I recently wrote a reflection about implementing a gamification website into my Spanish 3 course. I recounted that after only 3 days, I thought it was a game changer and something that I was really excited about. This is a more detailed account of how I am using Classcraft in a high school Spanish 3 classroom. (For a student reflection on Classcraft, click here)
I was very happy with my standard classroom environment but always thought aspects of gamification would really boost student engagement. Meanwhile, I was dealing with two small teacher dilemmas.
- I have students coming to class with uncharged computers when they are supposed to have charged them overnight. I have students turning in late assignments. I have students doing small disruptive things that might not warrant a full 30 minute detention but are just annoying none-the-less. I like the grades in my class to be an accurate reflection of student learning. If I deduct points for having to charge your computer during class, that de-validates my grading procedures. How can I address these things without impacting the student’s grade?
- I wish my students would want to do some extra enrichment in Spanish without having to require it from all students. But how can I encourage students to do extra learning tasks when I’m not going to reward them for it in the gradebook?
All this is in my mind and enters Classcraft. Classcraft is a classroom gamification platform that I could customize to handle both of my concerns while also engaging students in a game type setting. Classcraft is something that I do in the classroom that is completely 100% separate from my gradebook. All students are included but can choose how involved in the process they want to be.
I imported my student roster into Classcraft. I assigned my students to groups of 4 or 5 and I kind of based those groups on abilities, personalities and perceived interest in “gaming”. In each group, I assigned their game characters. Each student is either a mage, a warrior or a healer. Each character has a different gaming experience. So when I introduced Classcraft to my students and they logged in for the very first time, saw their character avatar, their character statistics and their teammates.
Each character starts on Level 1. They move to the next level by gaining a certain number of Experience Points (XP–explained below). In my game, students level up by earning 500 XP.
Each character also has Action Points and Health Points, all of which I will describe in the next section.
The gamification aspect of Classcraft has built in collaboration components, encouraging students on a team to help out their teammates.
XP: These points are what drives a student to move up to the next level. If you were to keep score, so to speak, the student with the most XP would be your “winner” (even though Classcraft doesn’t have winners or losers). I am in charge of awarding XP. I have created a few preset reasons as to why I might reward a student for doing something but I can also input any XP value I want for any reason I want. Giving out XP is a way to reward positive classroom behaviors without having to tinker with their actual academic grade.
HP: Health Points are represent a character’s life in the game. I deduct HP anytime I see behaviors that I want to punish or reprimand. I can also take away HP for any reason I want to. Once a student gets down to 0 HP, they have to roll a dice of consequence. This will give them some kind of punishment. I created the punishments and they range from having to do extra assignments to bringing me a treat.
AP: Each character can learn powers and take action if they have enough AP, Action Points. Students kind of use these on their own and then the points regenerate every night so I don’t really have too much to do with AP as the teacher.
GP: My students earn Gold Pieces but that’s entirely on their own and it is purely for cosmetic purposes, like adding to their avatar and having pets. I’m not using GP for anything game related.
Students need an incentive to earn more XP and be involved in the game. Each character has the ability to learn powers. Most of these powers I have written and crafted to fit what I am comfortable with in my classroom.
At each level of the game, students get a Power Point which enables them to learn a power. The more XP, the more levels advanced, the more Power Points, the more powers a student is able to learn. Some of the powers are collaborative and help out their teammates. Some of the powers are individual. I tried to create powers that students would want and that I thought were fair in the classroom. For example, if a student progresses far enough in Classcraft to be able to learn an advanced power such as getting to use notes on a test, then they have done enough good things in my classroom and they deserve to be rewarded.
I will probably have more reflection on power usage as the year goes one. At this stage, no student has really used a power so we’ll see how it all works out.
Each class period with start with a Classcraft random event. It’s a “Wheel of Destiny” button that generates some kind of rule or activity for the day’s class. I customize these too and some are strictly game based (earn XP, HP, etc.), some are content based (speak only Spanish all day) and some are just silly (make your teacher sing a song). The variety and randomness of it grabs their attention and gets them ready for class immediately. Plus it’s fun!
Additional Quests for XP
Immediately after introducing Classcraft, I had students asking for different opportunities to earn XP. I thought this would be an excellent way to introduce some enrichment Spanish activities—things that were completely separate from our day-to-day curriculum but that would enrich foreign language learning. Basically a way to make my students do things that I normally would just strongly suggest. This idea mushroomed into a few different things.
Drill Quests: The first thing I introduced was Drill Based Quests that required students to do vocabulary or conjugation drills through two external sites that we use all of the time: Quizlet and Conjuguemos. If students showed proof that they completed these drills, they earned XP. One of the Quizlet sets I gave them was a list of the 50 most common words in Spanish, which includes small by valuable words that students often forget. That review has been priceless and I can see the difference already with the students that have done those drills.
Project Quests: And they still wanted more Quests! I created a Google Doc with different project based Quests. There are writing, speaking, artistic, statistical and historical quests involving language and culture. All of these projects are beneficial in the foreign language classroom but might not fit into my curriculum. I love being able to encourage my students to do these things without requiring them.
Bounty Board: Then I created a board in my room where I could pin up index cards that have Quests written on them. These are one-time-only first-come-first-served Quests. For example, I have a board in my room that I need taken down and changed and I never get around to doing it. I made it a Quest and I have students clamoring to do it for me.
“Ok, but this is too much work for the teacher”
I’ve shared this evolution with a few people and I hear a variation of this comment a lot. Yes, Classcraft does look like it’s time consuming and overwhelming for the teacher. Looks awesome for the student, but I can understand how teachers looking at this might think Wow, way too much for me to handle. As with the implementation of any new procedure, there is some significant prep work to get it all ready and to make sure the back end is all set-up but after that, it’s just a matter of going with the flow. Each day I start with the daily event, keep track of what it tells me to do and go from there. As class goes on, if I need to deduct HP or award XP I make a note or do it quickly. The Classcraft website really does make it easy to do those things quickly.
The engagement I see and the enrichment possibilities associated with Classcraft have been worth any time sacrifices I’ve made. I’m also excited and happy to be able to punish small, unwanted behaviors in a way that doesn’t tinker with grades. I see a gamiification platform like this as a problem solver and content enrichment opportunity. I’m so pleased with what has happened so far and look forward to finishing the year with Classcraft!