Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Explore Like a Pirate Book Study Ch. 7

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:

Matera says that this chapter is a treasure chest full of mechanics ideas and he isn't lying!  It is packed with so much info about the mechanics of game play that can be used in the classroom.  Because the chapter is so long, I have decided to only share a few of the mechanics with you, but there are so much more!

The author warns that not every student will be motivated by every game mechanic.  As discussed in chapter 5 with Player Types, he reminds us that individuals are motivated in different ways. He also reminds us that we don't have to do everything at once.  He suggests picking and choosing only two or three mechanics to start with at the beginning.

Experience Points (XP)

The first mechanic he introduces is experience points which is a unit of measurement in many role-playing games.  Players start the game with little or no Experience Points, and as they proceed through the game they earn more points, and often powerful upgrades.

Matera says that Experience Points can be a wonderful addition to the game, but when used alone, are often useless.  In Matera's class, students earn Experience Points by completing Extra Credit Assignments, and or designated days in class.

He uses three leader boards to track points: individual, house, and group.  He says that this pushes students to help each other to ensure that everyone is contributing to the team score. I really like this idea of teamwork.  


Levels are another mechanic of gaming.  Levels indicate the players' position or rank.  It can also be used to refer to a player's current stage in the game.

Leader boards

As previously stated, the Leader boards are used to show the standings for players or groups. Matera says that he uses leader boards to display a ton of information.  He says that they provide game data necessary for players to make strategic decisions.  Students are motivated by their ranking and work to stay at or near the top.

I have seen evidence of this motivation both in my classroom via Kicking' It Math, and with Marzano Scales, but also in conversations with students about games they play at home.


Matera says that this is just a fancy term for groups.  He places his students in guilds and only changes them four or five times a year.  He says that in real life we don't get to choose our own teammates, and they don't change daily or weekly.  He also believes that this helps them learn how to work together long term.

He often determines group placement randomly (but he gives a few additional ideas).  He does this by having students select a card, and depending on the suit they draw, that is the team they are in.

On boarding

This mechanic is how you get players into your game, and how you familiarize them with the possibilities withing the game.

Matera tells his students that they are on an adventure while he displays a picture of a castle on a screen with epic music playing in the background.  He then launches them in their first house challenge.

I LOVE this idea!

He gives one student a sealed letter with cryptic instructions inside.  Together, they need to figure out this message and unlock its mystery.  He says there are a series of clues, and students have to look up information in their textbooks and on the web to figure out the message.  When they finally do, they are led to open a Google Form where they enter their team information and first see the Leader Board.


Achievements are anything that are unlocked through game play.  They are often badges or items that might relate to the game's theme.  They can also be used to demonstrate mastery.

As I said before, this chapter is just jam packed with ideas and mechanics.  I am really excited to see this in action, especially in seeing the new Pokemon-Go craze!

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