Text Quest: Scoresheets and Medal Ceremonies

The grand finale of our week-long look at how to gamify any unit!

Don’t get overwhelmed. Yes, the scoresheet above looks *SUPER COMPLICATED* — but I promise: it’s a game-changing pedagogical tool that takes less than ten minutes to master, and I’m right here to walk you through how to use it at every step of the way.

A brief recap:

A typical Text Quest lesson plan features three distinct activities. Moving through each day with a game-inspired twist on traditional “I Do, We Do, You Do” style instruction, classes unfold like so:

  • I DO” – Teacher offers a single warm up prompt question. Student teams discuss the topic in desk groups, then strategize with their teammates and roll dice to make their text-inspired decision. The hugest rolling team gets the first choice for the day’s…
  • WE DO” – Students take part in a timed annotation exercise (“#Hashtag Hunt”) — working with their teammates to dig through the text to find as many examples of their chosen look for item as they can before time expires. And when the countdown clock reaches zero, it’s time for our daily…
  • YOU DO” – A good old-fashioned Socratic Seminar, in which students incorporate everything that they had recapped from the warm up with everything their team had collected during the timed annotation in order to make clearer sense of deeper thematic analysis and more probing Higher Order Thinking questions.

Still with me?

Awesomeness. Because if you’re able to follow the three steps outlined in the pedagogy above, the hard part is over! From here, it’s just a clever bit of window dressing and the chance to inject some game-inspired creativity to a traditional scoring rubric.

Let’s look at scoring each phase step by step.

Dice Roll Warm Up: This daily content recap activity is super low level Bloom’s (remembering and understanding). Accordingly, the dice roll game is more luck than strategy (and no skill to speak of), and so it wraps up with a “quick win” to boost students’ confidence as they prepare to set sail through the day’s annotations and discussions. Accordingly, students will write their dice roll total in the appropriate circle after each day’s warm up as shown below here in blue:

It’s a devious little sleight of hand from a teaching perspective, because this luck-based warm-up activity will subconsciously “fool” more than a few students into thinking that they are somehow gaming the system. You’re starting each class off with a textbook example of beginners luck! After all, students can “win” the dice roll without ever reading a single word from your assigned text — and the warm-up prompt practically tells them exactly what happened in the previous night’s reading. But to borrow an oft-quoted line from Doug Lemov’s master text of educational philosophy, Teach Like a Champion:


“The reward for correct answers in my classroom will be harder questions.”

Ok then. So the warm up is in the books as the instant winner is recognized on the spot for having achieved the highest dice roll. At this point, your “winning” team is awarded with their choice first pick of centers (#Hashtag Hunt) for the day. And so one by one in descending order according to dice roll totals from the warm-up, student groups take turns selecting their individual “look for” hashtag station for the day. They will then record their selections in the squares located on the top left of their score sheets like so:

Keeping track of what a team is looking for helps them get a feel for what trends they’re seeing (and when they’re seeing it), and it likewise provides the teacher with a quick glance into trends for certain stations that may be getting more or less attention over time than others. This allows you tremendous insight when deciding which centers to “boobytrap” for subsequent classes with scoring penalties, and which centers you might consider “sweetening” based on their relative lack of activity. Supply and demand 101: popular centers should come equipped with higher price tags (boobytraps) while hidden incentives will help pull groups attention to the less popular topics. And just like that, your students are taking part in a mid-level Bloom’s annotation activity (application and analysis) that’s part luck, part strategy, and an increasingly big part skill.

For scoring purposes, each team’s #Hashtag Hunt is collected at the end of the day’s class and vetted each night for the following day’s in-class medal ceremony. This allows me to do a quality control check on each team’s submitted work (making sure they’re including things like page numbers, complete sentences, etc.). The following day’s medal ceremony is where the winners are announced, and teams can likewise use the tiny square boxes alongside the “DAY 1” and “DAY 2” labels alongside the daily dice roll circles to keep track of how well they’ve done.


To close out the day, the two teams with the lowest #Hashtag Hunt scores from Day 1 will be the first two teams in the following day’s “inner circle” Socratic Seminar — which gives the two teams who worked the hardest on the Day 1 #Hashtag Hunt the (slight) advantage of sitting out the typically higher pressure first round of the seminar.

But again — the reward for correct answers is always harder questions. And so as the teacher, you can absolutely feel free to ramp up the difficulty of the prompt question for the second round of the following day’s seminar, using the equity quotient as reported by the auto-calculating Equity Maps iPad app for each team’s seminar score, like so:

The beauty of the Seminar Showdown? All data is collected in real time as a team takes part in the dialogue using the Equity Maps app on the iPad. Highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (evaluating and creating). All skill and no luck. And all data is then presented back to the class at the start of the following day’s seminar. Doing so helps to add a third “win state” to the daily game, and gives students easy to read motivation to work *that much harder* on the next day’s seminar since it will immediately follow the presentation of results from the previous day’s data.

In the end we tally EVERYTHING from EVERY DAY together for the mega-Mama FINAL SCORE for each team. Multiplying total amount rolled over all day’s by total number of success rolls, then adding in # of hashtags found (+/- hidden bonuses), and daily Socratic Seminar totals, PLUS additional awards for top finisher medals (10x each first place finish, 5x each second place finish).

The team with the highest overall score is declared the “winner” — and if you’re still looking for something else to grade? Use your best judgment, but you can certainly feel free to work backwards from your top-performing team’s score and curve the other team’s grades according to how far off the leading squad they’ve performed overall.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

7 thoughts

  1. John, I’m just loving reading through these posts and the planning (and visual design) of these Text Quest units. I’m so anxious to get done with my coaching seasons so I can apply some of these ideas to my own teaching!

    1. Thanks so much, Melissa! I’m flattered and overjoyed to hear that you dig it! Please feel free to drop me a line via email or Twitter DM and I will be more than happy to brainstorm further and get you copies of anything that you might need!

  2. John,

    You have done an amazing job with this and I am so glad you have shared your work with the world. Your passion and enthusiasm for adding game elements is so awesome. I am proud to call you a friend, and I am honored to call you a teacher of mine. Thanks for all the inspiration and knowledge you share!

    Can’t wait to connect again brother!

    1. Sincere thanks for your kind words of support, Michael. You are, without question, a master of your craft and an inspiration to teachers around the world. This means so much coming from you! Let’s connect and podcast soon, yes?

    1. Thank you! Everything you see here is just a series of boxes, circles, and word art created entirely in Google Slides. No fancy software needed! Just a close attention to detail and a little bit of time 🤓

      Icons are freebies from TheNounProject.com (though I choose to pay for an annual subscription since I use the site so frequently, there are millions of icons available on the site! All free with attribution). Super easy once you get the hang of it!

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