Yesterday I talked briefly about the types of activities that typically go into the "Understanding" portion of a given unit. The Understanding section of the QUEST model (Questions, Understanding, Explore, Synthesis, Test) involves teaching students things they don't know that they don't know. Once students have completed these tasks, they move on to "Explore"...easily one of the most challenging portions of any English class.
The reason "Explore" is so challenging is because this is where the student has to read. Reading is a key portion of any class and try as we might, there's really no substitute for it. Videos are great, Sparknotes will give you the gist, but there has yet to be a better way of absorbing the content than reading. That being said, reading is challenging. It's at this stage in the QUEST that students are most intimidated. They have a bit of knowledge from "Understanding", but they still head into this story/poem/novel with a lot of work ahead of them.
"Explore" is the time when students need scaffolding to work through the text, which can be manifested in many ways. I should also note that none of these methods are new, nor are they unique to a Gamified class, in fact most teachers do these everyday. The difference is that while most classes require one method, Gamification aims to offer choice. Here's an example: When students read The Hobbit in my class, they have several options. They can choose to read independently and answer discussion board questions while they read, or they can choose lit circles. Discussion board questions lets them read and interact, but they don't need to be in close personal contact with others and they can be more thoughtful with their answers. Literature Circles allow for more spontaneity and perhaps richer conversion, but lack a writing elements. Regardless, both serve as a way for students to interact and demonstrate understanding of the reading. In fact, the choice makes students far more willing to complete a specific task. If you're doing a small group discussion because you want to rather than being forced, the discussion will be much more real and lead to higher levels of understanding.
"Explore" from the teacher perspective, is all about giving students the tools they need to interact with the material on their own. Sometimes they don't do it quite the way we imagine, but as long as they demonstrate mastery and make it to other side, they're fine. Just like understanding, Explore assignments are formative. It's not about "right" and "wrong", but progress. The following two stages are where students will truly need to step up to the plate and show what they've learned...