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blonde teacher demonstrating a game with students
Aug 15, 2023

How to use gamification to help manage an unruly classroom

As a substitute teacher, stepping into a classroom full of unfamiliar faces and uncertain dynamics can be daunting. However, there’s a powerful tool that may be able to help: gamification.

By incorporating elements of games and competition into the classroom, substitute teachers can create a more engaging and cooperative learning environment. 

Here are some ways you can get started.

Define achievable goals

Successful gamification involves setting achievable goals for students. Instead of focusing solely on academic tasks, set broader objectives that encourage positive behavior and teamwork. For example, reward students for active participation, respectful communication, and helping their peers. Shifting the focus to collaborative teamwork helps students redirect their energy toward productive actions, improving overall classroom behavior.

Implement a point system

Introduce a points system in the classroom to track students’ progress throughout the day where students can earn points for:

  • Good behavior
  • Participation
  • Completing homework
  • Cleaning up after themselves
  • Being kind to their classmates

For teaching specific subjects, you could turn math problems into a treasure hunt where each correct answer takes the students one step closer to the treasure. Or for teaching vocabulary, you could use a game of ‘Word Bingo’, where students have to mark off words on their card as they hear them in a story.

Display the points on a board or a chart to allow students to see their individual and collective accomplishments. This not only fosters healthy competition, but also motivates students to actively participate. 

These points could later be traded in for rewards, like extra recess time, choosing the next activity, or even a “homework pass”. The key is to offer rewards that are meaningful and appealing to students in order to encourage them to strive for their best behavior and performance.

Ideas to get started

Here are more practical examples of how students can earn points through gamification in the classroom:

Participation points:

Award points to students for actively participating in class discussions, asking thoughtful questions, and contributing to group activities, which encourages students to engage with the material and interact with their peers.

Homework completion:

Assign a point value to each completed homework assignment. This incentivizes students to consistently complete their homework and reinforces the importance of independent practice.

Reading challenges:

Implement reading challenges where students earn points for reading a certain number of books or pages, encouraging independent reading and a love for literature.

Classroom Challenges:

Introduce classroom challenges that require students to work together to solve problems or complete tasks. For instance, a math scavenger hunt or a history-based escape room can make learning fun and engaging while promoting teamwork and critical thinking.

Extra credit tasks:

Offer optional extra credit assignments or tasks that allow students to earn additional points. These can be related to the current lesson or topics of personal interest.

Behavior and attitude:

Use points to reinforce positive behavior and a respectful attitude in the classroom. Students can earn points for being kind, helping others, or showing good manners.

Goal achievements:

Set individualized goals for each student based on their abilities. When students achieve these goals, they earn points. This approach caters to individual growth and progress.

Peer tutoring:

Allow students to earn points by acting as peer tutors for their classmates who may be struggling with certain topics, promoting collaboration and a supportive classroom environment.

Vocabulary mastery:

Introduce vocabulary challenges where students earn points for correctly using and defining new words from the lessons in their assignments or discussions.

Class reflections:

Give students the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. Award points for insightful reflections that demonstrate deeper understanding.

Jeopardy-Style Quizzes:

Transform traditional quizzes into engaging gameshow experiences. Use tools like Kahoot! or Quizlet Live to create interactive quizzes with time limits and competitive elements. Students will be motivated to review and retain information in order to compete effectively.

Remember, the key to successful gamification is to ensure that the game elements enhance learning and don’t overshadow the educational objectives. By tailoring your approach to your students’ interests and needs, you can create a more engaging and interactive classroom environment.

While gamification can be a powerful tool, it’s important to remain flexible. Every classroom is unique, and what works one day may not work the next. Pay attention to how students respond to different elements of the gamified approach and be ready to adapt as needed. Remember, the goal is not just to control the classroom, but to foster a love of learning and create a sense of community among students.

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