Even after creating several gamified units for my social studies class, it still helps to look over a list of game mechanics and strategies. Sometimes I forget about the power of “Easter eggs” and unlocking mystery levels. These things can make a seemingly dry set of content into an exciting adventure for students.
I LOVE teaching 8th grade social studies. It is literally my dream come true. I love the content, the age group and the dynamics of middle school. However, even though I am extremely passionate about my profession, my craft, my students and American History, I am not always thrilled to teach every little part of my content. Teaching the US Constitution is not my favorite. I love me some America. I also appreciate the beauty and power of our written plan of government. I just find it difficult to teach and make exciting for my students. Plus, many of the concepts in the US Constitution seem foreign and confusing to 8th graders. Gamifying my ‘New Nation’ unit has completely solved this problem for me. I am excited about the game I created, my students have been responsive and curious about the game I created, and because of the way I inserted basic gaming mechanics into my unit, I think I have found the perfect way to teach government to my students.
I decided to test out my tech skills for this task. Using a free website builder, WIX.com, I made a special website for my ‘New Nation unit.’ This website has several mastery levels built in that are password protected. For this game, students will visit a page (level) on the website and complete a task. Once they show mastery of the learning target on that particular page, I give the student a special password to unlock the next level. The activities on each page vary. Some pages have helpful videos or fun online games along with ‘Easter eggs’ (hidden bonuses or challenges). Students are able to work at their own pace, at school or at home! My favorite part of this game is how I am always aware of which students are mastering learning targets, and which students are in need of my help. Students are also self-aware of where they stand and on where they still need to go.
In addition to the game that all students will play is a ‘bonus game’ meant as an extension to the learning, or as an enrichment opportunity for students. Certain students will be handed a personal invitation from me to consider “running for President of the United States of America.” With this invitation, they will be granted access to the bonus game (located on a password-protected page through the website). In this bonus round, which I titled “Road to the White House,” students are trying to be the first person to win enough electoral votes to win the race for president. Students will be asked to earn badges by creating a campaign, participating in debates, choosing a staff, etc. Students will be working through side quests and special missions to earn their badges. Through these badges students will learn additional information about our government, the electoral branch and presidential campaigns, while racking up electoral votes that will hopefully lead to a victory!
This online game was a fun way for me to do something I’ve never done before–make a website, and a way for me to get students engaged in the content. I wasn’t bored, my students weren’t bored, I was able to easily track their progress, I was able to differentiate with ease, and my students were able to learn and grow. Perfect.
By the way, I called my game and my website “Save Baby America.” This might seem silly or weird to you, but I use the analogy of a growing baby to explain the story of America. After the American Revolution, America was just a baby; helpless, scared, and young. Our newborn country almost didn’t make it passed its infancy. It would take a solid plan of government to help it grow and survive! If you’re curious, I try to compare America during the Civil War to a moody adolescent teen that has finally had enough… To me it makes sense, and my students seem to appreciate the metaphor too.
Check out the site here: http://finea66.wixsite.com/americanhistory
(Note: When I am using this website with my students, I have each level password protected. If you are trying to look through my site and need the passwords, just message me directly and I’ll hook you up! firstname.lastname@example.org)
Major shout out to WIX.com! They make it sooo easy to make your own website!
Do awesome. Be awesome.