Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Gamifying My Classroom - Orchestra Karate (Part 1)

I have been reading the book "Explore Like a Pirate" by Michael Matera this summer, and been alternately REALLY inspired and REALLY overwhelmed with all of the great ideas in the book!  It raises the question, what is it about games (video games in particular) that motivates kids to go back for more, over and over again?  And how is this different from their learning in school?  Both games and schoolwork are (or should be) challenging and require them to constantly learn and grow to improve themselves.  So why will kids spend hours playing video games, but drag their heels on 30 minutes of homework?  And, more importantly, what can we as educators learn from how games motivate kids and apply it to our classrooms to make learning more fun, engaging, and applicable?

In thinking about these questions, I could go off on a bunch of different tangents, but I decided to first stick with something simple, that I know well: Orchestra Karate.  Many music teachers are familiar with this structure (it could be Recorder Karate or Scale Karate or anything else), where students accomplish certain feats of mastery on their instrument and are rewarded with a "belt" of a certain color corresponding to their level of achievement.  These belts, in my classes, are proudly displayed on cases, and fulfill the function of "badges" in a game.

I have used this structure with my 5th grade classes since I started teaching, but always thought it was too "kiddy" for my middle schoolers.  Every year, though, my 6th graders ask me if they can keep earning belts.  I finally decided, why not?  This year, I will try to implement Orchestra Karate with all of my 5th-8th grade classes!

In thinking about how to structure this, I decided there would be five different kinds of karate belts:
  • Video Belts - for students watching the videos I have posted on my website and completing the Google Form to tell me what they learned.
  • 5th grade Performance Belts - this will continue my same structure, where students will have to master a certain song in the book and play it individually to earn a belt.  I am thinking about allowing them to submit a video to earn their belt, to save class time, but I am worried about the extra time it would require me to grade, in addition to the practice videos I assign my middle school students each week - but that's a discussion for another day!
  • Middle Level Scale Belts - students who successfully perform their scales at a certain level will earn the color belt that corresponds to the scale.  They must earn their belt before being eligible to "level up" to a 2-octave scale (and the chance to earn a Free Practice Points coupon)!
  • Middle Level Coyote Quest Belts - these are side quests, demonstrating mastery of certain elements of music besides playing their instruments, such as theory and terms.  I haven't completely figured this out yet, but I plan on requiring a certain score on eMusicTheory drills or Staff Wars for some elements, and making my own Google Quizzes for others.  None of these quests will be required for a grade - but they will be open opportunities for students to earn belts!
  • 7th & 8th Grade Music History Belts - I have been working this summer to develop a series of Digital BreakoutEDU games to teach students the basics of music history.  I haven't fully decided how and when these will be used yet, but I hope to be able to play them in class about once per quarter to break up the monotony of rehearsal during certain times of the year.  If students successfully break out, they will get a special belt for accomplishing that feat!
Next step: Gathering the materials to put this into action!  Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

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