At the beginning of this year, my first year teaching, I was nervous to introduce myself on Welcome Night knowing that some parents would be apprehensive to see such a young teacher waiting to meet them. There are obvious qualities of seasoned teachers that make them desirable to students and parents, but I am here to share one of the many strengths that a new teacher possesses. One of the amazing advantages is the ability to relate to students and bring their interests into the classroom. As a young teacher, I have the capability and willingness to pull the world of video games into the classroom. By doing this, I have formed meaningful relationships and helped reluctant students to become more engaged in their learning. In this blog post, I will share three different examples of how I was able to bring my students’ love of video games to life in the classroom.
As a new teacher looking through Scholastic book orders is dangerous. Keeping my tight budget in mind, I can’t help but immediately add any videogame books to my cart. It all started with a series of Minecraft Handbooks. I bought them for my class, and they were an instant success. Almost the entire class wanted to be on the waiting list to read them! After that I bought books like Cool Careers in Video Games and Pokémon: The Official Adventure Guide. I think my initial draw to these books was selfish; I wanted to read them! I was able to share my excitement with my students as I introduced the new books to our class. Over the past year I have bought many other video game books including Diary of a Minecraft Zombie and The History of Video Games. These books are a huge hit, and I have had to buy multiple copies to meet the need.
The video game bin in our library is empty. Even though only one reading group trades books a day, I guarantee that this bin will be empty again after I put in the books from our latest order. How can I be mad when I see kids sneaking books I know they just cannot wait to get their hands on? How can I be mad when I have kids whispering behind clipboards asking if I can slip a certain book into their tub instead of putting it in the library? My job is to get kids excited about reading. Video games are a way to do just that.
After seven rigorous PARCC tests last month, both my students and I were feeling bogged down. In the weeks leading up to the tests themselves, we spent considerable time hitting annotating, supporting evidence, and essay structure. I felt that I had sucked the fun out of writing, and it broke my heart. I sat down with them and had a heart-to-heart about all that writing can be. I wanted them to understand that writing can be a fun way for them to show their creativity and express themselves. In an effort to spark some excitement for writing, I opened up a few days for some free choice writing. When presenting this idea during Writer’s Workshop, I tried to give them a couple of ways they could turn their favorite video games into writing pieces. Two of my students asked if they could work together to write a story about Pokémon coming to life. I initially hesitated knowing that letting these boys work together would open that option up to the whole class. I gave the boys a chance to pitch me their idea, and as soon as I accepted it the whole room was buzzing with excitement. My students were more excited to write than I had seen in a while. Many of the stories tied into video games. Another pair wrote their own version of a Minecraft player’s diary. Two girls wrote a story about our class finding a portal into the world of GoNoodle Champs. This simple free choice writing opportunity took on a life of its own and became more than I could have asked.
Earlier in the year we used one of our writing units to do research on Native American Tribes. The students were very interested in the unit, and they really enjoyed becoming experts in the tribe they researched. We also talked a lot about what it would be like to live with our tribe. One day after we had finished our unit, a student in our class was reading a book on Minecraft, and I got the idea to build a Native American Tribe on Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual world where players are able to build and create whatever they want. I discussed my idea with the student, and he was immediately intrigued. I decided that I liked the Inuit Tribe the best out of those that we researched and knew it would be the perfect tribe for the virtual world. I enlisted the help of my brother, and together we created a modern version of an Inuit Tribe from the past. I brought the following picture to school and shared it with my students. They were very impressed!
Overall it has been a challenging first year. One thing I have learned is to celebrate my strengths. I love being able to relate to my students, and I wouldn’t trade that. Seeing how these positive relationships have impacted my students has been very rewarding.
Have you used video games in the classroom? Have you incorporated other student interests? If so, post about it in the comments section. Let’s use this blog as a platform to discuss and share ideas to increase student engagement!
This post was brought to you by Miss Andrea Siefert, ’15. Andrea graduated from Illinois State University in May of 2015 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She now teaches third grade at Adams Elementary in Quincy, Illinois. This is Andrea’s first post on the ECE Teacher Talk blog; welcome, Andrea!