We checked in with first-year teacher Brianna Winiesdorffer about the stretch of weeks between fall break in October and winter break in December and how she's tied the popular game 'Among Us' into her classes.Dec 17, 2020
We are documenting Brianna Winiesdorffer’s journey as a 2020 Northern Arizona University graduate planning on a lifelong career in education. Learn more about this project and Winiesdorffer here.
While first-year teacher Brianna Winiesdorffer has continued to find a rhythm to working as a high school math resource teacher, she says she’s still “just taking it day by day.”
Winiesdorffer first taught students virtually last spring as a student teacher during her final semester at Northern Arizona University. Now as a full time teacher at Coconino High School in Flagstaff, she’s balancing handling multiple classes and meeting weekly with each of the 19 students on her caseload as a case manager for students with individualized education plans (IEPs).
Distance learning continues to present challenges, “but you can still have really fun moments and memories,” she says.
Midway through a class when her students “were just on fire, they were doing so well,” a student asked ‘Ms. Winnie’ if she would play Among Us with them. Among Us is an incredibly popular online game where players are crew members in space and need to figure out which of their crew is actually an imposter. Winiesdorffer told the class that they had a lot to get through but that she would think about it. At the end of that class, she told the students that they had such great engagement and interaction that she would end their next class period a bit early so that they could play Among Us. She then followed through on that. The students, Winiesdorffer, and the NAU practicum student assisting Winiesdorffer all played a few games of Among Us together while also keeping their class Zoom room open.
“It was so fun; it was such a fun bonding activity,” she says. “I’ve never heard the kids talk that much.” Now she’s interested to see if that level of conversation will translate into classroom discussion too.
She’s also tied Among Us into classwork. In the game, players are presented with a map that has different tasks they need to complete. For one class, Winiesdorffer designed a map like those in the game and added math tasks from the content they were studying that day. She got the idea from a TikTok video she saw; teachers are sharing on blogs and other platforms the variety of ways Among Us can be used to teach or connect with students. The New York Times has even published a full Among Us lesson plan. Winiesdorffer was especially proud of how she connected her students’ interests into that day’s lesson. That class also happened to be when the school’s principal joined for Winiesdorffer’s first observation of the year, and Winiesdorffer was grateful to be able to lead a lesson she was so excited about.
Fall break in mid-October was a needed time to step away from work, especially after the rush of finishing grades, writing progress reports for IEP students, and preparing for parent-teacher conferences at the end of first quarter.
“There was a lot going on, a lot I needed to have done and turned in,” she says. Once she was on fall break, she didn’t do anything too significant, she says, but just tried to catch up on sleep.
She returned to school a bit more refreshed and looking ahead to the remainder of 2020, marking the major milestones: her birthday in early November, then Thanksgiving break, then the start of winter break.