I have a quote that hangs in my room by Julia Child's that says, "Above All, Have a Good Time!" This is a constant reminder to me that beyond the standards, curriculum and learning targets, joy and passion is at the heart of it all. If we want to teach students to be life long learners, we must create an environment where they enjoy learning.
This quote by David Geurin is powerful, "If our students master every standard, but do not discover joy and passion in learning, we have failed them." If we truly want students to retain the skills that they've learned, we must bring joy into learning and help them discover their passions. I want students who leave my class and think back on Culinary Arts class fondly. I hope that 20 years from now when students are applying their skills in a restaurant kitchen or making dinner for their family that they will realize that those days in Culinary Arts were a building block for a lifetime of learning. If we don't create a learning atmosphere that is joyful and passion-filled, will our students see the relevance of what they are learning? Will they continue to build on those skills once they leave our class? So often we overcomplicate that which is really quite simple. If our main focus is bringing joy and passion back into teaching and learning, I believe the rest will fall into place. Our school culture will shift. Our attendance will improve. Our test scores will skyrocket. Our teachers and students will thrive. Joy and passion...the secret ingredients.
This past week I had an opportunity to sit and chat with a group of high school students about meaningful learning and WOW was it powerful! I was blown away by their incredible insight.
Directly from the mouths of students:
This conversation has been playing back in my mind all week. We try so hard to figure out the best strategies to engage students in meaningful learning, yet how often do we ask them? How often do we really listen to what they have to say? When these students started talking about learning, they were passionate. They want to learn. They know how important it is for their future. How can we tap into our student's passions? How can we tap into our own passions and bring our best teaching and learning to the classroom each day? How can we make learning come alive for every kid that steps into our class? What an honor we have to educate our youth and to make a lasting impact on how they view learning. We need to listen to our kids....they have a lot to teach us.
When I began gamifying my classes almost 5 years ago, I had no idea of the amazing adventure it would take me on. The immersive learning environment that has been created by this new way of teaching and learning has transformed my classroom into one that is bursting with creativity, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. I truly can't imagine going back to the way I taught class before. However, I remember how I felt before I began this transformation....I was overwhelmed. For those who are feeling that way too, let me give you some advice that helped me get started on this extraordinary journey.
WHAT IS GAMIFICATION?
First of all, gamification doesn't mean you start from scratch redesigning your curriculum. When you gamify, you are layering the motivational elements of games over your curriculum to create a more immersive learning environment. However, that doesn't mean you are just tacking on XP points or badges. Gamification is creating a rich experience where learning truly comes alive for your students. It's rigorous and challenging, and yet so fun that your students will run into class with anticipation of what the day will bring.
READ THIS BOOK!
The book Explore Like a Pirate, by Michael Matera is a MUST read! He has written a book that will walk you through each step of gamification in detail with the what, why, and hows. You will find that his philosophy of gamification is far beyond points and badges, but a transformational way to look at learning that will change your teaching forever. This brand of gamification shifts the conversation away from grades and instead empowers students to take hold of their learning and leave a legacy. You will read through the book once and then refer to it time and time again for additional ideas as you expand your game. I also recommend his website Explorelikeapirate.com offering numerous blogs, vlogs, and other resources to help you every step of the way on your journey. In addition, the Explore Like a Pirate Twitter chat on #XPLAP Tuesday 8EST is an awesome opportunity to connect with a community of educators that never cease to amaze me with their ideas and inspiration.
You don't have to completely gamify your entire class from the get-go. Start with a unit that you would like to revamp. Maybe it's one that you really don't enjoy teaching or has lost it's excitement. What could you do to breathe life into it for you and your students? When I first began, I decided to just gamify a singleton class for one quarter. I felt like this was a manageable place to start. Maybe this is still too overwhelming...is there a lesson that you could gamify instead?
I still remember the advice author of Explore Like a Pirate, Michael Matera, gave me before I dove into this adventure. He said, "start with a theme and then everything will start falling into place". This advice has rung true in every unit and class I have gamified. Think of an overarching theme that you could layer over your existing curriculum. The very first time I gamified, it just so happened that I was going to be gone for a 3 day conference and was planning to show the movie "The 100 Foot Journey" that connected to standards we were going to be learning in class. When thinking about the storyline, I realized it could be a great theme for my culinary arts class. In the movie, the main character is chasing after his passion for cooking and is on a mission to earn 3 Michelin stars in the process. I had found my starting point! Students would be on a quest for 3 Michelin stars!
Just as Michael had suggested, once I chose my theme everything truly did begin falling into place. I now could start developing my story by creating characters, a setting, and action. Students formed into teams and chose restaurant names. I added in action by creating challenges that allowed students to engage in the content in innovative and collaborative ways. I added in game mechanics by developing badges such as, "Restaurant Inspector" and "Restaurant Critic". I planned impromptu inspections and restaurant critics would visit and award students badges for the kitchens that were the cleanest or finished recipes that were the best quality. Badges were given different point values and students had to reach a certain amount before they earned each Michelin star. Badges and points were tracked on a huge piece of butcher paper I had up on my bulletin board. Students loved to come into class each day and see where they were in the game and how close they were to the next star. The element of intrigue and surprise as I developed individual and group challenges created a very fun, engaging, yet rigorous learning atmosphere. The best part was I was having fun too! I had a blast coming up with twists in the game and ideas to keep students excited. I created many opportunities for students to earn badges that appealed to different personality types and motivations. This encouraged all students and motivated even the least engaged.
DON'T FIGURE IT ALL OUT FROM THE BEGINNING
It's important to understand that I didn't have this all figured out from the beginning. It was a work in progress and I developed as I went. If I would have waited till it was all planned and perfect, it would have never happened. Honestly, even if it was planned out most likely I would have made changes. Your students will guide you as they respond to the game. You will find that seeing your student's enthusiasm is addicting and that you will continually be looking for ways to add in game mechanics.
I'M A BELIEVER
After just one quarter of gamifying my classroom, I was hooked. I knew that this was something that I needed to develop further. The degree of collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity that was happening was exciting. Students were more motivated to learn than I'd ever witnessed before and were doing more than was even required to earn their Michelin Stars. I loved that they were learning and having fun in the process! When that quarter ended, I knew that this was just the beginning. The following year, I expanded my gamification to Culinary Arts 3 first semester and by 2nd semester I had gamified all of my Culinary 2 classes as well. I am now well into my second year of gamifying my classes and let me tell you, I have so many adventures to share. Stay tuned as my adventures unfold in the days ahead.
As 2016 drew to a close, I chose two words to be my focus in the year ahead "Savor & Share". Savor the moments with those I hold dear and the experiences that are to come. Share my journey, both the failures and successes, as a way to give back to so many that have given to me. Savoring will come somewhat easy, however it's the sharing that is going to stretch me. To share means I am allowing myself to be vulnerable. I can say I'm not going to worry what people think about what I write and share, but it's easier said than done. Everytime I click the post button there is a feeling of fear in sending my thoughts into the unknown unsure of how they will be recieved..
We are closing in on our last of four snow days. Yes, you heard me right....we have had four snow days back to back that tagged right onto the end of our Winter break. That being said, I've had a lot of time to think about the year ahead and the fear that is threatening the commitments that I've made. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Self doubt... and then it hit me. Isn't this what my students struggle with too. Fear of what's to come after high school. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of making the wrong college and career choices. Fear of what success may bring.
What do I do when my students struggle with these same feelings? I give them encouragement and support. I tell them to not give up and that I"m rooting for them. I give them specific feedback and challenge them to reach beyond what they think is possible. I share my own fears and struggles to let them know they are not alone. I'd like to say that I give every student just the right amount of all of these things, yet I know I'm far from perfect. However, it is my hope that every student in my classes would know that I believe in them and feel that same level of encouragement and support.
When I think about the fear that paralyzed me at times this past year, what brought me out of it was the encouragement and support of others. Support from my family, friends, colleagues, and PLN. It was the specific feedback that was given that gave me the confidence and courage to risk again. It was knowing that others believed in me that moved me from paralyzation to action. As I made this commitment to blog weekly in 2017, I have asked for the support of my PLN and family to help hold me accountable. They have already been a great source of encouragement as I've begun sharing my thoughts with the world.
Sharing my story through blogging and speaking is scary....really scary. To put my thoughts and ideas out there for all to see is vulnerable. There are moments I feel paralyzed by what I've committed to and what lies ahead. However, the impact that other's sharing has made on my journey has been profound. If I let fear cripple me, how will I ever have the opportunity to make an impact on another's journey. I also know that documenting my journey through this blog is important for my own self reflection and growth. I have no idea how this blog will take shape or what adventures sharing will lead me on. However, I know that I can't give up. I know that my support system is rooting me on and giving me the courage to face each challenge that lies ahead. Fear will not win.
* updated on 7/14/19
I love the extra time during Winter Break to catch up on reading and take advantage of digital learning opportunities. So when I saw that Ditch that Textbook author, Matt Miller, was offering a free Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit I made sure to mark my calendar for this amazing event. The Summit was all that I hoped it to be with an incredible line up of speakers sharing their genius. I came away inspired and full of new ideas to try. Sign up for the next Ditch Summit HERE!
One of the digital sessions I attended was facilitated by The Hyperdoc Handbook authors, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis. I've always been intrigued by Hyperdocs and this was a great opportunity to see first hand what they were all about. The session was all that I expected it to be and more. I gained a whole new understanding of Hyperdocs and I immediately saw the potential for integrating them in my culinary classes.
What are HyperDocs
I learned that Hyperdocs are much more than Google docs with links. They are a google document that replaces the worksheet method of delivering instruction allowing innovative and inquiry based learning methods. Think of them as carefully crafted digital lesson plans that allow for the creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and connecting that is so important for 21st century learning. I realized that Hyperdocs are a way to make lesson plans come to life by making them visually appealing and engaging for students. I was able to see the possibilities for creating an organized workflow for my students that would meld beautifully with Google Classroom. Even better, I saw the potential for more streamlined collaboration and increased critical thinking when creating and engaging with technology in my project-based, gamified culinary classroom.
Through this session I discovered the Hyperdocs.co site to be an amazing resource with templates, tutorials, how-to's, samples, tools, and more. In addition, there is a vast collection of hyperdocs created by Teachers Gives Teachers that will get you started with endless inspiration and ideas. I wasted no time in ordering the The Hyperdoc Handbook, but couldn't wait for it's arrival to start creating.
There are great hyperdoc templates on Hyperdocs.co that give a starting point for teachers who want to ease into the process of creating. I found one that I thought would work well in my Culinary 2 classes, made a copy, and then began adapting it to my lesson plan design. Once I began creating, I immediately saw how transformational this could be for my classes. I could personalize the Hyperdoc to meet the needs of my students, subject area, and lesson design. I found that it packaged all of the elements that I had previously stored in separate locations in Google Classroom neatly in one document allowing for easy student access. In doing so, it simplified my workflow in such a way that I immediately felt more organized. Video clips, recipes, links, websites, challenges, all were packaged in a visually appealing way that would allow for optimal engagement and collaboration. I found that creating lessons in Hyperdocs was so fun and easy that I designed my own template to package my unit plan as well.
Over the course of my Winter break, I was able to transform all of my lessons in my upcoming Cake Boss unit with Hyperdocs. As I return next week to my classroom, I am excited about my new discovery and the potential for improved workflow and organization in my classroom. I highly encourage you to visit Hyperdocs.co and read The Hyperdoc Handbook! I will share this journey with you as I continue to explore the possibilities that Hyperdocs bring. Stay tuned!
Since I wrote this blog post a few years back I began creating all my unit and lesson plans using Hyperdoc templates! It has definitely been a game changer for me! Check out my templates for unit and lesson plans as well as additional planning pages by clicking the button below! Enjoy!
Also make sure to follow Matt Miller on Twitter and check out his amazing books: Ditch that Textbook, Ditch that Homework, and just recently released, Don't Ditch that Tech!
My Cake Boss Unit Plan
Cake Boss lesson plan revised from a template on hyperdocs.co
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.