How to Turn Homework into a Game So Students Want to Do It

Wish I had this as a kid.

While working with a middle school literacy coach recently, we talked about how to make homework more meaningful to their humanities classes. When teachers assigned reading, students would often not do it. Plus, the teachers felt homework was challenging for them to assess efficiently in class. How do you make homework easier, fun, and valuable for students and teachers?

Our solutions is called Homework XP. All we did was turn the whole nature of homework into a game (borrowing some principles from game theory). First, students don’t have to do homework; they choose when they do it. Second, students can choose from a range of “quests” at any time to do. Each quest is carefully written to be relevant to the content-area (in this case humanities), generic enough so it can be done many times, and emphasizes connecting what is done in class to what students experience at home. After all, if it is home-work it should honor the fact that home and school are quite different experiences. Finally, all students have 0 homework XP (experience points) to start and can earn as many as they want throughout a marking quarter. No limit.

What do these Homework XP quests look like? Each quest has a slip printed on a unique color paper with instructions and room to write about a paragraph. The teacher places the slips in a designated place in the classroom labeled Homework XP. Students take a half-sheet of paper slip home and complete the quest based on the instructions. Quests are pre-labeled with point values. Students bring them back when ready (I recommend having a Homework XP bin set up) to redeem their points. Here are a few examples:

Music to My Ears (3 XP)

Copy down a phrase or line from a song you heard that relates to a book you are reading. Include a brief explanation of how the article relates to what we are studying in class.

Interview (4 XP)

Talk with a member of your family or community about what we are reading and write a brief summary of their insights and questions.

Like On TV (3 XP)

Describe a connection you observed between a television show or movie and what we are reading and discussing in class.

Me, My Selfie, and I (5 XP)

Share a selfie of you at a museum, arts, or community event, including a connection you make between the event and the books you are reading for class. Email me the selfie.

If you adopt or adapt Homework XP for your classroom, please let me know. I’d love to know how it works for other teachers and students. You can tell me here in the comments or via Facebook, InstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn.

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