What Fantasy Football Can Teach Teachers Essay

The start of the NFL season this weekend brings about the start of Fantasy Football. The growth in popularity of fantasy sports has been insane. More than 50 million adults play in fantasy sports leagues, the majority of those being football. 

Fantasy Football started back in 1962 in Oakland, when some die hard football fans decided that games on Sunday just weren’t enough. Presumably, that was a time when the Raiders weren’t horrible (if so, that era is well before this author’s lifetime). 

What started as a bunch of guys in bars spread all over the country. Now it’s a $70 billion plus industry that makes millions of Americans care about games they wouldn’t otherwise. And that’s what teachers can learn from. 

People love games. They hit our brain in all the right ways with the feedback and rewards. They can make us care about things we didn’t before. And that’s what this teacher figured out (this article is a must read). Tired of boring his kids with current events, he made it a game. Students drafted countries, and earned points each time they were mentioned in the news. Soon kids were doing what I do every Monday morning with football, scanning the news for tips, hints and ideas that could help them when.

Gamifying doesn’t have to be complex. There are a thousand small tweaks we can make to our lessons to make them fun. Here are a few:

Simulations: This one is my personal favorite. Take history, insert student. Competing with other Mongol states for control of the Silk Road is much more fun than reading about it. These can take some time to create, but my eBook teaches you how, or you can check out some simulations I made that you could use today.

Chopped/Shark Tank: Turn that group project into a competition a la Chopped or Shark Tank. To spice up my geography projects I sometimes turn them into competitions. My favorite prompt from last year: Zombies have taken over the world, argue why your geographical feature is the best place for humanity’s last stand. 

Races: I do this with things that can be otherwise boring, like Latitude and Longitude. As a warmer I’ll put 4 cities up on the board, and the first group to get them all correct wins a point. It’s amazing the level of participation you get!

Create a Game: Why should you do all the hard work of gamification? Let the students gamify! This is a great way to review a unit. If you want more tips you can check out my blog post on student led gamification. 

Level Up/Track Progress: A former colleague of mine made his math class into a role playing game. Students created a character, earned “experience” through mastering standards, and gained levels and bonuses. Kids loved it. 

My class tracks their progress on our learning goals on a board in the back of my room. Each kid created a “Mii”, and they move their character along as they achieve mastery in different areas. 

It’s a little thing, but kids love it. 

High School
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