Adding choice to exercises

This is the second part of the four synergetic gamified methods that I use for teaching. You can read about the first one here: Creating stories for teaching

With the story providing a reason to why the students should learn the theory at hand, the next task is to make the exercises more interesting. This is done by using a flexible structure, that allow students to choose between different exercises, and do them as fast as they want.

I described this earlier in the post Exploration of knowledge, but with my own experience in using the system, I’ve developed it further.

Like before, the system presents the students for exercises on a map. The students work in teams, and they are free to take on any exercise that they have unlocked.
Here is the new part: Everyone start every module by doing a common exercise. This common exercise can be the “minimum” that you require even the least ambitious student to do. When they are done, this exercise unlock new bonus exercises. They can also go back and to other exercises, that they didn’t finish in earlier modules.
structure of exercises

As you can see in the illustration, some of the bonus exercises unlock even more bonus exercises. Now the mid-students, who have time for more than the common exercises, but not enough to do every exercise, have meaningful choices. Do they want to go for exercises that are mainly calculations, some that require reading, well-written arguments or small experimental exercises?

What I like about this structure is the timing. Instead of having students progressing through the theory at different speeds, everyone will be at the same page. Some students have done more exercises in the last lesson, but they can all benefit from homework and a presentation about the theory for this lesson. You might even have students doing presentation about the bonus exercises, so that everyone get the information contained in them.

If you read about the first method, Creating stories for teaching, you will know that each part of the story should end with a major challenge, like an experiment. This is of cause a common “exercise”, as all students must complete it. It is also a good time to end the map, and begin a new one.

Example map, ready to use (in Danish)

So this is what a finished map could look like. You find a fitting map to use as a background, then put in text boxes and arrows on top of it. I use Publisher, but you can use your favorite image editor. Use Word only if you like pain. Then print the maps to the students, so that every group have one.

Since the example is in Danish, let me explain a bit. The text in large font represent the common exercises. Since I use a story in my teaching, they have a headline. The box below is what the students should do: read these examples and solve these exercises at this page.
There is also information about points – XP and GP, since I use Classcraft and award the students points for each exercise.

The arrows point to the bonus exercises that are made available, and the small boxes next to the exercise are used to mark the progress of the students.

A nice trick is to use a dice to pick which student in the group should present their work. If the student can’t do this with confidence, they need to try again. This ensures that everyone get an understanding of the solution that the group produced.

Want to know more? Read here about Gamification of teaching

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