Explore Like a Pirate Book Study: Chapter 6

It's time to dive into another chapter of Michael Matera's Explore Like a Pirate! We are now getting into the nitty gritty of game inspired course design. Thanks again to Rachael for hosting the book study.

I was on vacation last week, so I didn't do a post for Chapter 5, but I really enjoyed reading it! Chapter 5 was about getting to know your "crew," or your students. I can't wait to have my students take the Bartle Test at the beginning of the year to find out how many Achievers, Socializers, Explorers, and Griefers I have! Since I'm looping with some of my 3rd graders from last year, I already have an idea of which categories they will probably fall under.

I found this chart very helpful:

Looking to gamify your classroom? Join our book study as we delve into this new form of teaching that is highly engaging and motivating!

With the chart you can see how each type of player is motivated during game play. I would be an explorer, so my motivation would be exploring the world of the game and interacting with the different elements.

For a deeper exploration of Chapter 5, these ladies all did a great job of explaining it!

On to Chapter 6, we are now "Unpacking the Cargo" and thinking about theme, setting, characters, and action. I really like how Matera lays out the foundation for brainstorming ideas for the story of your game. As I was reading the chapter, I started thinking about how I would explore each "route":

The theme is the frame of the story you are creating. You can use this theme for a lesson, unit, or even the entire year. I have a lot on my plate already, so I plan on starting small. My theme is going to revolve around St. Augustine, which my 4th graders visit every year. I want my students to place themselves in the shoes of the explorers who founded the city, and the soldiers who protected the fort.

As Matera puts it, the setting is where "all parts of the story come together and the players get specific details about the world." The more detailed you become, the more the students can be immersed in the world of the game. I will be focusing on the Castillo de San Marcos, which we will visit at the end of the year as part of our field trip. I want the students to picture the cramped quarters, the daily tasks that had to be completed, the isolation from the world, and the constant attacks. From these experiences I can come up with many activities or mini-games for the students to further explore the content.

It's important to create characters who belong to the game. They can be heroes, villains, or characters that lead the students to side quests or to simply drive the story along. This is a part I'm going to have to sit down and really think about as I plan my unit. Matera provides a lot of brainstorming questions to help you make your characters come to life!

Here's the best part: what are the challenges and obstacles the students will face while taking part in this game? Luckily, I have a lots of rich history to pull from as I create the action for my game. One thing I want to focus on is the construction of the fort. The fort was burned down 7 times before the decision was made to build it out of limestone, or coquina. Since the coquina was able to absorb cannonballs, the fort is still standing 450 years later! I want to task my students with looking at what materials would be available in that time period, and how to effectively build a fort that would stand up to numerous attacks.

I have a feeling my students will really enjoy learning about the history of St. Augustine through gamification. I have a lot more brainstorming to do, but I'm excited to begin planning! See you next week for Chapter 7.

Check out my other book study posts HERE.


  1. I love how you're using a theme that your students will really get to experience this year! It will make it that much more meaningful to them when they get to visit St. Augustine during the year. What a great idea to tie it all together!

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping they will be just as excited about the historical locations as they are about going to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. With the lack of background knowledge many of our students have, it's hard to get them engaged with history sometimes!


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