I really wanted to try gamification with this specific group of students for a couple different reasons. 1) I have them for two years, so we could start the game this year and be able to continue with it next year and 2) I am BLESSED with a very high performing, intelligent group of students this year, but we have been struggling with them being self directed learners. I was looking for some way to motivate my high students to reach even higher, and this seemed like a great way to do that. We will get into goal setting and challenges on another post.
So, back to student ownership. I began by talking to some of my boys whom I know LOVE video games and aren't too interested in going the extra mile in school. I explained my idea and asked them to help me come up with gamer's lingo and ideas on what type of game we could play.
Once I got them on board and the rest of the kids were interested in what was happening, I opened it up to the whole class for a brainstorming session. I knew what I wanted it to be, but I wasn't sure how to get there. The class helped me "find the wood to build the bridge" so to speak. The kids had some fantastic ideas about levels and challenges and it just kind of grew from there. They came up with the idea of battling a minion in order to advance to the next level. It was their idea to use minecraft hearts instead of slashes on the clipboard, as well as use avatars to travel through the castle. The concept of the levels getting progressively more challenging was their's too. To be honest, they are teaching me a lot and I LOVE it!!!
Now that we have begun, they continue to come up with fantastic ideas that they want to try and they post them in Schoology in our Updates discussion board. We have also worked in small groups to come up with different projects and assignments that relate to what we are learning AND are interesting and fun to do. No one knows what's fun for a 4th grader more than a 4th grader.
I have always encouraged choice and free speech (within reason) in my classroom. It is a "Carnduffocracy" a democracy where Mrs. Carnduff has the final say. This encourages students to voice their opinion and stand up for what they believe in. It fosters open communication and a sense of family and teamwork. Even if I have the same idea, it just sounds better when it comes from one of them ;).
When children have a feeling of ownership, many things tend to happen. First, they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for what they have created or achieved. Second, they begin to become more internally motivated, because, after all, it WAS their idea or their choice, not the teacher's. Third, they have more fun, which leads to more learning, which is, after all, the whole point, is it not? I mean, for the first time in my teaching career I have students asking me, BEGGING me, "PLEASE, can I work on my 5 paragraph essay?" or "Can I write a summary of my book for 5XP?" I mean, come on?! This is awesome!!! And it's all them!
Most importantly, working together to create something like this has been a huge relationship and community builder for all of us. We are able to capitalize on the different talents of the group and work towards a common goal. We celebrate together and we overcome obstacles together. Building relationships is not something that can be taught, but it is something that can be accomplished.