Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2016


Track behavior, motivate students with clever, cooperative game

Subjects & skills

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Teachers say (29 Reviews)

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Pros: Instant feedback and accountability encourage students to act responsibly.

Cons: Depending on how it's set up, the experience could be more punitive than supportive.

Bottom Line: Classcraft is on its way to becoming the top destination for motivating good student behavior in classrooms receptive to the game-based premise.

Teachers can, and should, make the program their own -- adapting the experience to suit their own classrooms, changing things such as the number of experience points it takes to level up, events, powers, and rewards. Unfortunately, not every power is modifiable, but the vast majority are. This will also help transform the tool into a more motivational tool rather than a punitive one, as some of the stock suggestions may seem outmoded and not in line with more modern notions of classroom management and positive reinforcement.

Teachers should note that some of the preset powers and events may cause social strife, especially among younger students. Make sure to take a close look, think it through, and modify as necessary. For example, some of the optional random events include suggestions such as, "If no one loses hit points today, the whole class gains 500 XP." Although that may work well in some classrooms, others may target the student who causes them to lose their XP, especially if (as suggested) the points are all broadcast on the interactive whiteboard.

Once everything is set up, though, teachers can use the program not only to encourage accountability among students but also increase collaboration. The students' teams give them many opportunities to use collaborative powers and support one another, and teachers could use those teams for in-class assignments (or quests) to increase a sense of belonging. Classcraft also allows parents to have accounts so they can keep an eye on their child's performance.

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Classcraft is a fantasy-themed, game-based classroom-behavior-management tool (available on the web and as a Chrome app). Students choose a class (warrior, healer, or mage) and form teams, then work together to gain experience points through positive classroom behaviors and academic achievements. As students level up, they earn powers with real-world effects (such as the ability to be two minutes late for class). Students can also lose hit points for negative behaviors unless another player intercedes and uses a power on their behalf. If a student loses all of his or her hit points, he or she "falls in battle" and must face the consequences (for example, copying a portion of a text). As with powers, there are some preset suggestions, but these can be modified. Randomized daily events insert some whimsy into the game, and students will enjoy "rolling the dice" to see whether they get a positive or negative outcome for the day. Note that some of these features are only available with a paid account.

At its core, Classcraft is a slick management tool that can be layered on top of, or run alongside of, normal classroom activities. It allows a teacher to encourage teamwork and collaboration while monitoring "soft skills" -- such as attendance, homework completion, and classroom behavior. It also provides tools for student engagement via tools such as classroom forums, trainable pets, and gold, which allow students to modify and adjust their avatars. There is also a student or classroom forum, but the real gold is in the teacher forum, which is highly active and allows teachers to provide suggestions for new features -- many of which are implemented as the moderators frequently pass these suggestions on to the site's organizers.

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By putting students into teams that must work together to succeed, Classcraft puts a new, more cooperative spin on traditionally individualized behavior management. Since students work together within the game's premise, the issues that arise feel less personal and punitive and more like challenges or obstacles to be tackled and surmounted together. It also allows a teacher to provide a student with instant feedback on behavior. It should be noted that this instant feedback does require projection capabilities (such as an interactive whiteboard) or 1-to-1 devices so the entire class will know when students take damage -- alternatively, students can check after class. Of course, negative feedback could create problems with sensitive students, and teachers should modify the game to mitigate these issues. And while the game-based wrapper adds a playful element to classroom management, the sword-and-sorcery theme could also turn some students off.

Generally, though, Classcraft offers students a fun way to keep up with classroom activities and monitor their own behaviors (not to mention their consequences). The game is complex, involved, and thorough and may prove a welcome addition for teachers who have already experimented with game-based motivation and wished for a more immediate way to communicate points and levels to their students. Most students will enjoy striving toward real-world powers, and students who are working toward behavioral goals will find the immediate and constant feedback helpful and playful rather than negative. In addition, the game's developers are highly active and attentive, constantly upgrading and updating the system. (As of this review, they're planning to add a story mode.)  Some of the latest additions, such as a timer and the ability to have quizzes (or "boss battles"), make it all the more useful -- not to mention easier to keep consistently displayed on your interactive whiteboard!

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Compelling characters, teamwork, and a feeling that something larger is at stake will get kids interested and motivated.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

It's designed to foster teamwork and motivation through collaboration rather than competition. Publicly displaying student behaviors is tricky, however, and teachers should modify content appropriately.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Complicated and time-intensive to set up, but with a good community base and lots of useful, regularly updated help available.

Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 29 reviews) (29 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Alyssa King K. , Other
Xavier University Montessori
Cincinnati, OH
Classcraft Review

I like this tool because it is custom to what will best fit each classroom and the students that are in it. The teacher can see what all the students are doing and there is even an option to have parents play along. This tool is great for individual work and student collaboration. It looks like a video game so student will be excited and engaged.

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