Many teachers say that they feel like they are teaching on a “deserted island.” As the only public speaking teacher at our school, (and heck, there are only a few middle school ones in our district), I can understand that feeling. Here’s the thing, though…you don’t have to be a loner. It’s important for a teacher to find their “tribe” when it comes to inspiration, questions, and even when you just need a good laugh. One of my “tribes” is the #tlap group on Twitter, and that is who I turned to when I wanted to start gamification in my class.
MY #TLAP TRIBE
As I started my quest to try some gamification in my classroom, I felt totally at a loss. I read Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera (@mrmatera ) and participated in the weekly chat on Twitter #XPLAP. Both were helpful, but I still couldn’t figure out how to pull it off for my own class. I only knew I wanted to put teenagers and food together in one unit. (Food is always a “hook” with teenagers.) Then, I started thinking about my #tlap tribe and who might be willing to help me. I reached out to Carrie Baughcum (@heckawesome), who is so awesome that she even did a Google Hangout to help me brainstorm on her day off. I also reached out to Tisha Richmond (@tishrich), and she generously helped me with some ideas through Voxer. The ideas started coming together. I walked away with the idea of doing “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Next, I knew I wanted to reach out to our culinary teacher at our school. I presented her with the idea of collaborating on a unit with our classes in order to create a unit that would be gamified (in a small way).
COLLABORATING WITH COLLEAGUES and STUDENTS
The culinary teacher, Julie Olsen, and I met on a professional development day. I am so thankful that our principal provided this time for us. Before I met with her, though, I reached out to my students. I put them in groups and gave each group a piece of chart paper. I told them my idea of doing Cutthroat Kitchen, and then I admitted that I had no idea how to make it work. You see, the students have so much to offer, if we would only let them. The class I did this with isn’t an easy to class to handle. It was 8th period, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. They got right to work and came up with the BEST IDEAS.
I couldn’t wait to meet with Julie. We set out the completed chart papers and went through the students’ ideas. We highlighted the ideas that would work and crossed off the ones that wouldn’t. Then we got out our calendars and did some backwards planning. We talked about challenges we would offer the students, how they would gain points, and how we wanted to set up the final competition. (I will write more about this whole unit another time.)
We decided that we wanted to see if we could get restaurant owners to come in to help judge, and we knew we needed prizes for our competition. This lead me to reaching out to our wonderful parent volunteer coordinator. Thankfully, she was on board. She set up a sign-up sheet for judges and for parents to donate gift cards. Can we you believe we got enough $25 gift cards to give each of the winners…just because we asked?
My last step was to reach out to staff members to see if they would give up their plan time to come in and judge the competition. I sent out a sign-up sheet to staff and luckily, we were able to fill each spot. The gamification unit worked out beautifully.
WHY DO I SHARE THIS WITH YOU?
I had no idea to how to make this work. It was only because I reached out to others for help that I was able to pull this unit off. There is no way I would have done it on my own. So the next time you feel alone in your classroom, with no one to bounce ideas off of, open your door, open your computer or open your Twitter and reach out for help. You might be surprised who would be willing to help you in your quest to take a risk in your classroom.