Collaboration, critial thinking, persistence, self-reliance.... These buzzwords and many more are constantly being tossed around classrooms. With more and more emphasis on less rote classrooms, are we supporting students in developing the skills we so dearly desire that they possess? I was as guilty as any educator to the effect that what I thought I was doing worked when it came to developing these very complex skills. When I realized that my actions and the culture I created were not doing what I thought, I knew that I had to take a different approach. So what did I do? I challenged students to leave a legacy, to become L.E.G.E.N.D.S.
Based on the idea created by Micheal Matera (@mrmatera) that he calls Purpose Driving Learning, I decided to be very intentional about the skills I wanted students to develop and the manner by which they would be supported and celebrated. More than just putting these words on a poster, I wanted to have these attitudes live in every moment of activities, labs, and projects. The following are the steps I took to allow his to happen.
Step #1: Identify The Skills To Be Taught
Before you can construct opportunities for students, you need to not only identify the skills you want to focus on, but you also need to share those ideas with your students. This two part process can be combined into a collaborative experience between you and your students. I would encourage you to lead a discussion with students about skills that they think are valuable for success in the classroom and beyond. Through a Design Thinking style ideation process, you and your students can identify skills that all parties are invested in improving through your class experience.
My students and I participated in this process with a few parameters. My classroom is gamified and while the words did not need to align precisely with the theme, the overall acronym certainly did. My game is called “World of Legends,” and we decided that using the word LEGENDS as our foundation was a great way to start. Using a brainstorming process students came up with words that not only identified necessary skills, but also aligned with the anchor word “legends.”
Our selected words to focus on were:
L - Leadership
E - Enthusiasm
G - Grattitude
E - Effort
N - Never Quit
D - Dependability
S - Self-Reliance
#2: Determine Current Skill Abilities
Just as if we were teaching standards or content, it is necessary to determine the “levels” at which our students currently reside. In order to create opportunities for students to practice these “soft skills,” we need to ensure that the opportunity meets the capacity of the student. In order to evaluate the current levels of student ability, I used a modified Bartles Player Type Test to examine how each of these students would act in a gamified environment. While this did not directly evaluate each of the identified words, it gave me a profile of the player.
Bartles Player Type Testing will show you the percentage of times a student will take on a particular perspective in a game environment. I categorized each of our words based on the player type that is most likely to exhibit the attribute. The tests reveals how frequently a player would select to act in a certain player type. This data allowed me to see how often a player would be likely to express each of the attributes.
Player Type Strenghts in World of LEGEND
Achievers - Effort, Never-Quit, Dependability
Explorers - Leadership, Enthusiasm,
Diplomats - Grattitude, Leadership
Provokers - Self-Reliance, Enthusiasm
Now this process seems a bit complex, but there are awesome resources available to help with this process! I modified the resources to meet my needs and are attached below...
(Based on templates from Erin Wolfhope)
Step #3: Provide Opportunities
In order to help anchor these skills into my classroom, I created a game component called “Attributes of a Legend.” The function of this component is to bring these skills to the forefront of class action and then more easily be able to celebrate their demonstration. The pedagogical structure of my classroom is a hybrid of many models, so it was always important to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the skills on any particular day. There are always independent activities to allow students to demonstrate Enthusiasm, Effort, Never Quit, and Self-Reliance. These independent activities create an environment where I support students toward challenging goals and be 100% sure from where the effort is originating. In the same regard, there are collaborative projects to foster Leadership, Grattitude, and Dependability. With a healthy balance between the two types of instructional strategies, students have the chance to demonstrate improvement in each area.
You might be saying that, while these are opportunities, they don’t help bring a student to try a skill they don’t already have. Based on what you know so far, you are correct! However, I use the gamified model to my advantage and challenge the students to demonstrate each skill. When I observe a student demonstrating a skill, they receive a badge for that skill and it is documented on their student score card. Once a student earns one badge for each attribute of a legend, they are rewarded with a clue in a scavenger hunt for the end game item. Students are rewarded on their ability to demonstrate ALL attributes of a legend, not just their strength in repetition. Even with only a few weeks into this gamified unit, students are beginning to step out of their comfort zones to become leaders and are creating support structures for their leagues (teams) so that everyone can feel empowered. While it is challenging to work on a skill that may not be their favorite, students are willing to take the risk as they see an incentive. Even though the incentive is external, they are developing skills that will help them perform well in the future.
Step #4: Celebrate Successes
Students are consistently rewarded for their academic prowess, but rarely for their other attributes. In my game, badges earned through demonstrating attributes of a legend carry XP points, which are those that determine the individual leader in the class. Coupled with academic achievement, experience points show the high performers. What students are slowly coming to recognize is that those that are becoming involved in the attributes of a legend are also improving academically. It is a 2 for 1 bonus when it comes to XP!
I chose to add value to the badges as a way to represent that the attributes of a legend are equal (often stronger) indicators of success than grades alone. My strong students are still doing well, but students that may not be as academically strong are finding that through their personal dedication they are able to compete in a different way. Students seeing their names toward the top of the leaderboard shows them that the attributes are worth while and that through them they can find success. It is my hope that these students find their academic passion, because when this happens they will already have the skills to ensure that the are successful in any endeavor.