Creating Classroom Badges
In my first few years of teaching I used candy and food as a motivational tactic. Back in those days I was busy trying to win points with students by offering candy and sweets. My thinking was that all the cool teachers always had a bowl of candy to giveaway just sitting right on their desk. However, as I grew more experienced food allergies became a concern. Not to mention that student’s already ate food heavy in sugar.
For me learning became the motivation for doing things in the classroom. I used this as the bottom line for many years too. Although, in the last two years I’ve made a pivot on this idea. I started taking note that telling students they needed to be motivated by learning and getting good grades wasn’t really working.
Sure, some students were hooked by this but not every student is thinking about the power of learning or earning good grades as a reason to learn. Many students in this reluctant learner category are hooked on learning other things besides paying attention to what might be on the test. For a few of these students its games they play on their smartphones or gaming consoles they have at home.
One interesting facet of these games is the leveling up experience that goes with gaming. I’ve played a few of these games to know that people will even pay to “level up” by using in app purchases. That got me thinking: What would school be like if students paid to get more challenging work from their teacher? While this may never happen, it is still an interesting enough question to wonder what you might be able to do with some aspects of gaming in your own classroom.
Finally, I hit a bit of Twitter pay dirt when I came across this Cult of Pedagogy blog post which mentioned using badges in the classroom with your students. Naturally, I started thinking about the old days of handing out obscene amounts of sweets to students when they scored well on a test. Some of these students studied hard and asked a lot of good questions. A few of them even seemed interested in the candy I offered as a reward. Now, I’m never going back to the days of keeping a Costco sized box of Skittles in my classroom but offering students a symbolic reward like a gaming badge seemed like a great new idea.
One way I started using badges in the classroom was with #Quizlet. If you’ve never used this student lead study activity you really should give it a try. A Study Set is created by the teacher using academic words the students are learning in the classroom. The students then find your list and choose different Study methods to learn the words. I’ve been using Quizlet for many years now, but I always just created my Study Set and asked students to study. Now students can level up and earn classroom badges to show mastery of the words. By using the paid version of Quizlet, I can track their progress and offer badges for whatever achievements the students come across.
The other method of badges I’m using in the classroom is with standard mastery. Using my exam scores, I award the class a mastery badge on that standard. I also plan on doing this with individual students when they score well on smaller assessments such as a quiz.