“That’s what games are, in the end. Teachers. Fun is just another word for learning.”
― Raph Koster,
IBDP teachers around the world begin to struggle with the exact same thing around this time every year. How do we keep students motivated to continue revising for end of program exams? In the Language and Literature course, many teachers will begin practicing the two final papers (which account for 50% of the student’s overall mark) at the beginning of the second year of the course (at the very latest). There are only so many practice papers a student can write before hitting exam fatigue. There are also only so many papers any teacher can mark before losing their sanity.
Exam revision shouldn’t be monotonous. Yes, the stakes are high. But we need to remember that stakes for our soon-to-be graduates are much, much higher than exam results. We want our students to have skills and values which push beyond doing well on tests. If we believe that students are worth more than a number, we need to second that emotion in our lessons. Students need time to feel like they are working as part of a team, that they are capable of building a cohesive network which is a catalyst for success. They need time to reflect on missteps, to charter new paths, and of course to lead the way. Mostly, students need to feel comfortable with struggle.
This is why I’ve decided to dedicate my Course 5 project to developing a menu of activities meant to gamify exam revision. I want the last few months with my seniors to be about more than good results. I want those final lessons to be a culminating effort to resulting in better human beings who just happen to be excellent essayists.
Here’s a look at my unit:
I’ve gamified units before. The biggest take away is seeing students want to work together because they want to help their peers–not because they necessarily just want the ‘win.’ I think this will make an excellent Course 5 project because it will be incredibly timely for myself and for colleagues out there looking to ‘2.0-up’ their revision practice. I see this as a way to intertwine the many reflections I’ve had during COETAIL. Redesigning this unit will allow for my students to remember the joy in learning. Whilst that sounds fluffy and perhaps even naive, ask yourself what you most remember about your high school experience? Was it an essay you wrote? Probably not. You most likely remember the highs and lows, the opportunities you took, or let pass you by. You might not remember the test, but you likely remember feeling tested. Hopefully, that has a positive association for my students. As educators, we have a duty to frame challenges in such a way that they are inviting, not daunting. If we can conduct our classes in a manner which promotes tinkering, sticking with problems longer, and stretching, I believe we are making more peace-savvy minds. That’s grandiose and idealistic, but actionable and achievable.
Please share your approaches to gamifying units/lessons in the comment section below.