Gaming in the classroom!

In the summer term, there is usually some sort of build up to the standard assessment tasks/tests when pupil and teachers alike hope that the hard work they have put in throughout the year will pay off. Once the dust has settled from these, I always felt it was important for the children to ‘chill a bit’ while still learning. During this time, for the whole week, I played a game with the class. It soon almost became an institution, something that everyone looked forward to playing if they were in Mr. Wilson’s class. It was the infamous game of ‘Sim-sim-cities!’

Factories made money!

Factories made money!

Gamification is currently a trending learning strategy, mirroring the motivational and engagement strategies of online and computer games such as World of Warcraft and Zelda. Although I will not be explaining the whole game here (again something for future waffles) I will give you some idea of the mechanisms and activities that were included.

All these items were bought using the city’s finances from the single most powerful being on the island – the Master Banker – ME!! (oh the power!!)

  • Towns and jobs – At the start of the week there was some decisions to be made. First, as the name would suggest, the children would be operating in ‘Cities’. These were created in a purely random manner, with names being drawn out of a hat and written down on the whiteboard. Once members were decided the children, in their groups, had to decide on their roles. These included President, Banker, Town Planner and Trader. Each role was introduced by myself so the children understood the roles and they decided, within their groups, who had the required skills to fulfil the jobs. To give you an example of this, someone who enjoyed or was good at mathematics or enjoyed the idea of becoming rich naturally went for the role of the banker.The cities were then placed on a fictitious island which was also randomly generated by the children.
  • What would your town be based on?– There were three methods of making money in the game – factories, farms or special places. Although the first two probably require no explanation, the third probably does. Special places were the equivalent of museums and art galleries. These cities were essentially the tourist towns similar to York. In order for each of these items to make money they had to be ‘fueled’. Factories required raw materials, Farms – seeds and finally Special Places – tourists. All these items were bought using the city’s finances from the single most powerful being on the island – the Master Banker – ME!! (oh the power!!)
  • Houses and people – In order to make money the factories, farms and special places not only needed the items mentioned above, they also needed people to work there. These were attracted to the cities by making jobs (for example buying more factories) and building more houses. In order to keep the numbers simple everything was considered in tens of thousands. You could only buy multiples of ten so 10 houses would be the equivalent of 10,000 houses. Buying ten more houses would attract ten more people – not having enough houses meant that people left. Of course, if people arrived to fill the new houses they required jobs. No jobs and they would leave – more available jobs people would arrive at the city and the children would have to build more houses. The city’s population was the equivalent of the number of houses the city had and, as the population grew, the title did as well. Initially everyone started with ten houses so a population of 10. This was a hamlet. As the population grew, the title changed – village, town, city and finally metropolis. There was always a race to become the first city!
  • Events and competitions The cities would make money at the end of each turn. Throughout the turn they could buy from the bank – (only the trader could do this) – to buy more factories etc, or fuel items (you couldn’t buy people – that would be unethical!). I often did take more money off the traders if they were not paying attention or hadn’t worked out how much money they would have left after the transaction. Essentially then factories, for example, would use up their available raw materials and make money for the city. However, this was not the only way they could money. Competitions existed throughout the turns including designing the best flag, write a persuasive letter to the local business man (the head teacher) for more investment of money and even the best Town Portrait! Other events included, factories suddenly making double the amount of money. The price of the fuel items doubling or even disasters such as fires and plagues that could only be protected against by fire stations and hospitals (both of which could be bought – at a high price!)
  • Winners and …..winners – At the end of each turn the president of the town with the largest population became King/Queen of the island (yes we had a crown for them to wear) and the banker of the richest town became the richest person on the island (they had a medallion to wear). Adding the population and the final bank balance together produced the final score and eventually the winner of the game. I said winners and winners since the children always reflected at the end (an important part of the game) on what they had enjoyed, disliked and learnt. I can’t really remember anyone who actually said they hated the experience – although I might have just blocked those comments out. 🙂
  • So there it is – a rather brief account of the game. The rules and calculations needed to play it still lurk in the depths of my mind and one day I will have to write them all down so that other teachers can play it – well maybe. Remember during your placement, real life situations and contexts with a purpose will engage the children more in their learning. Be creative while still focusing on the learning.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send me them to be via twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later