Sherman Middle School Teacher Uses Innovative Tool to Engage Students
Warriors, mages and healers of all walks of life live inside Sherman Middle School. Each day, they are plagued or blessed by mysterious happenings and train to take on the toughest of foes.
For 8th grade English teacher Kiddy Cummins, it’s just another Tuesday.
Cummins uses Classcraft, an online program which “uses gaming principles to re-imagine students’ learning experiences and empowers them to reach their full potential,” according to their website. She’s stuck with the program since 2015.
“I was looking for another way to make class fun, so I was looking into gamifying it,” Cummins said. “I piloted it for a year and liked it a lot, and Classcraft has evolved since then.”
Positive behaviors are rewarded with “experience points,” which students can measure to compete against one another to see who has more, or “crystals,” which are redeemed for rewards like a homework or bathroom pass.
Negative behaviors, such as being disruptive or unprepared, drain a character’s “health points,” and if the number of points hits zero, they “fall in battle,” meaning they receive a random consequence. Consequences range from jumping jacks to cleaning desks after class to extra homework.
To be clear, students aren’t running around inside a video game during class time. Rather, Cummins introduces random events at the start of class to raise the energy and sometimes ties it to her bellringer or homework assignments.
“Sometimes kids need a little extra motivation to do their work, and this gives them an added incentive to start doing it,” she said. “It also holds students accountable to their classmates as well.”
Classcraft does this by dividing students and their characters into teams. Depending on their character’s role, be it warrior or healer, students can “protect” their teammates from some of the consequences of negative behavior. While that protection might be useful, it doesn’t last forever.
“I had a student who would always be late and forget to bring their English notebook to class,” Cummins said. “They would lose points and always expect their teammates to help them, but then the teammates became annoyed and said as much. Finally that student started bringing everything to class on time.”
Students can even battle Cummins herself in Classcraft.
“Quizzes are like boss battles. It’s the student versus me, the boss,” Cummins said. “Their goal is to cause me to fall in battle, and every time they miss a question, they will lose health. If they get it right, I will lose health.”
The introduction to Classcraft sometimes isn’t the easiest, but any student who has been in Cummins’ class certainly remembers the journey they and their character traveled.
“They sometimes remember when they fell in battle and what their consequences were,” Cummins said. “Whenever I see any of my students again, they always bring up Classcraft.”