Engage Students with a Game-Like Activity

After going through my blog posts, I found this old draft, and figured I would just go ahead and publish it.  I watched this TED Talk sometime last school year, and reflected on it below.   It also inspired me to incorporate a point-centered game to teach students about predators and prey.

Watch and enjoy the following TED Talk.  Then, read what I have to say or just leave on the intellectual high from watching Jane McGonigal’s 19 minute TED Talk.

Now, think about how her game can be applied to the classroom.  From a teacher’s perspective, there were two big takeaways for me, I like how she offered a choice with two tasks and offered a point system to develop a game.  How can these four “power-ups” be utilized to offer student choice?  How can they be used to engage students in instructional tasks?

List of her four Power-Ups and Options

The following is just a list of her Power-Ups and the options presented to the audience.
  1. Physical Resilience (+1)
  • Standup and take three steps OR
  • Put your hands over your head with your hands balled into fists
  • Mental Resilience (+1)
  • Snap your fingers exactly 50 times OR
  • Count backwards from 100 by 7 (i.e. 100, 93, 86…)
  • Emotional Resilience (+1)
  • If you’re inside, find a window and look out of it. If you’re outside, find a window and look in OR
  • Do a quick YouTube or Google Image search for “baby [your favorite animal]”
  • Social Resilience (+1)
  • Shake the hand of the person next to you OR
  • Make a comment on your favorite social media site.


I liked how she offered the audience two options, and I think students should receive at least an option to demonstrate learning.  Students should be given the option to complete an alternative assessments.  Tasks shouldn’t be limited to one demonstrative behavior.

The game, Jane The Concussion Slayer Game or Super Better, assisted people that recently experienced a traumatic event.  She noticed that many gamer comments demonstrated a Post Traumatic Growth.  Basically, the gamers’

The Point System

The point system she proposed was an interesting one.  In the video, notice how the audience adapted the rules to gain additional points.  For instance, one audience member stands up and takes three steps, while his hands are balled into fists above his head.  This provides gamers with a feeling of ownership, and why not develop a list of rules with the students.  Have the outline posted but allow student additions.
Can these point systems be used to motivate students to engage in physical, mental, emotional, and social tasks?  I am thinking specifically in terms of group tasks.  When students arrived in my classroom, group work seemed like an alien concept.  I think social resilience points could benefit this.  Maybe it’s just a game you play with the socially withdrawn or maybe it’s a game you play with the gamer-type students.
Regardless of using this for student choice or motivation, Jane developed an unknowingly simple set of guidelines when developing instruction.  Students should be engaged in learning tasks that promote physical, mental, emotional, and social behaviors.  I think the most overlooked “power-up” is the emotional side aspect of her game.  Students need to be emotionally vested in the classroom and learning in general.  They should be passionate about learning.

About @hoosier_teacher

Instructional Designer, I help make sense of workplace, work, and worker interactions in order to create comprehendible and practical training programs.

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