For most teachers, springtime means that state assessments are right around the corner. I teach 8th Grade Science, so my students will be taking a test to assess all of their science learning for the past 3 years! Unfortunately, spring can also mean that students start to get antsy, overwhelmed, and burned out. Not a great combination for trying to keep students engaged and learning. We have tons of material to review and synthesize together, so we teachers have to find new ways to keep our students’ attention and excitement.
I’ve integrated games and instant response activities before, but I had been hearing a lot about Kahoot lately. I decided to give it a try as we were finishing a unit on ecology and living organisms. Kahoot is a free game-based learning tool that can be accessed on any web device. I liked it because I was able to create, edit, and run my game using my laptop or my iPad. The creation tool was really simple to use, and I was able to easily upload diagrams and pictures for my students to analyze. In one afternoon, I was able to create a 22-question review activity and share it with the other teachers on my team.
When it came time to try the game in class, things ran very smoothly. I did not have to pre-load any rosters or create student accounts – they simply accessed the kahoot.it site by clicking on a quick-link I added to the home screen of our department iPads. Students worked in pairs, and all they had to do was enter a 4-digit game pin, then type in their names to keep track of their answers. The activity was teacher-paced, and all students answered the questions at the same time. They earn points (or Kahoots) by correctly answering the questions as quickly as possible. I especially appreciated that the system allowed students a few seconds to read the question before the answer choices were given or the count-down clock started – it helped keep everyone on an even-playing field. While the students are thinking, fun background music and sound effects play to create sense of urgency. After each question, the program gives the correct answer and then displays a bar graph to show how student answers were distributed. The results were anonymous for the whole group so that no one got singled out for a right or wrong answer. Before moving to the next question, a leader board flashes across the screen and on the student devices. At the end of the game, I was able to easily download all the data I could want (item analysis, individual student performance, etc.) into an Excel spreadsheet.
Using Kahoot with my classes was fun – the students loved the competition, and one of my more reluctant classes was much more willing to participate and really try to get things right. I’ve used response systems like Socrative and InfuseLearning before, but I really like the competitive game-based environment. I would highly recommend giving it a try in your classroom – or even staff development session!