Classroom games for special education

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by Ann Kohler
@MIDAkohler

Ann Kohler

Ann Kohler

With summer break over, its time for teachers to start thinking about the new school year ahead of them. Once back in the classroom I personally like to think about which new games I want to try to test, implement, use, or toss. Over the summer I try to locate and investigate new games for my classroom so that when I return in the fall I have a list to start working with. This summer was no different, and I arrived back in my classroom with five names at the top of my list. I will review three of them today.

Those three game platforms are Prodigy Math, Classcraft and Words with Friends Edu (which my class is Beta Testing).

Prodigy Math

Prodigy can be found at http://www.prodigygame.com and is a web-based math game that has lots of free content for educators. It also has a premium level that can be purchased if you want more bells and whistles and more cool stuff for your student’s avatars, animals and dragons, etc. The cost of the premium level for teachers is $12/year per child with a 30 child minimum. I thought that was a great price, but I need a much smaller minimum. But if you have school, district or other funds I think it would be money well spent. Prodigy is Common Core aligned for grades 1 through 8 and is self-adapting to each student’s pace of learning. It has teacher and parent reporting and custom assignment ability so you can easily differentiate homework or classwork based on each students individual needs.

prodigy dashboard

Prodigy Math offers many tools for classroom management.

On the Prodigy website it says that you can get “up and running in under 2 minutes” and I would agree with that. Once you sign up you are given a class code. From this point you can enter your student rosters yourself or just give them the class code and they use that when they enter the site. The site is easy to navigate and when your students first log on they are given an assessment test that places them into the correct grade level for them. You can also assign lessons for students to complete in school or at home and it will even track the number of problems completed at home vs. school making it easier to keep up with assignments. Their reports have a great “at a glance” format that makes it fast and easy for the teacher to see exactly which student is struggling in each specific area of their assigned work. So far I really like this game and so do my students. Here is some feedback directly from my students when asked how and what they like about the game.

“We like it because you get to battle people and you are able to level up as you answer questions correctly. We like picking our avatar, catching animals and getting our animals to morph as they level up. We would like to be able to battle other people (classmates or other kids playing like Sumdog does) which would be really fun too. ”

Prodigy Math has a World of Warcraft-type quest interface

Prodigy Math has a World of Warcraft-type quest interface

 

Much of Prodigy Math activity consists of answering questions

Much of Prodigy Math activity consists of answering questions

prodigy5

Prodigy Math uses gamification (points, levels, etc.) to motivate students

Classcraft

Classcraft is a classroom management tool designed to modify student behavior. It contains no educational content but the teacher can add content.

Classcraft is a classroom management tool designed to modify student behavior. It contains no educational content but the teacher can add content.

Next up is Classcraft which is a sort of World of Warcraft meets the classroom. It can be found at http://www.classcraft.com and says in their overview that “Classcraft is a free online, educational role-playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom. By using many of the conventions traditionally found in games today, students can level up, work in teams, and earn powers that have real-world consequences. Acting as a gamification layer around any existing curriculum, the game transforms the way a class is experienced throughout the school year.”

I am just getting started this week with this and we are doing this game as a class on the whiteboard at first but my students are itching to get started themselves so they can build their avatars and earn leveling points, etc.
Classcraft also has a tiered pricing scheme that starts with free and moves up from there. Their fees seem very affordable to me. They do offer free months for referrals and teachers can get discounts for joining as a group of 3 or more. I have had to ask a number of questions about game use and the support staff has been fabulous. Very quick response time (almost immediate), friendly and easy to work with. This is a game that is added “around” your curriculum as a reinforcer and support. Take some time and check it out, read the testimonials (especially the special ed. teacher’s experiences) and see if this might be something you could use in your room this year.

Also, in this game, it appears that the teacher can play with your students similar to MIT’s Radix Endeavor, and that is a great learning experience for everyone. You will learn as much or more from your students as they will from you.

Words with Friends Edu

A "big screen" educational version of the Words with Friends game is coming soon.

A “big screen” educational version of the Words with Friends game is coming soon.

Words With Friends Edu is a web-based version of the popular app of the same name. They just officially started this Beta test this past week and my students are supposed to go on and play the game at least two times per week. However, since I showed them how to log on, they have walked in and asked “Are we playing that word game today?” every morning.

It’s like an online scrabble game that students in the same class can play with/against each other. They can play in teams or one-on-one, but no matter how they play, they get fully engaged and don’t want to stop. This is a great way to enrich your student’s vocabulary with a game they play anytime, anywhere there is Internet. You could even assign playing against a classmate as homework or for study skills.

I am using it as enrichment for ELA in my room and everyone that sees it wants to play. I will let SpecialEdTech know when it goes live for everyone, but I wanted to make teachers aware that this is on the horizon for their classrooms. It’s another good tool to have in our edtech toolbox and you can have your students download the app and begin practicing for the “big screen” today.

Ann Kohler is a special educator in Forsyth County, Georgia teaching in a BYOD school. In 2013 she completed her Master’s Degree for Technology in Curriculum and Instruction. She received the 2013 Tools for Life Assistive Technology Innovation Award from www.gatfl.gatech.edu, was an honorable mention in Tech and Learning Leader’s of the Year 2013 for Innovation and was one of the 100 PBS LearningMedia 2014 Digital Innovators in the United States. She is currently working on her blog/website www.edtechnow.com. You can reach her via Twitter @MIDAkohler.

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