Have you ever stood in front of your class presenting an action-filled lesson only to feel like your students were more interested in their toys and life outside of school?
So often the aspects of life that excite children the most are banned or excluded from the school curriculum. What would happen to our classrooms and the engagement levels of our students if we turn toys into learning tools? When I look inside the bags my daughters carry around with them everywhere I see their digital camera, Nintendo DS, phone, Webkinz pets, and an iPod. This made me ponder this idea: what if I could harness the enthusiasm kids have for their toys and turn them into learning tools?
As I was listening to my daughters play online one day I realized that the games they were playing weren’t all arcade games but many are educational! Imagine that! Kids are raving about something that is actually educational too! I knew I needed to find out more.
If you aren’t familiar with Webkinz pets, they are stuffed animals that come with an access code attached. You visit the Webkinz webpage and adopt your pet which gives you a virtual, animated pet identical to your stuffed animal. You must care for the health, hunger, and happiness of your pets. Within the world of Webkinz there is an extensive economy built around KinzCash. With the Kinzcash you earn from playing games you can purchase all kinds of items along with the food that your pet requires. If you aren’t familiar with the world of Webkinz, ask any eight to ten-year-old child to give you a guided tour. Children are experts and usually very excited to teach something to an adult.
So I started asking kids what they would think about participating in some Webkinz-based activities during school. The faces of children were lighting up around me (which is every educator’s desire, right?) and this clearly showed me that students would be excited to learn through these activities.
I began to create activities based on the world of Webkinz. Many of the activities could be utilized during literacy work stations. Whether children are building words in Quizzy’s Word World, answering questions in Quizzy’s Questions, creating a play with their pets, practicing math facts and typing, graphing their pet’s hunger, growing plants in their gardens, mapping their house, or keeping track of their kinzcash, they would be learning!
Adopting classroom pets is an excellent way to begin using Webkinz pets in your classroom. In many cases, you will find that almost every child in your class probably has at least one Webkinz pet of their own. I have surveyed class after class of children and it is not easy to find a child that doesn’t have at least one pet until you reach some sixth grade boys. Even then, the activities are good for that age group and beyond, so you may need a couple pets with unique logins for those students to use. I’ve even heard of high-school classes using Quizzy’s Questions and Quizzy’s Word World.
Amazingly, there are many adults who find themselves addicted to the world of Webkinz. So, if this is possible, there must be activities to engage students of all ages. I have played many of the games and can’t even come close to the high scores, indicating to me that there are more than just children playing! I wonder if these adults have the stuffed animal sitting on their lap while they play like my daughters often do!
How will it change your enthusiasm for teaching if your students are eagerly awaiting the start of every school day?