Activating Items: A Half-Baked Idea

*For ideas on how to make items here is a post about item generation – Making Items.


I enjoy including items systems in my classroom. They allow for strategic planning and differentiating game play (classroom experiences) for different students “player types”. In the past students that wanted to “play a card” simply handed the card to me which was effective but I think,there is a opportunity to Level Up the Learning.

One of my concerns is that students could “purchase” a card and use it immediately without actually seeing the card. This followed the “game rules” but ruined some of the fun. It felt like a boring and static transaction rather than a dynamic game play element. Items were also strictly a game mechanic unrelated to the course curriculum and I think there is an opportunity to add to the educational pedagogy.

My first step in making the items more of a learning tool has been to create new items which would match my new curriculum goals. These new items are based on important primary sources found in each standard which further ties into my new narrative (more here 2018-19 Storyline and Implications). Since I teach American History, in this narrative students become Super Heroes that draw their power from the “Source Energy” found in historic Primary Sources. In my narrative, the “Big Bad Boss” can trigger the “source energy” through “mysterious incantations” which is also inadvertently led the students to gain their powers. To show how the items relate to the primary source concept here are some first drafts of my new cards:

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As I was developing the story about the Big Bad using spells and incantations to trigger the source energy I began thinking that students should have to do this too. Spells are really nothing more than poetey related to the action the spell is intended to accomplish. For example, in Harry Potter the simple spell “Stupify” knocks out the opponent aka stultifying them. Poetry is also a good way to include higher order thinking skills into content acquisition. Processing Information or Applying and Creating are considered higher order on most common educational thinking categorizations and writing a poem requires students to think about the content in a creative way.

There are several different types of poetry to choose from:

I am Poems

Diamonte Poems

Limerick Poems

Simple AABB or ABAB Rhyme Schemes

Free Verse

So my plan for this year is to have students “Activate” their Items by writing simple “Spells” (poems) that will summarize the source or connect it to the content for the unit. I would expect simple AABB or ABAB rhyme schemes to activate the card effect but might give power bonuses for more advanced poems. Since I simply print the cards onto white card stock the back of the cards are blank so students will write their “Spells” on the back of the cards. Once a card has been activated it can be played immediately or at some later date. This would allow students to “test” their spell to ensure it is successful when they would like to play the card. Many of the cards are for “Battles” and I won’t have time to check the spell information so having the spells pre-approved will be important. In fact, that might be a necessary requirement similar to crafting weapons from raw materials in Elder Scrolls Skyrim. Maybe I should create a simple form called “The Enchanted Forge” or something where students can submit their spells. This would be like enchanting a weapon in Skyrim – has to be done before a battle in a certain location. Maybe it could be a public forum, like a Flipgrid, where students can give a thumbs up or down as to the success of the card. Either way the content benefit of the poetry will be gained even if the student never plays the card.

Since most item cards are single use I will have a “successful spells” area on the classroom wall. When played, the spell will be written on the back of the card and then displayed on the wall for all to see. I have another extension. Half baked idea that I will explore in the next post – card combo’s!

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