Genoa students deepen understanding of Portrait of a Graduate through games

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The students in Tracy Jados’ gifted language arts class shared what skills they need to be successful in high school and beyond. 

In a class discussion, they talked about the importance of working with others. They knew they needed to adapt to changes all around them. They thought problem solving was especially important.  

Jados and Gifted Facilitator Debbie Pellington wanted to deepen their understanding of the kind of skills they need to be life-long learners and contributors in the 21st century — and cast a spotlight on the district’s Portrait of a Graduate framework. So they hosted an activity to help them make that connection: Game Day. 

The students worked in groups to play a variety of educational and strategy games and then explained which Portrait of a Graduate competency they used during each of them. 

“We’re trying to be intentional about Portrait of a Graduate when we’re planning activities,” Pellington said. “This is a fun and engaging way for the kids and a way where they are looking at the competencies and thinking about them.”

Developed last year, the Portrait of a Graduate framework challenges educators to provide students with learning experiences that equip them with the skills and aptitudes the community has deemed most important for them to have upon graduation: critical thinking, problem solving, social-emotional wellness, adaptability, collaboration and communication.

During the Game Day activity, Genoa students were quick to associate the Portrait of a Graduate skill with games such as WordARound™, where players identified a word from a series of letters on a card; Suspend, which involved balancing strands of wire from a stand; Bananagrams, where players created words to build a crossword grid; and Othello, where players had to trap and capture their opponent’s pieces by placing disks on a board. 

Sixth-graders Addison Crompton, Wren Keplinger and Cory Baker came to similar conclusions. Suspend, they said, was an exercise in adaptability as they had to adapt their strategy so pieces don’t fall during their turns. 

“I had to think very deeply about how I could manipulate this creatively to work to my advantage,” Crompton said.

They felt word games such as Bananagrams and WordARound™ relied on problem-solving skills. And with Othello, Keplinger argued that there was some collaboration involved between players as they weaved disks throughout the board so each of them could flip over certain pieces. 

“I really hope they see there is more to playing a game than just the game itself,” Jados said. “They see that they are meeting all these targets that meet the Portrait of a Graduate.”

Students say they are not just using these skills in the games; it’s in everyday life.

“Whenever I use these skills, I think of making mac and cheese,” Keplinger said. “When I put too much milk, I have to think of a way to thicken it up and make the cheese stickier so it stays. If it’s too thick, I know I can use more heavy whipping cream or milk to soften it. It’s adaptability.”