I’ve always known that the way we talk to and with our students has an impact on their learning, but this is the first time I’ve considered using gaming-related language in my classroom. In the past, most of our language focus has been on academic language. We want our students to succeed on their standardized tests, and to do that, they have to understand the language of the questions. So we taught our students those words.
But that shouldn’t be the only focus of learning! Matera discusses ten qualities of driven people that he uses to talk to his students: confidence, creativity, enthusiasm, effort, focus, resilience, initiative, curiosity, dependability, and empathy. These are the qualities that make lifelong learners! Academic words, like analyze and compare/contrast and describe, will help students be successful in school and on tests, yes, but they don’t encourage students to become lifelong learners or engage them each day in your classroom.
Of those qualities that might be displayed now in my classroom, I think one of my strengths would be enthusiasm. First of all, English is NOT a subject that all students are naturally inclined to love. Because I know that, I do my best to design activities that will engage students through their personal interests and activities that I myself am excited to teach. Second, I love to read and write in my personal life. I became an English teacher partly because I wanted to instill that love of reading and writing in my students. That makes it easy for me to be enthusiastic about the reading and writing activities in my classroom. Students are more inclined to participate because I’m excited and enthusiastic about what we’re reading or writing about. I’ve even had a student tell me that she looks forward to my class because I’m so energetic and enthusiastic about it! That really warmed my heart =)
I also do my best to praise effort as well as achievement, and to encourage resilience by the way I talk about making mistakes. I have many students who are low in English skills and struggle with certain parts of my class. And I know that students will not be strong at every English skill, whether it’s reading certain text types or writing in certain styles. With writing, I encourage students to just get their ideas down first, and we revise later. It’s perfectly acceptable, and encouraged, to make mistakes when writing, especially if they’re trying something new! The successes come when they revise their writing to make it better, often more than once. Students are able to see that it takes more than one shot to create a polished piece of writing, and that even after you turn it in, there is always room for improvement. As long as students try, they have multiple opportunities to improve.
Lastly, English is a great subject to encourage creativity! When reading, students are often encouraged to make inferences about what they’re reading, and my seventh graders have a knack for thinking outside the box with their predictions! I also do my best to provide a variety of assessments for final projects. The assessments (hopefully) appeal to each different type of learner, which allows them to demonstrate their learning in a way in which they will excel. But I think the quality of creativity is best seen in their writing. In writing, I think resilience and effort go hand in hand with creativity. In order to write fiction, by definition students have to make something up— to be creative. This is a struggle for some students! For others, they take the opportunity and run with it, writing six pages when most of their classmates wrote one or two. Just recently I had a father email me about his son’s grade, and mentioned that his son struggles with assignments that call for creativity, like drawing pictures to represent a word. He was worried about his nonfiction narrative, where students had to tell a true story about a tough decision or challenge they faced. I graded his son’s story today and let me tell you— I was on the seat of my pants! That child turned a battle on Fortnite into an engaging narrative by using sensory language and emotions, just like we discussed in class. I remember talking with him about this as he was writing his rough draft, and I simply encouraged him to try, to think about what he felt and how he could convey that to his reader. To me, he is a prime example of how encouraging resilience, effort, and creativity in our students will show in their work.
On that vein, it is important to know the “gamer types” in our classroom. Based on that student’s work, I think he’s more of an achiever. He set a goal to win a solo battle, and he succeeded. Knowing that, I could design or present future assignments in a way that he can apply that mentality to the assignment. I do my best to create groups based on mixed abilities as well as personalities, but by understanding the gamer types of my classroom, as outlined by Matera, I could better understand the motives behind the actions of my students. I could make groups with one of each gamer type: achiever, killer (griefer), explorer, and socializer. Students would benefit by working with classmates who display complimentary skills and strengths in mixed groups, or working together with students who share the same traits.
After reading chapters four and five of Matera’s book, I want to work on incorporating the remaining 7 qualities in my classroom. While they might show up occasionally in my teaching, I believe now that they are important enough to focus on daily, and as often as I can. By incorporating gamification into my classroom as Matera did, these elements will hopefully become embedded in my teaching by their very nature. By combining the ten qualities of driven people with the knowledge of my student’s gamer types, I can plan to my students’ strengths and encourage them to become lifelong learners.
Matera, M. Explore like a Pirate. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. 2015. Print.