Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Survival of the Fittest (Gamification)

This is my go-to activity when I want to gamify my classroom: Survival of the Fittest.  This game takes place over one topic/unit or you can allow it to last as long as you like.  I created this when The Hunger Games came out and all my students were reading the books; the theme is woven around the story of Panem.

I start class by explaining to the students that they have been cast on a reality TV show called "Survival of the Fittest".  This is the letter I give them:  (all materials can be found in this shared document).  

Dear Students, 
In an effort to supplement my teaching salary, I have volunteered all of you to be part of a new reality show called Survival of the Fittest.  The producers of the show and I are very excited to begin this endeavor.
 Survival of the Fittest is a game where you are a member of a team and need to only stay alive for the duration of the show in order to win.  There will only be one winning team in the game.    Winners will receive bragging rights along with extensive knowlegde of     ___________________. 
In order to survive, you will need supplies such as water, food, weapons, and a bit of good luck.  Other teams may try to sabotage you, so be alert.  Anything could happen in this game as the “game-creators" are attempting to put on a good show and boost television ratings. 
 To begin, you will be flown to a remote location without any communication devices available to you.  You and your team will have the opportunity to earn supplies to help keep you alive.  Guard these supplies with your life, as you may need them to survive.
 I wish you luck and may the best team win!

To begin, I break the class into teams of 3 or 4 students, trying very hard to keep the academic skills of the teams even.  When creating teams, keep in mind the attendance levels of each students as well.  The teams will work together throughout the duration of the game/unit, helping each other learn and master the material.

Earning Supplies:

At the end of each lesson or class I give the students an exit ticket with three problems on it: one easy, one medium, and one hard.  Each student works on the problems individually as if it were a quiz.  After class I "grade" each paper by stapling supplies to their work.  This is the only feedback I give them.  Level 1 supplies are earned by getting the easy question correct.  Level 2 supplies are earned by getting the medium question correct.  And level 3 supplies are earned by getting the hard question correct.  When they receive their papers back the next day, they work with their team to go over the problems.  If there are lingering questions, I'll go over them with the whole class.  Each team pools their supplies together to use when necessary.

The Supplies:

The level 1 supplies are granola bars, water bottles, and beef jerky.  I printed them on pink paper to make them easier to spot.

The level 2 supplies are rabbit snares, sleeping bags, and belts copied on yellow paper.

The level 3 supplies are medicine, bow & arrows, and good luck charms on green paper.
Note - The good luck charm (the mockingjay) is wild, it can be used with any game-creator card.

I keep all the supplies in 3 Ziplock bags separated by color.  When I go to pick the supplies to staple to the students' papers, I take a supply out of the appropriate bag randomly.

Health Level:

Each team starts with a health level of 8 and when they reach a health level of 0 they are out of the game.  When I first used this game, I kept track of their health levels on the class white board.  However, that whiteboard is precious real estate 'round here and I think students were moving their team's icon when I wasn't looking.  So, I created this google drawing that the students can view and I can edit.  Each time a team goes down a health level (see below), I move their icon digitally.  The link below will give you a copy of the google drawing so that you can do the same with your students.  There is also the printable cards if you prefer something more tangible.

Note - All materials are in the shared google doc, the link is above.

Going Down Health Levels:

Every once in a while (and after the teams have had a chance to collect a reasonable amount of supplies) I read a random game-creator card.  These cards describe situations that require the students to have a certain supply (they have to hand in the supply needed, it can't be used more than once).  If a team doesn't have that needed supply, they go down a health level.  Of course alliances can be formed and if a team doesn't have a needed supply another team may give them that supply or trade.  
When I use the game-creator cards, I keep going until at least one team goes down a health level.  I also don't let any teams get to 0 before the end of the game, I keep them hanging on there.  Then on the last day of the game I use enough game-creator cards to have all teams lose except for 1.  

Some Fluff:

In the books there is what is called a 'feast' at the cornicopia.  I liken these to review games.  I like to play a review game with the students where they can earn random supplies throughout and I will read random game-creator cards throughout as well.  You can use any review game you like, Jeopardy, Bazinga, whatever.  


Can teams go up a health level?
No, they can only go down health levels.  You want this game to end eventually, right?

Can I use a belt as a weapon?
I usually say no, but I've been thinking about changing this.  Maybe a belt and two food items = 1 weapon.  It's your call.

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