Gamification in the Classroom: Level 1 — Getting Started

What is that big word in your title?

Oh! Thank you for asking!

Last week I had the opportunity to lead two breakout sessions at TransformED, an innovative teaching conference like no other you’ve ever experienced!

This post isn’t about my sessions, however. Instead, I want to tell you all about what I experienced in one of the breakout sessions: Ready Reader One: A GamifiED Classroom, with Ethan Silva.

Find out more:

Level 1: Getting Started
Level 2: Incorporating the Standards
Level 3: Game On
Level 4: Problem-Solving after the First Six Weeks

Hang on! I have no idea what you’re talking about!

What is that big word in your title?

Oh! Thank you for asking! Gamification — \ˌgā-mə-fə-ˈkā-shən\ — is basically the process of turning a non-gaming environment (a classroom or business) into a game-like environment using game-based mechanics (experience points, items, levels, etc.).

Okay… But why?

You are full of great questions today!

  • makes learning fun through motivation
  • changes behavior (for the better) through meaningful experiences
  • allows for critical thinking skills to develop and grow
  • encourages independent thinking and group thinking
  • helps measure growth
  • develops self-starters and motivated actions

In short, the goal of gamification in the classroom is to motivate students to learn the material they’re supposed to be learning anyway. You can do this any number of ways: from one lesson to a whole school year!

If you’d like to know a little more about gamification, check out the history of it here!

Back to TransformED and Ethan’s breakout session!

On day one of TransformED, Ethan (who will be teaching at the middle school level this coming school year) introduced us to the world of gamification. He explained it to us and showed us how it worked in his classroom. We were able to ask all sorts of questions, too.

One of the best things about TransformED is that on day two we were able to dive a little deeper into one of the day one experiences. I chose gamification!

On day two, Ethan gave us a breakdown of how to start our own game step by step. We started planning our own ideas! He used Michael Matera‘s model (author of Explore Like a Pirate) to show us exactly what we needed to do to get started. Ethan even joined in with his own planning since he’ll be changing grade levels!

Out of this experience, my game (“Writer’s Block”) was born. I am currently a Level 1 gamified teacher seeing as I’m still in the creation stage. I can’t wait to document my experience for you!

What I’ve done so far…

Before I tell you what I’ve done so far, let me tell you why I’m doing it… Over the last several years I’ve used Writing Goals in my classroom via Writer’s Notebooks. Every year I change how I use those goals. Every single year (sometimes several times within the year).

Why? Because it’s not working how I’d imagined it would. Students are excited to write what they want, but they don’t seem invested in the goals. Therefore, I’m changing it up this year and using gamification to encourage the same skills that writing goals would cover!

I have decided to use Google Sites as my platform for holding everything game related. It’s not published at the moment, so I can’t share the full site with you, yet. (I promise I will when it’s ready.) I got this idea from Ethan’s game site.

google slides
“Writer’s Block” game site via Google Sites.

Within the site, I’ll have several pages that cover our game. I’m still working on most of them, but I think I have all the pages I need:

  • Player Types: students discover what type of “Writer’s Block” player they in three steps:
  • Player Levels: starting with novice and working up to legendary (modeled after Skyrim) students earn experience points (XP) to work up each level
      • XP are gained with side quests (writing activities), boss battles (test reviews), and other writing skill-based activities
  • Badges: badges are basically awards
    • students earn badges when…
      • go up a level
      • master a writing skill
      • complete so many side quests
      • etc.
  • Side Quests: these are activities that build writing skills and content knowledge
    • some are even cross-curricular!
    • none of them are graded
      • students earn XP instead
  • Leaderboard: students who have earned the most XP each week in their class will be posted here
    • teams who are in the lead will be posted here
  • Item Shop: items are things picked up during game play that will help you progress in the game (*some items are only available via a side quest)
    • item cards were created using the Magic the Gathering (MTG) card template in Google Docs drawing
    • I have four types:
      • Access items allow students access to things their peers don’t have:
        • more time
        • hall pass
        • new pen
        • an extra item to carry
      • Power items allow students power in the classroom:
        • sit with your team for a week
        • change seats with someone
        • help your team during a Boss Battle
        • give extra XP to the lowest team on their next quest (well… kindness is important, too!)
        • change teams
        • get a social media shoutout for your writing from me
      • Attack items allow students to attack another team in order to succeed:
        • freeze a player during a Boss Battle for a short amount of time
        • force a team to give up technology
        • challenge a classmate in a skill duel to earn XP
      • Shield items allow students to shield themselves from an attack:
        • basic shield
        • backfire shield (allows the attack to backfire on their opponent and attack them instead)
    • An example of one of my item cards is below.
      • Attached to the Twitter link is an array of helpful advice and resources that have been provided by some of my followers!

Okay… I think I’m getting it… Where do I start?

Great question!

If you use Ethan’s walkthrough, you’ll see that you want to start with your theme. Choose something you’re passionate about! My theme covers all types of writing and a major problem writers have: Writer’s Block.

I’ll share my opening letter with you that we’ll go over in my class when I introduce our game. It shows my theme and the overall game story.

opening letter 1

During the breakout session, I heard several other themes:

  • Marvel Universe
  • Super Mario
  • Survivor

I think the most exciting thing I’ve done so far has been to create my item cards around my theme. As you can see by the title of the card above, I may have gotten a little carried away!


There are still so many things I need to work out, but I am thrilled to begin! Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts about and experiences with gamification in the comments below!

I’ve linked several different resources above, but here they are again plus some extras (feel free to add your own resources in the comments):

12 thoughts on “Gamification in the Classroom: Level 1 — Getting Started

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