In enhancing the Wasted Minutes™️ language review tools with gamification options, we've made the following choices:

  • A simple multiple-choice format with no visible timer
  • A scoring system that works in concert with the spaced repetition algorithm
  • Anonymous class rankings
  • Teams
  • Daily, weekly and cumulative leader boards
  • Only good news

The ultimate goal of classroom gamification is to encourage deeper engagement and learning.

Simple Multiple-Choice Format

Complicated games require the student to focus on the rules of the game. This then becomes a distraction from the actual vocabulary review.

Intense, timed games can definitely create an adrenaline rush, but adrenaline itself interferes with memorization. Even a timer ticking away on the screen creates an urgency that can rush students into forgetting what they should know.

Decision: We've chosen a simple multiple-choice question format with a clock and score that only update after the question is answered.

Scoring System

Perhaps the only tradition older than playing games is trying to game the system. Since each question earns points and spaced repetition means higher level questions take longer to reach, it is tempting to simply add lots of new vocabulary to rack up points.

Decision: Our spaced-repetition algorithm and scoring system complement each other to even out the scoring and provide more points to higher level questions.

Anonymous Class Rankings

Public class rankings where all students' names and scores are visible provide motivation for the best students, although perhaps not for the right reasons. However, public rankings are a strong disincentive for average students who know that they will never be at the top.

Decision: Implement anonymous rankings where students can see their own rank and trends but not other students' scores.


Grouping students into teams is another way to side-step the problem of average students being discouraged by the accolades provided to individual students at the top of the rankings.

Decision: Enable public team rankings where all students can see how their team matches up with the others.

Multiple Rankings

More competitive students will often try to get to the top of the rankings early in hopes of coasting a bit later in the semester. Other students can get discouraged feeling like there is no way to catch up.

Decision: Create daily and weekly as well as semester class ranks. With a little effort any student can be top of the list if only for a day. Weekly ranks make sure students put in as much effort at the end of a semester as they did at the beginning.

Only Good News

Students frequently complain that Chinese is sooooo hard to learn. Wasted Minutes™️ is designed to emphasize positive accomplishments, not the challenges of the language.

There are no trick questions - students should know the answer to every question they are asked. Class rankings are based on time studied, points earned and correct answers. It's not even possible for a student to figure out how many questions they might have missed last week.


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