Teaching Opinion

Creating Epic Moments With Playful Formative Assessment

By Starr Sackstein — April 03, 2018 3 min read
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Guest post by Michael Matera

Throughout the years, seeing one class period after the next, one semester after the next, one graduating class after the next, I can safely say, school would benefit from more playful moments.

As educators, we see the importance of teaching the skills of our subjects to our students. We have one year with these students...180 days, give or take, to have our content take shape in their minds. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. We end up talking more about standards than we do students. We think first about building scope and sequence before we think about building engaging and empowering moments.

As a teacher, I have found that both pieces are important to the success of our students. They must have the ability to interact with the content, as well as have a shared experience of the content.

This is why my mission is to help educators find joy in the journey as they teach and as their students learn.

Helping teachers build immersive learning experiences into their courses is one way to accomplish this goal. These immersive learning experiences are better known by their other name, gamification. I am not talking about simply handing out badges. Gamification cannot be reduced to just that. It is providing a challenge to your students through playful experiences.

Gamification can take on many forms, and it should. Each game offers its own set of rules that push players to take risks, to think through a course of action, and ultimately receive feedback on decisions made throughout the game. A great place to start these activities in the classroom is by adding some playful formative assessments. Simply put...Review Games!

Playful formative assessment is not a new idea. Ever load up a Jeopardy template for a class review game? How about running a game of Kahoot? A spelling bee perhaps? These would all be examples of formative assessment that took on a different shape than simply a paper and pencil quiz.

I love creating mini-review games for my class. Having students work through both the content, as well as the challenge of the game allows their minds to fire on all cylinders. They’re both intellectually and emotionally stimulated. These kinds of experiences are the ones that are truly memorable for them.

There are so many mini-games you can create. From individual to whole class, for a quick check-in to a semester review, from no tech to high tech, mini games are a powerful addition to your class. However, don’t only focus on technology, you are a teacher, the Master of Ceremonies within your classroom. Create something unique, something that none of your students expect.

Trust me, you have it in you to design an incredible mini-game. There are not many components needed to create one. There is one key ingredient: make sure there are risk-reward moments. These are the Final Jeopardy moments, the last second buzzer beaters, the moments of most challenge promising the highest reward. These are times when epic moments can happen in a game. These legendary risk-reward moments are what will be talked about in the lunchroom later in the day, and what will be the glorified in their school-days stories long into their future.

Remember your target audience isn’t the content, it is the child.

A great mini game can be created with nothing more than a paper football or even a deck of cards. Need more ideas, check out this video on playful formative assessment and subscribe for more ideas on how to find joy in the journey. One thing is for sure, when you start to create experiences for your students, the entire game of school gets a whole lot better. Sparks will fly, students will smile more, and content will be internalized. What are you waiting for?

When we design empowering and engaging lessons, we create something lasting for our students and within our students. This pushes the learning into the future, well beyond their year in our classrooms. The deepest and most lasting knowledge is gained when a connection is made between the mind and the heart. In that instant, when joy is created, a spark is made that burns bright within our students. Together, let’s get playful and start finding joy in the journey.

What makes your learning spaces playful for students? Please share.

Michael Matera is a teacher, speaker, and author. You can connect with him on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or his website. Matera's book is called Explore Like a Pirate.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.