Social Bookmarking sites: Pinterest, ThingLink, or Symbaloo, find nine or more (9+) research and public speaking videos (3), research articles (3), and interviews with public speaking teachers or figures (3).
  • Annotate what can be found at each site and/or video and highlight one (or more), key quotes and a strategy for public speaking highlighted in the resource.
  • Describe in 2-3 sentences how this content can help you to be a better public speaker.

You can read about the expectations for the Words Are Powerful Badge and Presentation Guru Badge in this post.

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What do you see? Close Reading Interactive Foldable

When we read for school and academic purposes we have to read differently than when we are reading for pleasure. When we read for school we know there is going to be an assessment of our reading during and after reading. That assessment can be a reading comprehension quiz, an essay or short response, even a project to show your understanding.

We tell our students to read closely? But what does that really mean for middle school students to close read?

I tell my students to think of an onion. There are many layers to an onion and similarly, there layers to the text we must uncover.

What does the text say?

How does the text work?

What does the text mean?

I created an interactive foldable to help reiterate close reading and the layers of reading or “ways of seeing” a text. This foldable offers students a visual and guiding questions reminding them of what is expected of them when reading in middle and high school.

The layers of close reading on the foldable are based on Fisher and Frey’s TDQs: Text Dependent Questions (2016) which I describe more in this post and connect with state assessments and the Common Core Standards in this post.

 

 

The foldable and directions are below.

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Legends of the Hidden Temple Classroom Activities & Interactive Game

Legends of the Hidden Temple was an “action and adventure” gameshow on Nickelodeon in the 1990s. The game show required teams  of two to compete in a series of physical and mental tasks: The Moat, The Steps of Knowledge, Temple Games. and the final Temple Run. Through a process of elimination, the last remaining team entered the Temple to retrieve the ancient artifact and have a chance to win a grand prize.

The temple consisted of twelve rooms, each with a specific theme (e.g., the Throne Room, the King’s Storeroom, the Observatory, the Shrine of the Silver Monkey). The rooms connected to adjacent rooms by doorways, although some doors were locked, blocking a contestant’s progress into the adjacent room; the pattern of locked and unlocked doors changed each episode depending both on the temple layout and the artifact’s location. The unlocked doors were closed at the start of the round, but they could be opened by completing a specific task or puzzle within each room. One room in the temple contained the themed artifact. Three other designated rooms held temple guards. A contestant who encountered a temple guard was forced to give up a full pendant in order to continue. The team had three minutes to retrieve the artifact and leave the temple with it. If either contestant grabbed the artifact, all remaining temple guards vanished and all locked doors in the temple instantly opened, allowing the contestant to escape unhindered.

Check out the video to watch a thrilling episode.

My co-teacher introduced me this show online and I couldn’t wait to adapt it for the classroom.

Students are reading about social justice and courage for an independent reading unit and I took on the theme of courage to create “Legends of Hidden Courage” action adventure. I revised a few of the games (the moat) and all teams competed against each other, there was no elimination. Each challenge was worth different experience points (XP). Some challenges awarded points and A Pendant of Life — to be used in the future as a free Notebook Check Pass or Free Assignment Pass.

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The game began with the Steps of Knowledge. Students had read and analyzed poetry the day before on themes of social justice so we started with a QuizletLive on poetic devices.

Then, came the first physical challenge: Students had to take a picture of all their team members making a positive difference in the school and post on Twitter.

A physical and mental challenge was third. Students had to match images of upstanders in history with the correct names.

The Inspiration Challenge required students to reflect and write about a person in history or present day who they inspires and they aspire to for their courage.

The last challenge was the Minefield physical challenge.

It was an action packed class period and there are many different ways that this game show can adapted based on the unit of study.

 

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5 WAYS TO GAMIFY YOUR CLASSROOM

The following post is a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE’s EdTekHub and was published on  1/5/2017

Many of our students are among the 155 million Americans playing video games regularly, and you might be, too. That’s a good thing. When my 11-year-old is playing video games, he’s using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context, and he gains actionable feedback he uses to win the game. When he fails to level up, he doesn’t give up, but continues playing until he progresses to the next level. He also seeks information online to help him find Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. He teaches his friends how to power up with each level of the game. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.

How can we use this pervasive and engaging gaming phenomenon to redesign and supercharge the learning experience?

Here are five ways to gamify your classroom to boost engagement, collaboration and learning:

  1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use. Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, Connect Four and Scrabble have been around for decades and can be adapted for classroom learning. Put vocabulary words on bingo cards and see if students can match the words after hearing the definitions. Working in groups, students can play Scrabble by spelling out answers to content-specific questions. Using the app Goose Chase, create digital scavenger hunts by sending students off to take pictures, create a video, or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.
  1. Play digital games. Students love playing Kahoot!Quizizz and Quizlet. These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from the thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking.
  1. Create a quest. A quest is a mission with an objective. Every year my students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events reading. Students who correctly answer a specific text-dependent question earn points. The student with the most points after six weeks wins a prize. I post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn extra points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.
  1. Battle it out with a boss battle. In gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. On the gamification platform Classcraft, teachers can create their own boss battles using questions from any content area. Teachers can also create boss battles using Google Forms or Google Slides, creating their own unique fictional boss.
  1. Earn a badge for mastery. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with badges, which go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadges or can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, they can use gamification elements to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards and address the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

 

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Tools of Titans as a Roadmap for 2017

This past week I read Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers by Tim Ferriss (2016). This 650+ page book is a  collection of recipes – on health, wealth, and wisdom from high profile athletes, doctors, investors, and entrepreneurs. Ferriss has taken snapshots from his podcasts and put them together with his own insight and personal reflections. As an avid fan of Tim Ferriss, this book was something that I savored this holiday.

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As Ferriss writes, “While the world is a goldmine, you need to go digging in other people’s heads to unearth riches. Questions are your pickaxes and competitive advantage.” Whether looking for inspiration in the new year or interested in the daily habits of Olympic athletes, writers, professional chefs, CEOs, and creative geniuses. 

Taking from Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Ferriss extends the quote, “I can think, I can wait, I can fast” as a guide for success.

“I can think” – Having good rules for decision making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.

“I can wait” – Being able to plan long term, play the long game, and not misallocate your resources.

“I can fast” – Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance.

We don’t discover ourselves, we CREATE ourselves. The information shared in this book will help you create your best self. Ferriss states, “Success, however you define it, is achievable if you collect the right field-tested beliefs and habits.”

Below are twenty-five quotes from Tools of Titans that stood out for me.

“No one owes you anything.” – Amelia Boone

“We’re not an object, we’re a process.” – Justin Mager, MD
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“If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations time wise, resulting in unnecessary frustration due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process. . . Learn to enjoy the process.” – Tim Ferriss

“Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” Marc Andreessen

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.” – Derek Sivers

“When you can write well, you can think well.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person.” – Matt Mullenweg

“Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life . . .There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it, because if you develop more skill, more ability, more insight, more capacity, that’s what’s going to really provide economic freedom . .  It’s those skill sets that really make them happen. – Tony Robbins

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“If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy.” – Tony Robbins

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” – Casey Neistat

“If a narrative isn’t working, well then, really, why are you using it? The narrative isn’t done to you; the narrative is something that you choose. Once we can dig deep and find a different narrative, then we ought to be able to change the game.” – Seth Godin

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and word harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people . . . “ Seth Godin

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“Everything is a remix, but what is your version of the remix . . .What is the unique mojo that I bring, and how can I try to amplify that? Amplify your strengths rather than fix your weaknesses.” — Chase Jarvis

“Stories are a primary ingredient.” – Alex Blumberg

“When you complain, nobody wants to help you . . .If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people.” – Tracy DiNunzio

“Ask for help. Fix it. DO whatever’s necessary. But don’t cheat.” – Chris Young

 

“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room – until you change that with results.” Tim Ferriss

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen.” – Scott Belsky

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“Think of problems as gold mines.  The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.” – Peter Diamandis

“Are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? I think we need to be training people on how to change the world.” – Peter Diamandis

“I have always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward. . . The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Critical Thinking Essential in Education Now

As the smoke clears post election most of the educational institutions that I am a part of have issued statements about their mission to “empower EVERY student by providing an exemplary educational foundation that includes critical and creative thinking, social-emotional learning, physical education, music, and the arts in a collaborative and inclusive learning environment.”

My children’s school even went further to state, “Whatever your political view, this is a time to pause and reaffirm our shared commitment to learning, to our discovery, to our diversity as a strength, and to our inclusive community as core values. We will continue to have zero tolerance for bullying or disrespect towards any member of our community, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other perceived difference. We will continue to promote kindness and empathy towards every one. Our mission and these beliefs will remain a beacon as we move forward in the coming months and years and will guide us in all decisions regarding your child’s elementary school experience” (Northeast, 2016).

Now as I watch and listen to the news, it has become more and more important that work I do not only focus on preparing students to be workers, college and career ready. My purpose is to teach critical thinking, caring, and social responsibility. Nel Noddings (1991) wrote that “caring should be the foundation of our curriculum, including caring for ideas, friends, family, the earth and its ecosystems, human made objects, and strangers and distant others.” Empathy and social justice are at the hear of my curriculum. The books we read, the stories we write, and the texts we discuss all address the essential questions:

How can one person make a difference and impact positive change?

How do/can our actions impact the world around us?

What is the connection between injustice and empathy?

How and why should individuals build empathy for others?

Here are three videos that address EVERYONE’S responsibility to critically question the texts we engage with and promote kindness and empathy towards everyone.  They can be used along side of great books. Each share similar messages about caring, acceptance, and accountability.

Grace Lin’s Ted Talk “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

 

Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony Acceptance Speech/Sonnet for Hamilton

 

Christiane Amanpour’s 2016 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award Acceptance Speech 

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