One of the latest “crazes” out there in education right now (and has been for a while) is gamification. In her article What is Gamification and Why Use It in Teaching?, Macie Hall defines gamification as “the application of typical elements of game playing (rules of play, point scoring, competition with others) to other areas of activity, specifically to engage users in problem solving.” I’ve talked about how I’ve attempted to “gamify” some of my lessons by using Mystery Skype, BreakoutEDU, FanGeoPolitics, and SoundsAround.
But there’s been one game that I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around for the past 2 years, and I finally got it.
Welcome to the (semi) Amazing Race!
In case you’ve never seen an episode of the Amazing Race, it’s a literal race around the world in which teams face challenges, both mental and physical, at their different destinations. Once their tasks are completed, they receive the next clues to their next challenge. As a lover of the world and cultures, this show is one of my favorites.
When I learned I was going to be teaching 7th grade world geography, I initially began thinking of ways of incorporating this race into my classroom. But no matter how many articles I read, how many lessons and models I explored, I just couldn’t figure out how to incorporate our school curriculum into the game.
While browsing TeachersPayTeachers (yes, I use that site. Don’t judge me), I found that someone had use QR codes to do their Amazing Race. It looked more to me like a QR Code rotation activity, but it got me thinking of ways I could have them move around the room without “cheating.”
One day, a “cultural challenge” hit me out of nowhere. What if I challenged my students to learn how to use chopsticks and eat sushi with them. Well, I know right off the bat that sushi would be a no go in our school. But what about Swedish Fish?
The rest of the ideas began pouring out.
I reviewed our curriculum and knew that I wanted challenges and questions that related to the following topics: reading maps, economics, our Holocaust unit, standard of living, 5 main factors of geography and sustainable development. When looking back on it now, I feel my questions were a bit too simple. But simple and engaging for a end-of-the-year activity kind of seemed the way to go.
After discussing this with my administrator, she suggested I divided my one day end-of-the-year Amazing Race into two days: start simple and small and allow for mistakes and tweaks. Thank goodness I received that feedback!
Monday was going through the logistics, getting into teacher-assigned teams, going over student roles, and the “passport.” I had to show them how to use the QR codes (we had only used them once in my class before), as well as explain that they will not visit all stations. There were penalties if you had gotten a question wrong. I had to explain the “Cultural Challenge” of creating cultural accessories. This all took about 10 minutes, leaving only 30 minutes for the challenge itself.
Monday seemed short. Students were a bit confused, but overall were engaged in the idea of moving from one station to the next. They worked together to read my giant world map to discover which country was located at 8N, 5W. Students helped each other out create maps of South America from memory. And they danced the waltz together once their Venetian masks were done.
Tuesday was the bigger activity. We moved our challenge to the auditorium, which required more movement, more running, and more actual challenges rather than questions. Enter the “sushi” challenge, running around the auditorium with gallons of water, economic vocabulary challenges, and determining standard of living.
Although there are minor tweaks that need to be done in order for this to flow WAY more smoothly, I would call this an overall success. I spent too much money on it (buying 80 bandanas alone was about $85), but it was well worth it. I saw engagement levels rise in students that seem so apathetic to school work. I tried to instill in all of my students a sense of responsibility by asking them to designate roles, and I saw pride in those roles. I saw where students struggled a bit and where I may need to focus a bit more next year.
For a year that was a roller coaster of emotions, bumps and bruises, and asking myself “WHY?”, I highly enjoyed my end of the school year with my students. They proved to me that learning really can be fun, engaging and still educational. Although my Amazing Race experience wasn’t perfect, it’s just the beginning, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do with it.
Message me (Sam) if you want any other resources! I’m more than happy to share and would LOVE some feedback 🙂