How Gaming First Days Set my Students up for Success

Written by Amy Skillicorn ~Middle School Foreign Language Teacher

All summer I was so hesitant to “gamify” 8th grade. I was certain they would find it too cheesy. I committed to gamifying my 6th grade Latin course, and I was open to gamifying 7th grade as well. On the first day, first period I had my 8-01 class. My class with several students who had had me for all three years. I set up stations so that: students always had a task, students felt engaged, and students accomplished 6 concrete tasks independently. One of the tasks was to meet the teacher and bond with me. The first 8th grade student I asked, “what kind of activities do you want to do this year in my class?” He replied “things like this, every day.” I immediately thought “Well now I want to gamify this class too!”

I’ll be honest. The cheesy “letter arriving from Jupiter on Mount Olympus” was not well received by my 6th graders… but it was by my 8th graders! Maybe they find it a different vehicle for rigor compared to their other classes. Maybe they are grasping for something silly to remain as they embark on their hardest academic year so far. Maybe I shouldn’t care why they like it and just roll with it! Gamifying is new territory for me, as well as my students, and the main ways I hope to incorporate technology are:

  • QR codes for instructions as well as scavenger hunts
  • Review videos using ExplainEverything & EdPuzzle
  • iPad projects for students to annotate Latin grammar in videos they make
  • Favorite online games, such as:
    • Quizizz
    • PVP Kahoot (students compete against 1 person, rather than vie to be first)
    • Gimkit
    • Vocab Jam (for our English derivatives)
  • Displaying guided notes & warm-ups through Notability during class
  • Equity Maps in order to trace our translation discussions
  • Online charts of student scores for gamification, which all of the above apply to!

This summer I read a few books about setting up your classroom for success, and one of my favorites was Explore Like a Pirate. The author advocates for student choice, autonomy, and exploration. Inspired by this book, and by a conference led by John Meehan, I turned my first day of school into a series of challenges for my students in teams. Gamifying piqued my interest for multiple reasons: applying game theory to the structure of your classroom engages students and allows the teacher to control differentiation, incentives, and excitement in a new way while students are given more authority over their own learning. My hope for this methodology is that it will allow me to create immersive and experiential learning for a subject that is thousands of years old!

The 6 challenges:

  1. Meet the teacher
  2. Set up & join Google Classroom
  3. Set up & join Quizlet
  4. Put together your binder
  5. Write down 3 class rules you think we should have and why
  6. Write down the strengths of the individuals on your 3-person team 

The technology I employed:

  • Google slides projected onto my front board using my iPad
    • Allowed me to take notes with my laptop
    • YouTube Music app allowed me to still play background music!
  • QR code video of me putting together a binder to watch if they wanted a visual aid
  • Google Classroom signup
  • Quizlet signup

What worked:

  • The sense of urgency
  • Making side-tasks OPTIONAL (students all have different paces!)
  • Filming my 6th grade classes and watching them back the next day to see what cues prompted their attention the most

What didn’t work:

  • I don’t think a single student used my QR code video explanation
  • Quizlet required an account for some students but not for others…
  • Google Classroom required a learning curve of how to create assignments on external websites
Challenges for Students on the First Days

One thought on “How Gaming First Days Set my Students up for Success

  1. Amy! This was fantastic. I’m so proud of you and inspired by you. I want to get started myself now. Thank you so much for sharing!


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