I have been a special education science teacher for over 13 years and my program continually has been evolving along. I tweak, twist, change, adapt and modify…well you get the point, my job is NEVER done. It continues based on my own growth and student growth… I have the opportunity to see many students that have lost a fervor for learning new things. They have sometimes become academically beat up by the time they see me and many on verge of giving up. One of my focal points then becomes raising student motivation and developing a warm classroom climate. I don’t think true learning can occur until they become once again comfortable with the fact that they can INDEED learn and that it can actually be fun. Sometimes of course that takes some convincing, creativity, and maybe a little luck! Several years ago I started playing with the idea of turning all of my classes into teams that could earn points together all year long. I want the time we had together to be as fun as the game shows we watch on our days off. I also want to smash the fictional view that science is done by a crazy old man in a lab coat mixing potions. I want to drive home the fact that science is done by collaborative problem solving. There are also so many life lessons that can be pulled within a year long team competition. Getting along with others, helping others, winning and losing gracefully, trying your hardest or not trying at all, etc. Team play and game play can help set up an environment for these many teaching moments. It is built into our curriculum from naming our teams and mascots with either endangered animals, elements or space content depending on the year to ending with our Science Spectacle where all teams create an interactive science museum for school. They seek to immortalize their creative team name into the Science Cup! I guess I have been “gamifying” the class for several years now. I have created many ways for students to earn points and become collaborative teams participating in a game as a platform to learning. I keep adding new ventures and experiences each year that goes by. In other blogs I can talk more about these ways in detail, after all this post is called BUZZWORDS!!
Buzzwords are part of the game experience that has taken on a major life of their own in our climate. The idea was that top scoring students could take science words that I chose and make me have to say them in a VERY specific and unique way at ALL times. If and when I am caught accidentally just saying that word like the average Joe they scream on the top of their lungs and I grant the team an extra 5 points.(YES IT IS VERY PEEWEE’S PLAYHOUSE-ISH) The fun really occurs for them when I am in PUBLIC situations with them like field trips!! Trust me, the looks I get from people that aren’t in the know are enough pleasure for the students than just the points. It started with just one word, “Mars” winced slyly out of the side of the mouth to currently over 16 words with the craziest concoctions of sound. The students love trying to get me to say them. One deviously bright student even made up a detailed story about a sick grandmother just to get me to say “OXYGEN”. This has become fun and engaging and I think rather slick on my part. Many students have a lot of trouble with language expressive and receptive. I am not sure “studying” your “vocabulary” is the only therapy for them…This is a way they can practice and use these words I’d like to get across. There is some higher order thinking going on here, so once again the “game” is more than meets the eye! They seem to be having a ball with it and I am challenged to keep pushing my voice in wild ways! If you ever run into me and I seem to twitch a bit when I mention DNA, NUCLEUS, or CELLS, maybe you’ll cut me some slack!!