Gamification in the language classroom

As I consider the start of new classes this summer, I am thinking of ways to gamify my class. Last year, Deborah Healey spoke to several ESL instructors at the University of Oregon and urged us to think of ways to incorporate gamification into our lessons.  While this idea is so compelling and intriguing, it can be a little overwhelming to think about overhauling a well-established grading system to take this step. Not to mention that teachers and instructors often need to adhere to current systems and syllabi for accreditation purposes.  

However, there are ways to incorporate some aspects of gamification into any class.  We can work to add games to regular activities.  For example in my classes, instead of asking students to answer comprehension questions, I often cut up the questions into strips of paper, put those strips in a cup, ask students to roll a dice or use a spinner to select who will go or what question they will answer, and then award points to students for answering these questions.  

Healey advocates for using gaming in the language classroom because she says that when students think like gamers, they are more actively engaged--there is just something that makes the learning feel different.  She even goes as far to say that students don't want to stop.  

Some ideas that Healey has: 

  • Level students, and as they collectively earn points, they can also earn rewards.
  • Make success visible through the use of charts.
  • Give students a sense of ownership,
    • This can be done by giving them more choice or having them publish their work.  
    • Publication, in turn, can provide "epic meaning", students would realize that they are doing something that matters.  

Last semester, I introduced small aspects of gaming in the class.  I'd love to do more, especially by having students in "levels" to work towards goals together.  

This nine minute video really makes a case for re-thinking your classroom and adding gamification.