Gamification off the cuff

Graham Andre

Graham is a primary school teacher working on the Isle of Wight. Most recently Graham was seen working with his class on the (now BAFTA nominated!) BBC2 documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free’. Through this documentary, he has been invited to speak on national TV and live events to talk about its impact and his role with The GEC. Graham has always worked in the education sector, starting as a teaching assistant and having various roles before doing a part-time degree and completing his GTP six years ago.

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Teaching can be a strange thing, you can plan a lesson to within an inch of your life, you can create resources and finely tune the learning objective, but sometimes some of the best lessons can be those that you didn’t plan or even create an objective for. This is one of those lessons. It was our termly celebration day, where parents are invited in to share their children’s work from the term, and we had just come to the end of the sharing with an hour still left of the day. I had a class of expectant parents with little to do. “Right,” I thought, and pulled a bit of gamification out of the bag.

On YouTube is a game demo / walkthrough called ‘Jungle Dino VR’ (dinosaurs had been our topic for the term):

YouTube link

The video walks through a few scenes showing dinosaurs from a first person perspective. I gave the children each a piece of lined paper and explained what would happen. “Imagine you are on this dinosaur island and write down what you see, hear, feel and smell” – it was a real ‘aim, fire’ moment, with very little input. The video was only just over seven minutes long, but I stopped at several points to let children think and give prompts and ideas about what they could be writing and to share good examples. Here are the key scenes and examples of the work produced by my Year 3 children.

Over there I can see Sauropods in the distance, the sunset is beautiful and the sand is soft.” -  Maeve

In the deep sea the sun sets, and there are dinosaurs in the water.” Reece

I see a long neck dinosaur and it is nearly night, it is freezing here.” - Kyra

I see a Pterosaur, I get close and it flies away. Suddenly a gigantic Mosasaurus soars with sharp teeth.” - Bailey

I was horrified as the Mosasaurus leapt from the water.” - Shanice

A Mosasaurus flying up with gleaming teeth as bright as a star.” - Will

I walked closer to the long neck, it looked at me with the curiosity of an owl.” - Bailey.

I can hear some bees in the trees, Wow! This long neck has just come down to see me.” - Lewis

I was worried in case it might whip its tail.” - Daniela.

There are great big long necks, and one came over to look at me in a weird way. I stand still without a single sound.” - Isabella

What is over there? A log, should I go through it? Wait a minute; a T-Rex is searching for me – poo! His breath stinks.” - Mia

A storm, I think that’s a sign of danger. I don’t think it’s safe to go in that tree trunk. AAAAAHHHHH!! A T-Rex charging towards me, help!” - Thomas

T-Rex is charging towards me, I can smell its breath and see its slashing jaws.” - Brandon

These are just a few of the scenes and examples of the work created by my children. What amazed me was that despite it being the last hour of the day, towards the end of a long term with Christmas looming, every single child produced at least two sides of A4 and used some fantastic vocabulary. As my mate Hywel Roberts says, it’s about the hook. I am no expert on using gamification with learning, but the times I have the children have been hooked, wanting to produce work - on this occasion, it was unplanned, with no learning objective. So to conclude, of course we could not go through our teaching lives without planning lessons, but sometimes, when the occasion arises, give something a go, off the cuff so to speak, and see what happens. It might just work.

Do you use gamification in your classroom? Share your experiences below!

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