How do we empower learners - Finding Big Bird - A gamified linear equations and inequations unit of work

In teaching linear algebra to mixed ability year 10 classes, I have really struggled in the past to motivate students in engaging with enough problems to develop automaticity and providing enough support for the complex learners in my classes.

Enter Finding Big Bird. The Sesame Street Circus Spectacular Big Bird costume was stolen in Adelaide in 2021. Working with my team, we developed a gamified unit focussed on the theme of 'Finding Big Bird'. Designed as a term's learning, it was comprised of a series of learning menus related to agreed learning intentions. For each learning intention, there were instructional videos of our teachers giving direct instruction of the concepts, written support materials and a wide variety of learning activities for students to choose from. Students worked in collaborative teams accountable for supporting each other and individually earned XP for engaging with tasks. These teams were formed based on a pretest assessing their readiness to engage with the concepts, with groups able to demonstrate competence with earlier concepts given 'cheat codes' to skip early learning intentions. Teachers chose the XP for each task as a measure of how long the activity 'should' take based on complexity and length and tracked the progress of each student using a spreadsheet. This meant students were regularly engaging with their teachers in conversations about their learning to celebrate and articulate their learning and choose tasks at an appropriate level of challenge. Teaching the unit, I was having positive conversations with every student every lesson, helping them make sense of where the activities they chose for that lesson contributed to their progress. We embedded XP benchmarks for teams to progress to new concepts and themed collaborative tasks that we could use as evidence of understanding. An example of one of these collaborative tasks can be found using the link. The password is oatmeal. Passwords were used to unlock each level of learning and challenge to ensure students were not accidentally accessing inappropriate tasks.

The collaborative and highly individualised nature of the unit transformed my classroom. Students who previously were reluctant to contribute quickly realised that their group progress relied on their participation eventually held pride and confidence to achieve and talk about their learning.

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