Badges?

Yeah, it’s pretty obvious. I list toward Blazing Saddles as a cultural touchpoint for the unnecessary nature of stinkin’ badges, but it comes, apparently, from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I feel a little like someone must feel when they find out that the inspirational sayings so often misattributed to world leaders in fact are, rather obviously, misattributed.

Even so, I made badges.

Last year, my AP Literature and Composition course lacked fun. I’m not sure these badges are fun, exactly, but they could be a bridge to engagement. I think they’re definitely not an “addictive learning experience,” but they could be a tool for improving the learning community in the class or beyond. Today I even invited the entire faculty to partake in an Infinite School Year, which doesn’t mean a year of eight Februaries (teacher joke!). The deal for kids with these badges is that they offer a choice of doing something I believe is important in return for a reward that they value. All the students must complete one badge per semester. After the first badge, students get a grade boost per completed badge up to two more per semester, the criteria for which is laid out in a rubric for each badge. The rubrics are far from perfect, as is the lame grade connection. Also, the choice is limited. I can imagine offering a Mystery Badge that allows a kid to design a project, or others like a Context Builder Badge that prioritizes historical research behind a novel like Slaughterhouse Five or Beloved. However, it’s a start.

Toward what? I’d like to establish a different dynamic in this course. I feel compelled, of course, to provide a curriculum based on the AP Lit exam, which often feels like a walled garden. To that end, project based learning is quite difficult to design – or at least it’s hard for me to design. I wonder if these badge projects that give kids an opportunity to boost a grade are classic lipstick on a… not a pig, per se, but maybe a golden retriever?  Lipstick on a golden retriever. Or is this a step toward meaningful projects in this course?

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