By Rachel Fuhrman
This post originally appeared on Tales from the Classroom.
As I gear up for the second half of the most unique school year I may ever encounter, I am focused on what I can do to provide an engaging, enriching, and exciting experience for my students. When I think about my classroom in previous years, I have always prioritized the joy factor through the use of humor and games. Now, I have shifted my focus to what bringing joy looks like online. While I hope to continue to bring my sense of humor to my students virtually, I know that it can be challenging to communicate as fluidly as we once did. Because of this, I am primarily focusing on the use of games and competitions to bring joy. Doing so not only allows students to be engaged with their content, but also provides students the opportunity to engage with one another. Below, I have outlined three of my favorite resources for bringing joy through games and competitions online.
Kahoot is one of my favorite resources to use in my physical classroom and I have found that it works incredibly well in an online one as well. Kahoot allows a teacher to create an interactive quiz for students in which all students see the question and answer choices on one screen and then answer from their individual devices. As students answer questions, a leaderboard reflects those who have answered the most questions correctly the fastest. The leaderboard updates throughout the game and ends with a podium to highlight the top three players when all the questions are complete. Teachers are able to make their own Kahoot quizzes but there are plenty of quizzes readily available that address most relevant topics. To make Kahoot even more fun for students, you can include pictures, videos, or GIFs within each question.
In order to effectively utilize a Kahoot during a synchronous session, I recommend beginning a Zoom meeting with students first. From there, it is best to share your screen with the class so they can see the questions and answers. Being in the Zoom meeting is particularly helpful so that you can cold call students to explain how they knew a particular answer or explain a common mistake their peers may have made.
Quizizz is similar to Kahoot in that a teacher can create or pull from a library of quizzes that students complete. However, it differs in a few important ways. First, Quizizz does not award more points for speed and therefore may be beneficial if you have students who are likely to rush when under pressure. Second, students are able to see all questions and answer choices on their own screens. You will still need to share your screen, however, in order to show the leaderboard. Third, Quizizz allows students to review their answers when they are finished and tracks student data so that you can analyze it later. Finally, one of my favorite ways to bring joy is through humor and Quizizz does a wonderful job with this! After each question, a meme will pop up based on how the students did (this is a setting you can turn off if you worry that it may be too distracting for your students).
In order to utilize a Quizizz effectively, I recommend setting up a Zoom and sharing the screen in the same way as the Kahoot. It is more challenging to engage students in discussions during a Quizizz because students are working at their own pace. However, once all students are finished, it is helpful to have students share out the questions on which they struggled and allow their classmates to help explain the solving processes.
Educaplay is a resource that allows teachers to create multiple games and assign them for students to complete on their own. The options for activities you can create include crossword puzzles, matching games, and unscramble word games. I have specifically used Educaplay for matching games in which students match equations to their solutions, or match properties of equality to modeled examples, and I use unscrambles for math vocabulary.
In order to utilize Educaplay effectively, I recommend creating a game based on the topic of your lesson and then assigning it as part of the lesson (these games are a great way to break up the formal instruction), or as an optional activity for students to complete (potentially for extra credit as an incentive). This is a great option to engage students in a game during an asynchronous session as students can complete the activity without any need for live interactions.
Ultimately, many things about the classroom are different this year, but one thing I know will never change is that classrooms are places for students to feel joy and build a love of learning.
Rachel Fuhrman is a ninth-grade special education math teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. She recently earned her Master of Science in education studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, and plans to pursue a PhD in urban education. She is passionate about improving educational equity and strives to serve traditionally underserved communities.