A Guest Post by Alicia Motter
Impending inclement weather often precipitates conversations among teachers and students about snow days. Everyone wants one, don’t they? But the downside is that students remember less about the previous lesson because their routine has been interrupted. This is especially true when it happens right after starting new material. That is what happened to my class this week. And I decided to use the snow day to draw the students back in to the story.
To create anticipation for the unit on energy, I used a modified version of a gamified course syllabus lesson. It was designed by John Meehan, @MeehanEDU, to introduce students to new tools and to develop a superhero character using a character sheet. It drew me straight back to my Dungeons and Dragons days as a Game Master. Yes, I am a total geek.
After character building, we moved into the content, using a modified version of QR Break In, complete with a d8, also by Meehan. Heroes move through a power plant, looking for clues to understanding energy leading them to the Evil Supervillain’s Lair. Her name is Freesia, and she is trying to freeze Science City. Kids were really getting into it on Monday and then we got hit with a snow day. At first, I felt disappointed and all I could think of was, “Darn it. We just got started. I hope the snow day doesn’t cause us to backtrack.” I have never had this many students so engaged in my lessons. And then, an idea hit me — use the snow day to your advantage.
Snow Day E-Learning
Google Classroom sends push notifications whenever a member posts a public comment or reply. I can use this feature to keep the game going, even if we aren’t together. So I took on the role of a narrator, similar to how I would do at a table-top session of D&D to build suspense and a sense of urgency among my players.
I began typing into the feed, “Looks like Freesia’s plan is working. She has sucked away enough energy from Science City to give us a snow day. We have to stop her soon or we will all be human popsicles.” After a few posts, students began to respond to the thread –WIN! And I used their responses to further the story, just like I would have for a band of rag-tag traveling adventurers in a D&D Campaign.
From here on out, “the game of school” will have an entirely new meaning and snow days will become time for building anticipation and suspense for whatever is coming next.