A Good Day to (roll) Die: Formative Trick #1

As part of my blended learning plan I began using goformative.com to collect some quick data at the beginning of class which I could then use to form small groups or focus instruction in some,other way. This was intended as a formative check in rather than a summative one amd I did not want to count this a formal grade. My XP grading system is predicated on the idea that XP is awarded for mastery (or competency) of content or skills and the quizzes were not meant as a check on mastery. In fact, at times the quizzes will include material that was not directly taught but should be discernable if a student was enough understanding to make connections to past information.

In previous years, after the first few quizzes students showed a tendency to either not take the formative check in seriously or would drag out the quiz to aviod the next part of instruction. Like it or not the students had become acclimated to receiving grades for quizzes so I needed to find a motivator. My solutuon was to design an alternative economy based on a “Gold”. Rather than give students a ‘grade’ for the quiz I would offer them gold. This new currency would be used to purchase power cards which can alter their experience in the classroom. (I have recently had a number of students ask if they can buy XP… No). This has been a nice formative assessment trick. Students get a feel for their ‘score’ which gives the ‘player type’ motivation for points accumulation without negatively impacting their grades. In each class I have had a student ask why I am giving a quiz If it doesn’t count for a grade; they are shocked when I tell them I need the data to tailor instruction. 

I have tied the formative assessment to dice rolls to increase the gamelike nature of the quizzes. Before taking the quiz students roll the multiple of 10 sided die they can roll from 10 to 00 (which equals 100). The student will recieve gold equal to their score regardless of their outcome. For example If they roll a 70 but get a 60 on the quiz they will receive 60 get pieces. If the student meets or beats their roll they get their score plus the dice roll. For example, the student that rolled a 70 gets an 80 on the quiz. They would then receive the 80 gold for the quiz plus a 70 for beating the roll. Students are now asking to play this game. What is interesting though is that most students are not spending the currency. They simply want a goal. I tried letting students select their own goal and most picked a 60 or 70 and while this my have been a ‘smart’ choice it was not nearly as fun for the students and the next class they were asking for dice roll! 

Due to the nature of my classroom I meet students every other day. On Monday I had students roll dice and quiz on standard 3 indicator 2 which related to the entire Civil War. Because students took the quiz seriously (because of the dice roll mechanic) I know that they had trouble with the importance of specific battles. Overwhelmingly, they know the importance of the Anaconda Plan and the Emancipation Proclamation; however the importance of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea is lacking. Without students taking the formative assessments seriously I may not have these important data points. The dice roll mechanic helps increase the engagement with the formative assessment without negatively impacting their ‘grade’!


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