Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate Book Study Ch. 5

Today I am linking up with Sweet Sweet Primary for our book study of Michael Matera's book Explore Like a Pirate.  Join us each Tuesday as we share our takeaways from this book that is all about engaging your students.   If you missed my previous posts you can find them here:

This chapter is all about getting to know your crew (A.K.A. your students).  Just as it is crucial for a captain of a ship to know all about his crew in order to have a successful voyage or expedition, it is also crucial for a teacher to know all about his/her students in order to have a successful school year.  

Player Type Theory

Matera provides several tools in this chapter to help you get to know your students better.  The first tool is an introduction to player type theory.  I'll be honest, when I first read this paragraph my eyes wanted to glaze over a bit - you know the way they do when a student chats incessantly about Minecraft for hours on end?  But, I re-framed it and thought of it more like personality types since I am so not a gamer myself.

There are 4 basic gamer types:

Killers (or griefers) - yeah I'm not a fan of this name either.

I found this chart at Hooptap that really explained it well.  I like that it explains that killers aren't necessarily out to kill, but they LOVE competition.  I have definitely had a few kiddos who fit into this category!  

Elements of Game-Inspired Course Design

The next tool isn't exactly about knowing your students per se, but is rather about the elements that can be used in game based learning. Matera uses Jin Radoff's four key components of gaming. These are:


Immersion is all about setting the stage for the students to learn. What is the story you are telling them? What problem are they going to solve.  This is where you engage them into your lesson.

Achievement This category is all about mastery, and giving students the opportunity to learn and practice new skills.  In the classroom we want to encourage repeated attempts, thereby giving the student opportunity to master a skill. However, we don't want to be punitive in the process.

Cooperation is self-explanatory and probably something you are already doing in your classroom.  When students work in partners or groups, they are learning skills beyond the curriculum content including: communication, planning, negotiation, and empathy. Matera says that cooperative learning experiences appeal to both your socializers and your explorers.

Competition on the other hand appeals to your achievers and your killers.  Matera says that competition can be a great way to help your students bond as a group and give way for more authentic collaboration.  Just like a school sports team, students bond over their competitive experience and help each other at the same time.

SAPS Model

Matera introduces another gaming model, this one developed by Gabe Zichermann.  SAPS stands for Status, Access, Power, and Stuff.

Matera says that as teachers, we have gotten into a habit of stomping out all displays of status in the classroom.  We want everyone to feel good about themselves and feel like winners instead of losers.  While this has good intent behind it, Matera says he has seen students stretch and surprise themselves when they are acknowledged in front of their peers.

I definitely agree with this premise.  I have seen it in my own classroom with my Kicking It Math Facts program - my students LOVE the challenge of moving up levels and never seem upset when other students move ahead of them.  In fact, they cheer each other on and ask if they can practice during the day to help their classmates move levels.

People love feeling as if they are part of something special, particularly when that access is based on conditions or accomplishments. What special items or privileges could you give students as they master tasks?

All game players want to have some sort of power or strength they can use within a game.  Choice (of partner or task) can be a great way to incorporate gaming into your lessons.

This doesn't have to be tangible.  Students love collecting items that can be used in their challenges.  Think of ways your students can earn power cards, or cheat codes.

Although this chapter was definitely filled with lots of gamer speak, I definitely feel like it has my wheels turning in my brain trying to think of ways to incorporate all of the elements!  

I would love to hear what ideas you have if you are reading this book as well!  


  1. I love your Kicking It Math Facts Program! What a great way motivate students to learn their math facts. I think Matera is taking those smaller things we do like this and pulling them all together into one cohesive program. And I'm with you on the "killers." Not my favorite term, but I get what he's saying. Thanks for linking up!

  2. I'm with you - I am so not a gamer! I wasn't super excited about this chapter at the beginning, but I found it interesting. I imagine that I would be an "achiever" if I was a gamer, so I never had considered other gamer types. I thought that all students would be motivated by being at the top of the class, so I'm glad this chapter cleared that up!


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