The Snarky Schoolteacher’s “Teacher Feature” showcases amazing educators and the work they do inside of their classrooms every other Thursday. If you’d like to be featured, please fill out our Google form here. All featured educators will receive a Snarky Swag Bag as a token of our appreciation for their time and contribution.
Good morning! I'm excited to bring you another edition of our exciting Thursday feature. Today, we are thrilled to introduce you to TJ, a 7th grade math teacher from Rialto, CA. TJ originally planned to be a doctor, though teaching was her second career choice. She decided teaching was her passion while in college, so she finished her science degree and then went into education. To TJ, the best part of being a teacher is "Getting to see kids have that lightbulb moment when they finally understand something they didn't before. Also, middle schoolers are funny."
TJ has a great method for motivating her students through her gamification wall. Not familiar with the concept of gamification in education? Look for an upcoming segment this month featuring TJ and two other teachers with more information about how they use it in their classrooms! For now, whet your appetite with a look into TJ's seventh grade math classroom.
A Peek at TJ's Gamification Wall
TJ writes, "One of my favorite ideas from my classroom is my gamification wall. Students earn a square with their name on it every time they pass a quiz or a test. I use those squares to create pictures on my wall. The pictures are in context of a story that involve saving a boy and his dog --I use a picture of my sister's son and her dog. It's still a work in progress; this is the third year I have used it, and I've changed it a bit every year. However, I like how it brings a blank wall to life throughout the year, and it's fun for my students to be able to find their name on the wall!"
Here is the full gamification wall and the story behind the different tasks the students must complete. At the completion of each task, students earn a class reward. Next is the Kingdom Map, which represents the progression of the math curriculum throughout the year. Also pictured are student mastery profiles. We have mini-quizzes after each lesson numbered 1-72. When students pass a quiz/lesson, they put a sticker on their mastery profile for the skill they passed, which is a no-tech way of rewarding them with "badges." This also allows them to see which quizzes they need to retake (and subsequently earn a "badge" for passing).
In these pictures, you can see four different tasks students completed through their journey. The effect of seeing all those squares filling in the pictures is really neat and allows students to see how their hard work helps fulfill a common goal.
I love the culture of success and teamwork the gamification wall creates in TJ's classroom and how it builds on itself throughout the year! Also, I think it's wonderful that she incorporates a personal touch by using the photos of her nephew and his dog; I know from experience how well students respond to sharing aspects of a teacher's personal life.
What advice would you give to pre-service and first year teachers?
When I struggled through my first year and wanted to quit, someone told me that I needed to stick with it for three years before it felt comfortable. And she was right. Around year three was when I started to feel more comfortable with what I could and couldn't do, and I began to see the bigger picture and just take things one day at a time. My advice is to hang in there; it will get better. You will get better. Just love your students by being the best version of you that you can be.
What's your favorite way to engage in a little self-care during the school year?
Saturdays are my rest days. I try not to let myself do anything work related. Everyone needs one day off a week. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to get behind, but everything always works out in the end. I have found that what always feels urgent is not always important. Also, I seem to manage my time better when I have a limited amount of it, so devoting a day to rest is actually helpful.
Do you have any good teacher tips for working smarter, not harder?
Collaborate with other teachers. Figure out good systems in your classroom and take the time to teach them well in the beginning so that they work like clockwork quickly throughout the year. Set up your classroom decor at the beginning of the year so that you don't have to change it up much during the year. Find a way for kids to be as self-sufficient as possible in your classroom so that your time/attention can be focused more on the learning.
Thank you so much, TJ, for showing us how you motivate students through gamification in your classroom! If you would like to be considered for a future Teacher Feature, please apply here.
The Snarky Schoolteacher is an education and lifestyle blog run by dedicated educational professionals. Our goal is to bring you relevant and fun educational content with a side of sass. Read more about our team here. Thanks for visiting, and we hope you will find these ideas and resources helpful in your classrooms and in your lives.