Teacher uses gameful learning for 4th-12th grade students to create a quest for knowledge

Parnia Mazhar, Communications Fellow

Through the use of GradeCraft and gamified teaching, Ideaventions Academy for Mathematics and Science teacher Rachel Marrion successfully engages her primarily STEM students in the humanities.

Ideaventions is a school for gifted students from 4th to 12th grade located in Reston, Virginia. Four years ago, Marrion was looking for a way to make English grammar exciting for her students, and decided she wanted to try a gameful approach.

“Our students had a little bit of a gap when it came to writing technically … so I was trying to figure out: How can I make grammar in particular exciting for them?’ ” Marrion said. “I know that our students are interested in games, experience points, levels and ranks.”

That sent Marrion a quest for a tool that would match her students’ interests and help them excel in a topic they were having difficulty with. After researching online, she learned about GradeCraft and quickly applied it to her classroom techniques.

GradeCraft is a learning management system that allows teachers to integrate the idea of gameful learning, a pedagogical approach inspired by techniques and methods found in games, to create a unique and engaging learning environment for their students.

Explore More | Learn About GradeCraft, the learning management system that builds gameful courses

Marrion was able to use GradeCraft to make learning grammar more comprehensible and intriguing for her students.

“I put in all of that research and found GradeCraft and it was almost miraculous,” Marrion said. “I was thinking, I feel like this website will work really well for what I wanted to do.’ Now, I think I’m in my fourth or fifth year of using (it) and it’s just grown each year into something that I thought couldn’t be.”

Through GradeCraft, Marrion’s students earn experience points (XP) through a variety of both in-class activities and side quests, which are outside optional projects. With each one thousand points, students level up to a different rank and earn badges. There are a variety of badges that they can choose from and certain rewards they can earn after reaching different levels.

Power-up badges allow students to double their experience points on certain activities, and if they get enough points they can earn reward badges such as getting to be the teacher for 10 minutes (10,000 points) or even shaving the principal’s head (50,000 points).

“It gives them motivation to work toward different badges that they like, and the great part about it is that the kids have bought into the system,” Marrion said. “Now they suggest their own badges. This year alone, I think I’ve created five or six extra badges that they suggested, so that’s part of the beauty of it. They can see all the badges on GradeCraft and they can work towards something that they want or they could think about something that’s missing and contribute ideas towards new badges.”

She said having GradeCraft has saved her a lot of time and allowed her to continue her gameful learning approach in a much more efficient way.

“I can tell you that without GradeCraft I’m not sure I would have continued the gamifying aspect of my classroom. The first year when I did not have GradeCraft, it was really difficult for me,” Marrion said. “When I found GradeCraft, I was able to take it and run with it and sort of grow it and develop it each year.”

For all teachers new to gamified teaching, she suggested not getting overwhelmed and instead trusting the process.

“If I go back in time… my advice would be to start small and try not to get overwhelmed,” Marrion said. “The storyline, or the badges, and the levels and the XP and all of that, it can grow over time and you don’t have to have everything worked out all at once. So even if you add just a little bit of a gamified element to your class, the kids are going to love it and buy into it.”