Rank Up, Soldiers!

13I am currently half-way through my current Civil War Game! This game, in its simplest  form, can be used in any classroom, with any subject, for any age students. The basic premise is that students are soldiers who work hard to “rank up.” With every increase in rank, students are rewarded with a week’s pay and extra privileges. Students earn money for attendance, their participation in daily basic training, effort, teamwork, etc. Students can use the money from their weekly paychecks to purchase items from our class store (such as: candy, homework passes, hat passes, etc.). Students earn XP (Experience Points) for reaching learning targets. As students increase the amount of XP they have, they are able to rank up! Students earn a “badge” (aka: sticker) during a special ranking ceremony each Friday. With each promotion, comes extra privileges (such as: getting out of the daily work outs, choosing their own seats, homework passes, getting to eat/drink in class or listen to music while working, etc.)



Students have been loving this game! Here’s why…

  1. Students love having the opportunity to be active and train like a soldier every day.
  2. Students are able to keep track of their own progress.
  3. Students don’t earn grades, they earn XP!
  4. Students can always work to improve themselves. If they don’t earn all the available XP for completing an assignment, they can try again!
  5. Students feel awesome when they are promoted. They enjoy competing with each other and work hard to earn rewards.
  6. Students that need or desire an extra challenge can do so with “Side Missions.” With these side missions, students can dig a little deeper into the current learning targets in order to earn extra XP or money to use in the game. 10

As a class, we are able to have a lot of fun and laughs together. Plus, students know exactly where they stand–they keep track of their own progress! I said before that students earn “XP” instead of grades, and that’s true! It’s just a simple change in the vocabulary I use. When I give students back their assignments, it says +10XP or +7XP; however, on my grade sheet it says 10/10 or 7/10. I have said before, my students don’t care about grades. Grades don’t motivate them. What motivates my students is things like being able to listen to music in class, or free time. Therefore, with the XP system, students work hard for their army promotions and for their paychecks. This is what is so great about a gamified classroom! BONUS- my grades actually have meaning. They truly reflect each students individual progress with the 8th grade learning targets for social studies.

I bought some rainbow colored stickers and a whistle. I took on the role of the classroom General. I provide solid lessons, simulations and experiences. Other than that, students have taken complete ownership of their learning and progress while being pushed to have a growth mindset. They keep trying until they reach the goals they have set for themselves. IT’S AWESOME!

Be. Awesome.

Feel encouraged,

Amy 😉

(If you have any questions or would like copies of any of the materials for this game, please contact us!)

PS: We go outside any chance we get. Some fresh air can be a game-changer itself! In the pictures below, you can see how we took a timeline activity and some sidewalk chalk outside to make it even better!


Trading Card Game

This time last year I was working on a board game to help my students understand ancient civilizations.  This year, my students had a firm grasp on the ancient civilizations but needed a little bit of help on globalization and economics in general.  Enter the game Economica.

I knew I wanted my students to build their nations to world powers and experience the nation’s growing pains along the way.  The students needed to feel the competitiveness of globalization while collecting the resources they need to be successful.

Each student began with a playing mat or board and a starter deck of random game cards.

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The focus of my content is the Eastern Hemisphere.  While all countries of the world are represented in the deck, I asked the students to only pick a country that can be found in the Eastern Hemisphere.  Once they have acquired their country of choice, it is placed in the center of the board.  From this point, players begin collecting the cards needed to fill their board with the accurate information about their country.   Play begins with players taking a few minutes to trade with other players.  Trading is fast in fierce and deals are made quickly.  After trade stops, play continues as follows:

  1. All cards are placed in a deck and shuffled.
  2. Seven cards are drawn.  This is the players hand. The rest is the draw/discard pile.
  3. An event card in your hand must be played first.
  4. Trade occurs once again.
  5. Players return to the board and either discard to seven or draw to make seven.
  6. Cards are placed on the board (the first to fill their entire board wins).
  7. Cards placed on the board are retired from the discard deck and the player again draws to make 7.
  8. Players can form alliances and enemies.
  9. Players can declare war, changing a country’s government and religion, delaying a player form finishing their board.
  10. Players can buy “booster packs” of cards with our class money system.

Now that we have played for a few days, the students have a good idea of the rules and have quickly moved into the roles of their country.  Students are looking for information about their country, including current news items.  Their conversations are incredible pieces of formative assessments.

Worried about keeping the game pieces together, I turned to Amazon. These amazing red plastic bags are simple and hold each player’s entire game.  Keeping the bags in a box, by the door, allows students to grab their games as they come in and begin playing.  This has turned out to be a great way to start class and students are super excited  to get the game started!

As the game grows, I will check back with pictures and student reviews!



Resources for Gamifying Your Classroom

I am in planning mode.  All my tools have been gathered.  Markers, paper, books, computer, and a large block of time are all at my disposal.  I may have mentioned in a earlier post that I am the Monica Gellar of organization. Give me a label maker and a few file folders and I can conquer the world.  Let’s get down to business. Where to start when building a game-based learning unit? Hands down the best resource around is Michael Matera’s Explore Like a Pirate. The book is well worth the investment and filled with wonderful ideas!  Where to go from here? I have gathered a few resources to help in the planning process:

  1. Gamifying Education by Extra Credits: These guys have created a visual guide to gamification in the classroom. Packed with insightful reasons for using games and filled with useful examples, this is certainly the best place to start.
  2. Edutopia is just about the best resource around for anything current.  This wonderful site has an entire section devoted to Game Based Learning.
  3. Why Gamify in the Classroom? Let’s face it, for some it will be a hard sell.  Is it more than just playing in the classroom?
  4. Edsurge.com offers a little more information into the whys and hows of gamification.
  5. Where would be without An Ultimate Guide to Gamification?  Edudemic does a great job of pulling this guide together.
  6. Personally, I had a difficult time with XP and how to level up.  This article was tremendously helpful in planning.
  7. Badges can also be a difficult  obstacle to overcome.  This article was helpful.
  8. The Institute of Play offers a few packs to help in the design process as well.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of resources related to gamification, it is certainly a list that was very helpful in my personal planning.  Please add links in the comments if you know of a resource that would be helpful in this arena.  Best of luck in your planning!

Surviving the Testing Period

The long hot days of testing are upon us.  Schedules are changed. Students may stay with you for hours even though you only teach them one subject.  Always operating on the principle that if I am bored, certainly the students are bored.  There needs to be a mix of fun and review and perhaps a touch of adventure to make it through the next few weeks.  Due to an atmosphere of testing, it also needs to be a fairly quiet atmosphere. The solution? A little bit of Google magic.

Creating a Google Slides Choice Board

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I wanted the students to have choice and I wanted something a little different than the traditional printed choice board.  After gathering the art (bigstockphoto.com), the board was created and the appropriate slides added.  Each icon links to a slide.  The first day the board had only nine activities.

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The activities were based on review content and current content for social studies and science (the subjects I teach).  My students also work on Duolingo daily.  Other great resources for interactive activity include Nearpod, Playposit, and Classtools.  My students also participate in Classcraft. This tool allowed me to offer XP, HP, AP, and Gold Coins for completing the activities.  A few of the activities are shown below:

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The students enjoyed having choices.  A big bonus is that it broke the time up.  Each activity is anywhere from 10-30 minutes.  This allows for a change in subject and usually the chance to do something funny to have a little break.

Each night I change the background, move the activities and add a few more to choose from.  This keeps the game current and keeps them guessing as to the reward amounts and/or penalties as well as the activities, including the funny ones.  The activities have been fun for the students, allowed for a quiet testing atmosphere, and allowed them to review in an interactive way.  A win-win for a tough time of year.

Take care,



Sketchnotes are all the rage in education right now! They are a way for students to use their WHOLE brain when taking notes or gathering information in a class. I have been doing sketchnoting before it was even a thing–like back in the 90s–teachers just thought I  was doodling; but drawing sketches, adding bold font, and inserting arrows into my notes was a way for me to control my wandering mind. By drawing while the teacher was teaching, I kept the visual/imaginative side of my brain busy so my language side could focus on what the teacher was saying. IMG_5284.JPG.jpg

(From: The Sketchnote Workbook, By: Mike Rohde – 2015)

“Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes and lines” (Rohde)

These notes are a way to capture big ideas from any lesson, and anyone can do it! Plus… BEST PART: It’s FUN!!!



Sketchnotes work best when teachers show examples and teach the basic elements to students. I plan on having my students use sketchnotes to have a visual/written record of what they learn about the differences between the North and the South before the American Civil War (as a part of my Civil War Game… more details on this soon!). My students have already been taught the basics of sketchnoting by the ELA teacher on my team; therefore, I will just be showing them this video of me sketchnoting to kick start the lesson!

Sorry it’s sideways… #techproblems #amateur #sketchnoteslookgoodthough

Try something new & HAVE FUN!