(This is part of a new section of the site called “Teacher Tips,” for all you fellow English teachers out there!)
Last year I went to a “Congreso de Innovación Educativa,” and a lot of the ideas really piqued my interest. One of them was “gamification,” which is the idea of making a lesson, or even your entire class, into a game. Students can have characters and earn rewards for completing “challenges,” which can be anything from riddles to exams.
I’m just now trying to “gamify” my class a little more, and it’s been very time-consuming. For my first gamified topic, I chose Reported Speech because it is always so difficult for the students. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try a new approach.
If you’re not familiar with Reported Speech, it’s when we say things like, “Sammy told Julie to pick up some Chinese food after work. He also asked her if she was coming before or after dinner.” The thing that makes it so hard for students is that all the verb tenses have to change (in most cases); if Sammy says “Go to the store,” we use “He told her to go…” and if he says, “I forgot my homework,” we use “I had forgotten my homework.”
I decided to use the topic of zombies for my first attempt at gamification.
First, we started with the video “Zombies in Plain English,” which is on YouTube.
Then, we did a reading on the science of zombies apocalypses. I adapted an article from Cracked.com by changing some of the vocabulary so that it would be more suited to my students, who are at an intermediate level.
After that, I had the students read over my explanations of Reported Speech.
This included some practice based on the video “How Does the Walking Dead Zombie Virus Work?”
We did a quick review in the style of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which I made in Powerpoint. A wrong answer got you “eaten” by the zombies.
Lastly, we finished with an exercise which I based on the CDC’s “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” (yes, the CDC really has a published comic about zombies).
During all the activities, I was keeping track of the number of correct answers that the students had, and in the end the students with the most points won prizes like “1 Free Homework Assignment” and “Come in 5 Minutes Late.”
As far as Gamification goes, the activities were pretty simple, and not too different from my normal lessons. But the students enjoyed it (only one complained “I don’t like zombies! When will we stop talking about zombies?”) and I did, too!