Gaming Theory and Vocabulary Study

WW Game Challenge


We’re trying an experiment today with our students to try to use game theory to encourage them with their vocabulary study work. As some of you know, we are in the midst (and nearing the end of) a unit around video game design, in which students are designing and publishing video games with a science/geology twist. But we’ve been talking and writing about game design and gaming from any number of angles — from hacking, to rewriting rules, to prototyping, and more.

My co-teacher (he’s a man of big ideas) wondered if we could design a classroom game challenge to make vocabulary a little more exciting this week, particularly as we near holiday vacation. Traditionally, tomorrow is the second Friday of our vocabulary unit, and they would be taking a comprehension quiz. But tomorrow is also our last day to work on gaming projects before the break, and it is the deadline, so we want to skip the quiz and allow game design time.

So, we have designed a classroom challenge, in hopes that it will allow them to show understanding and allow us to excuse them from the quiz. Here’s how it will work:

  • The class will be divided into four groups (each group will have four to five students)
  • Each group will be given three of the 15 words from the week
  • Individually, they need to first use their group of three words in a good, comprehensive sentence (we work on this a lot)
  • As a group, collaboratively, they need to choose the best sentence for each word
  • On our whiteboard, I will pull up a video game that I made in Gamestar Mechanic (see screenshot) that will ‘randomly’ draw words as our hero runs into elves and fairies, and each group shares out their sentence from the word that gets “released”
  • The teacher gives the sentence a 1 or a 0, based on quality of sentence, and if a 0, then the other groups in the classroom have a chance to add to the sentence to make it better (this is not a competition against each other, so helping each other is part of the fabric of the game)
  • The game keeps getting played as more words get released (screenshot again) until all 12 words have been shared in sentences
  • If the class gets the full 12 points (every sentence earning 1 point), then: no quiz tomorrow. If less than 12, quiz. (I think we call that the motivating factor in game play).

Oh yeah, and we’re gaming the system as teachers, too, since our aim is to get the class to 12 as much as to give them more fun experiences to use the words from this lesson as much as to avoid the quiz on the last Friday before holiday. Now all we need is a snazzy name for the game …

Peace (in the gamification of a lesson),


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