One teacher's journey through
Side Quests are exactly what they sound like; they are assignments students complete besides their course work. side quests allow students to voluntarily explore the content they are most interested in and create projects to show their knowledge. Students earn XP and items in return for their efforts. The bigger the challenge the side quest provides, the greater the rewards!
Michael Matera introduced the idea of side quests to me in his blog. Now he has a whole section about them in his book, Explore Like a PIRATE, about different side quests he has his students complete. When I first read about side quests I was surprised that students would be willing to complete these amazing projects for absolutely zero credit for their grade. It honestly seemed a little too good to be true. I wondered if students would seriously be willing to do extra work for no credit, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that students not only are willing to do this, but many create absolutely amazing things to earn items and XP!
Not all students in your class will complete side quests and that is okay! Focus on how rewarding it is for the students who do complete them! Anything that gets most of your students to spend their free time engaging in your content is a win! Make sure you differentiate the types of side quests you have posted, so you can try to reach as many students as possible! Try to have some lower level side quests like creating bumper stickers for students that want to be involved, but maybe don't have the time to build the whole city of Rome. At the same time, don't forget about students who are high achievers and want a challenge! Hide some secret side quests in your room or on the website for them to find. Have some side quests that require a lot of research and time such as creating a documentary or building an ancient city in Minecraft.
Another important tip about side quests is that you should try to reward students quickly for their efforts. I really try to assess student work the day they turn in the side quest if it is possible, otherwise, I always make sure I give student rewards by the end of the week. Rewarding them quickly is important because it reinforces that you appreciate the student taking the time to create this extra project! It also helps if you give the reward to the student at the beginning of the class so other students can see what they earned. If it is a good item, I guarantee you will receive more side quests from other students in the class that week!
Here are some pictures of some of my favorite physical side quests I've received! I've also received a lot of digital ones, but unfortunately I'm not able to share those on here. What do you guys like to have students do for side quests in your class? Share your ideas in the comment section!
I am a passionate teacher from Maryland! I've been teaching social studies for four years, three of which were gamified. I've fully embraced the Teach Like a PIRATE/ Explore Like a PIRATE philosophy in my classroom, and have seen amazing results as far as engagement, excitement, and learning in my classroom.