Open Source Time Corps

It’s Open Source Template Tuesday! Watch the amazing Math Master kick the year off with a bang!


Hi! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! I’m John. And I’m the author of EDrenaline Rush: Game-Changing Student Engagement Inspired by Theme Parks, Mud Runs, and Escape Rooms, a new book from Dave Burgess Consulting. I am RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED to share it with the world! And I truly believe that enthusiasm is infectious — so I love sharing lesson plans, classroom activity walkthroughs, and open source slideshow templates on this site whenever I get the chance.

Because great pedagogy isn’t relegated to any particular subject area. And we don’t teach content. We teach people.

I have a bunch of templates available on this site, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to adapt them to suit the unique needs of your classroom! Regardless of age, content area, or skill level — it is my sincere belief that, in the hands of a great teacher (that’s YOU!), a creative teaching tool or technique can be a total game-changer for any classroom.

So here’s where you come in!

Each week here on the blog, we celebrate OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATE TUESDAY in an effort to help readers get a clearer sense of how adapting shared templates from this site can be super helpful in saving teachers time, effort, and frustration.

Here’s how it works:

    1. For each OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATE TUESDAY, I’ll feature a guest blog from a fellow teacher who’s adapted one of the resources available on this site and used it to change the game in their classroom! I’ll also post an original copy of the template that inspired their lesson so you can see its life cycle in action.
    2. We’ll also feature a guest blog entry from the teacher who adapted each template in their classroom. This is their chance to talk about the tweaks, adjustments, and modifications that they decided to make to the original resource in order to help it be a neater fit in their classroom. It might also help inspire you to take their template (or the original) for a spin in your school! Click any of the links below or check out their Twitter handle to connect further!
    3. In the spirit of OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATES, everything that you’ll see in one of these guest blogs is designed to be shared, customized, and adapted for use in your classroom! Steel sharpens steel, right? And by paying it forward to fellow educators around the globe, the rising tide of #EDrenaline can truly lift all ships — inspiring untold ripple effects of teacher creativity and student engagement around the globe.



The Original Resource:
Gamified Syllabus and related activities from EDrenaline Rush: Game-Changing Student Engagement Inspired by Theme Parks, Mud Runs, and Escape Rooms

Today’s Guest Blogger:

Kathleen Brewer (@EK_Brewer) a fifth grade social studies teacher based in Alabama.

Here’s the Story…

Hi, I’m Kathleen Brewer, a 5th grade social studies teacher at Randolph School in Huntsville, AL.

I can’t remember what spurred me to pick up Michael Matera’s eXPlore Like a Pirate this past May, but the result of that happy act was two-month’s worth of unprecedented professional learning and creative planning as I sought to build a year-long game for my fifth grade social studies students. It was a phenomenal time of exploration, creation, and anticipation, and EDrenaline Rush was a huge part of that new energy.

After 20 years of teaching, I was more excited than ever to meet my new students on August 7.

The first aspect of EDrenaline Rush that grabbed my attention was John’s focus on theme parks, particularly the discussion of weenies. I love the Haunted Mansion — largely because of the experience the rider has while waiting in line. I realized that I needed a way to hook students right from the beginning of the school year. My year-long game involves students becoming members of the Time Corps, a secret national agency akin to the FBI, so I started designing a classroom that might help students embrace their roles within the game.

My father made an incredible clock for me, and my son and boyfriend designed the Time Corps seal that would become a floor decal (because a marble mosaic such as that in the Hoover Building was out of my price range).


Given all of this setup, I realized that I would utterly suck the life out of the game if I were to run students through my usual assortment of beginning of the year activities. Each of them — student survey, writing sample, etc. — was important to me as a teacher, but none of them had significance for the learners in my care. Here’s where EDrenaline Rush came through again. I used John’s survey game to create Time Trial, a series of tests that recruits must pass in order to become cadets at the prestigious-yet-secret Time Corps Academy.


In addition to spicing up the first few days of school for my students, I had some other specific goals:

  1. Fifth graders often start out the year with a go-to strategy of, “Ask the teacher.” I wanted them to learn to depend on themselves and on one another.
  2. Virtually all the supplies students will need are out and accessible in our room; I wanted them to do some exploring, so that they would be able to find materials when they needed to do so.
  3. Collaboration is going to be a vital skill this year; I wanted them to begin learning how to work in small groups.


When students came on Wednesday, I greeted them at the door with letters of congratulations from the Time Corps commander. Students drew cards (the last slide in the Time Trial slide show) to determine which small group they would be part of, and then the game began.

I was fortunate enough to be able to run my idea by a Critical Friends Group before I launched it, and even more fortunate that some of the CFG folks taught my students last year. One suggestion they made was that I could control which center each group started at by having them roll a d10. This fantastic suggestion not only cut down on confusion, but also added a wonderful bit of suspense to that first day.

Many of the stations in Time Trial are simply re-worked versions of activities I have been doing for years. Watching students do them as a team, within the framework of a game, though, made a significant difference. This is definitely the first year that entering fifth-graders were stopping one another so that they could peer edit their paragraphs!

Other stations were new. I’ll need to tweak the sketchnotes activity. It was a little too abstract for many of my students. I got lots of drawings of classrooms, rather than interpretations of what a good class looks, sounds, and feels like. I might be asking Carrie Baughcum (@heckawesome) for some help soon!

The group interview, also new — and straight out of John’s original game, was a BRILLIANT addition. (Thank you, John!) As an introvert, I’m not always good about making quick connections to students (or anyone, really). The group interview provided me with one small group at a time. I can honestly say that I made connections with students who I might never have really “gotten.” I spent 15 minutes in a fascinating conversation with some boys about the benefits of various gaming systems. I got a basketball fanatic to agree to sit with me at the faculty-8th grade basketball game and explain the calls. I learned that one young lady who rarely speaks shares my love for reading and history. I don’t remember everything that every student said to me, but — at three days into the school year — we have begun to build a community, and that is priceless.

Here are my takeaways for using John’s gamified syllabus with younger students, including what I’ll do differently next year:

  1. If you redirect students back to their teammates every time they ask you for help, they really are able to problem-solve. Next time I’m considering giving each group two or three “ask for help” tokens. That way they’ll be even more motivated to solve their own problems before defaulting to me.
  2. When assessing whether a small group has completed a task, don’t be afraid to judge strictly; I got much better results from students later in the game than I did when I was still new to the procedure. I believe that the difference in quality was directly related to the firmness of my expectations.
  3. In direct response to both one and two above, I created a virtual penalty box for my students about a third of the way through the game. (I’m pretty sure I borrowed this idea from EDrenaline Rush, too!) When I could point out to students that they had not followed directions, I issued a two-minute penalty. During the two minutes, I encouraged students to re-read the directions to figure out where they went wrong. Next time, I’ll make this a part of the game from the start, and I’ll include the idea that asking for help without a token will also put teams in the penalty box.
  4. I originally planned for students to have three class periods (2 hours and 45 minutes) to complete the stations. In fact, it’s taking most groups an extra hour. As the gamemaker, I simply explained that I had incredible cosmic powers and was therefore able to extend the time. Next year, I’ll give more time at the outset.
  5. Finally, one of my sections is significantly smaller than the others. I divided them up into four groups anyway, and I wish I hadn’t. They ended up in two groups of three and two pairs. Since excitement is contagious, they really didn’t have enough people to gain traction; the game doesn’t have as much momentum in this block. For the rest of the game, I’ll divide them into three groups.

I am so grateful to John for the inspiration, the shared resources, and the opportunity to share my experience with all of you. Please tweet @EK_Brewer, if you have questions about my adaptation or about how it worked in real time with real students!

Hi all. John here. BLOWN AWAY by the elaborate theming and cohesive attention to detail! Absolutely amazed by Kathleen’s floor sticker — so much so that I just had to follow up with her and see where and how she managed to get this thing made! Turns out there are companies online that specialize in this sort of thing, and their rates are SUPER REASONABLE! For the cost of little more than a few cups of Starbucks coffee, you too can have your very own themed floor decal to help welcome your students into your themed classroom. (Not going to lie — if I weren’t a traveling teacher bouncing between multiple classrooms all day, I would TOTALLY STEAL THIS IDEA!). Absolute home run activity from top to bottom as described in this blog entry, and so grateful that Kathleen took some time to help walk us through her design process to see how the classroom magic was made!

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.

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