Progress Monitoring and "Pokemon"? Using RPG to Engage Students in Data

10:08 AM

Okay, I will admit it…I don’t like progress monitoring! Don’t get me wrong, I live for those moments where I have solid data to prove that my instruction is working! That is why I am a teacher. But paperwork, analyzing data for hours, and hearing students whine about “assessments”, is not my idea of a good time. But my attitude changed the day I had a conversation with a friend about progress monitoring with "Pokemon"!

What is Progress Monitoring?

First, let’s make sure we are speaking the same language…what is progress monitoring? Progress monitoring is when teachers, well, monitor progress. It is how we document how well students are benefiting from our classroom instruction. When we go to the doctor, we often leave having scheduled a follow up appointment. This is because the doctor needs to monitor the effectiveness of their prescribed plan of care. As teachers, we also need to monitor the effectiveness of our instructional plan, to identify individual student needs. Progress monitoring is often utilized within the RTI process and targeted towards at-risk students. However, progress monitoring with Pokemon brings high-engagement to the entire class!

Benefits of RPG in the classroom

When administering any trial, it is important to control as many variables as you can. The same is true when using progress monitoring to determine lesson effectiveness. One major variable that we struggle “controlling” with our students is motivation and engagement. Keeping students motivated and engaged helps us have a better idea if the tools and technologies we use are effective. If only there was a system where they were wanting to catch every objective, organize and focus their learning, and “level up” their current skills…sound familiar. Pokemon’ is a Role-playing game (RPG), a situation in which players take on the role of a fictitious character on a quest. Along their quest characters make decisions which develop their character. RPG games have proven to be engaging and highly addictive, creating a fantasy where every decision brings a new adventure. Just look at the high success rate of famous RPG games like Pokemon, Fable, Kingdom Hearts, Star Wars, Super Mario Brothers, and the Final Fantasy franchise. The wildly successful Prodigy Math game even brought RPG into the math classroom! As teachers, we can capitalize on this excitement and marry its benefits with progress monitoring. Here are a few thing sto consider when bringing RPG into the classroom:

Create your character

(Character customization from Prodigy Math Game)

An essential role to an RPG game is the role-playing! In an RPG game the players have a role, and are often given the opportunity to customize the look and/or name of their character. This step is not essential to using RPG for progress monitoring, however it provides a creative addition if time allows. You can also embed content into this step. For example, create a set of glyph directions where students choose their characteristics to develop their character.  (For an example see Geometry Monster GlyphsFREEBIE )

Set up the Quest/World Map

(World Map from Prodigy Math Game)

Every RPG game involves a quest: What are the characters trying to accomplish? How many levels/worlds/challenges will they have to complete it?  When using RPG in progress monitoring, this step should include student and/or classroom goals/objectives? These goals can include content, behavior, and/or classroom management. Once you have decided your goals and objectives, consider creating a visual that can be used to display progression and focus learning.

Example: Use Pokemon as a RPG progress monitoring tool.
Each goal is a different Pokemon, visual shows students how they can capture each Pokemon

Create a Journal to chart progress

Example: Students can create a Pokedex to chart which goals they have achieved)

When progress monitoring it is important to be able to quickly determine how students are performing relative to the instruction given. This involves being able to chart student growth and data, a process that can lead to burnout among students. However, in a RPG setting the characters often have access to a journal. At any time, the character can use the journal to see what weapons and skills they possess to help complete the upcoming challenges. When bringing RPG into the classroom, provide students with a journal they can use to chart their progress. The journal should include space for the student to describe/write the goal and mark when the goal has been achieved. 

Reward Growth

Make sure to take the time to celebrate success! When playing an RPG game, payers gain points, stars, coins, level ups, costume changes, etc. to reward them for defeating enemies and completing challenges. This same system can be brought into the classroom to reward students for accomplishing goals. These rewards should range in value, however there needs to be clear steps to determine how rewards are attained. Rewards can also be differentiated according to the difficulty level of the goal.
(Check out these FREE classroom reward coupons!)

Create Opportunities to “level ups” and “Mini challenges”

One reason that RPG games are so addictive is the constant opportunity for improvement. Even if you have completed each task, you can keep playing to “level up” your characters. As we are using RPG to monitor student progress consider how their skills can be “leveled up.” Look for standards which are “extensions” (For example, adding and subtracting within 1000 is an extension of adding and subtracting within 100) and provide these as an opportunity to level up. This allows students to see connections and progressions in what they are learning.  

RPG games also often offer special side challenges and games that characters can add to their journal. We can mimic this in the classroom by providing special challenges and problem solving opportunities. These can be used as special badges/honors to be earned and placed in their journal.

Get started on your RPG Classroom!

With a little creativity, we can bring engaging RPG elements into our classrooms, and use their benefits for student success. RPG games provide a platform where players make decisions which lead them to becoming stronger and more experienced. Players can also see how their level of experience and set of skills directly effects their ability to complete tasks. As teachers, this is the power we want our students. This is the environment that can be created by bringing RPG elements into the classroom!

If you would like help in bringing RPG elements into your classroom, please feel free to contact me at!

I would love to add your examples to this post! Please let me know how you bring RPG in the classroom in the comments below. Or email examples and pictures to!

by Creative Nerd

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