Boss Battles and Retrieval Practice

True confession to start, I have become a bit of a podcast junkie. Don’t call me on my way into work, as I may be slightly irritated that you have interrupted my latest podcast update. I do pause it to walk into school, but if there are no kids around it goes back on until the final reflection is finished. I was especially impressed by Pooja AgarwaI on the Cult of Pedagogy when she talked about Retrieval Practice.  Her research was in a middle school classroom so she had my attention from the start. As she shared the results of her research and the power that came from low stakes retrieving of information, I knew this was a practice I wanted to implement immediately.

Not too much later I watched Micheal Matera’s Vlog where he talked about Boss Battles. I commented on this YouTube post and he shared with me a link to a past blog entry where he gave step by step instructions on how to set up and run a Boss Battle complete with ideas of how he uses various “Bosses”.  As I thought about both of these tools I knew they would fit perfectly together in my classroom.

I had already introduced a number of Non-Playing Characters (NPC’s) to my game, so it only made sense that we would battle one of them. My bearded dragon, Nessie, was in the midst of a partial shed, so she seemed the perfect “Boss” as no one wants a grumpy dragon around.

Using some of the techniques shared by Ms. Agarwal on retrieval practice I generated 5 questions based on concepts that we had recently studied. Then I put them into slides so the kids could see the questions as I read them.

Each kid got 2 chips. If they missed a question they lost a chip and earned no points. If they lost all their chips they became a “dead player” and moved into “Nessie’s Lair”. (I need to figure out a way they can escape the Lair, but that is for a later discussion.) If a guild (group) got a question wrong someone from the Lair had the chance to answer it. If they could, the guild lost points. If they couldn’t, the whole alliance (class) lost points.

Points were earned by answering a question correctly and rolling a dice to determine how many points that question would be worth based on the battle line Nessie set. To determine where your guild was on the  “battle line” each guild determined the average number of “powers” they had per student. If they had more than the battle line, they got to add 1 point to what was rolled on the dice. If they had less than the battle line they got one less point than what was rolled on the dice.  As we were battling Nessie as an Alliance (class) the final score was the average points of what all the kids got.

Even though only one class beat Nessie, nearly every kid was engaged and doing their best to get the right answer. That was a good thing, but the better thing was that on the quiz the kids took that week every class did better than they did in the past. The retrieval practice worked. Many kids asked for more “Battles” and almost as many suggested that I be the one they battle next time, so I am figuring that out for this week.

I am participating in George Couros #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course). The blog post prompt for this was to “Take one of the “Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” and write an example of how you exemplify it in your own work.” I wasn’t really planning on blogging for the course, as I really want to reflect and improve my journey into gamifiying my class. but when I thought about how I was able to tie those two seeming non-related items together because of the connections I made and the reflection on how to put them together I was again impressed by the power that comes from reaching out and learning beyond your district. My kids were positively impacted by people they (and possibly I) will never meet. and that is a great thing.



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