I am always on the search for new, interesting ways to engage students and break up my lectures into more manageable chunks. This past semester (fall 2016) I was faced with a couple of new challenges that forced me more than ever before to develop in-class activities. I was returning to work full time after a semester of maternity leave (yay for maternity leave!) and I was tasked with teaching my large intro-level humanities course on one day for three hours–filled with 98% freshmen. I won’t lie: I was nervous. Nervous about my energy level because my daughter seems allergic to sleep, anxious about keeping students awake for 3 hours (did I mention class overlapped with lunch?), concerned about my ability to remember anything (lecture material, my own name).
I decided it was time for some new experiments in the classroom. Kahoot! became one of my new favorite review tools, and it worked amazingly well in this class of 240 students. It broke up class time, and students were always excited to play. To give them extra incentive to play, I also granted the winner 1 extra credit point on the next exam. After each question, I can see how many students chose the correct or incorrect answer, so I could spend a moment clarifying anything that I needed to.
This current semester I continue to use kahoot! in the same large class, and the students enjoy it. At 8 AM they might be less amped up, but almost everyone plays.
An added challenge for me this semester (spring 2017), I have an additional class: Renaissance art. It has 6 students in it. Going from 210 students to 6 is a huge challenge for me. My brain is mush, and I find that if I enter the classroom of 6 with the same intense energy that I bring to my earlier large lecture classroom I seem to scare the students. I can just imagine them wondering how much coffee I’ve had. So, once again, I started to think of games that I could use in this dramatically different setting.
I now start lecture with a short review game, one that I have taken to calling “Renaissance Recap” (RR). I have an image projected before class officially starts. After I spend a couple of minutes covering the housekeeping, I turn to the RR. I change it up every week so they don’t get too comfortable, but in a nutshell it works like this: I have them form teams of 3. Each team gets a pen and stands in line at the whiteboard. When I say go, I flash a question on the screen and start a timer for 1 minute. One person from each team writes and answer, then passes the baton/pen so the next team member can advance to the board. Questions are simple: What are the main characteristics of High Renaissance art? Is this painting Flemish or Italian? How is this sculpture related to the Quattrocento? The students seem to like it, and the physical movement gets them a bit amped. A variation on this game involved students using individual white boards (I own 30) and each writing down the answer. I am one of those people that delights in objects like bells, so I also ring a bell at the end of the RR. Silly, but adds another element of fun. Students now know they should review their notes before coming to class. Oh, and I also give a point of extra credit to the winner(s).
Gamification has enhanced both my classes in profound ways. I am inspired to find more ways to gamify my classes. Any ideas, please share!