Making APA Style fun and engaging

The other day a colleague asked me if I would help them create a fun and engaging activity to teach APA citation in the classroom. APA citation, fun and engaging are not terms found in the same sentence often. So this was going to be a challenge!

That said, I am always down for a challenge, so I agreed to take this on. 

My criteria included:

  • In-person session
  • 50 minutes
  • 150ish students (whaaaaaa?) okay, not 100 all in one sitting, but instead 4-6 tutorial sessions ranging from 15-45 students. 

I’m not someone who likes to reinvent the wheel, so instead, I decided to combine two activities that have worked well in the past. 

Activity 1: Identify the resource

The first activity gets students thinking about the types of resources they will be using for their assignment. To do this, I curated 5 artifacts that include:

  • A chapter from an edited book
  • An article from a popular magazine (print version)
  • A newspaper article (print version)
  • An academic journal article
  • A full book with one author

Often, students struggle with what type of resources they have. Here is a link to the artifacts that I chose for this exercise. The first part of the exercise involves distributing physical copies of these artifacts in file folders to the class. I typically distribute two folders to each group so that all students have a chance to look at the items. To save paper, I remove additional pages that are not required for this activity. I replace those pages with “Pages X to Y removed to save paper”. 

I distribute the folders and give students 5 minutes to get comfortable with the artifacts. As a group, we talk about them and as a group, we ensure that we know what each one is. 

With a slideshow, we discuss each artifact, what it is, and how we know.

Activity 2: Kahoot! Quiz

The second activity is a Kahoot! quiz based on the artifacts from the first activity. 

One of my requirements was to make the activity scalable to be used in classrooms of around 50 students. I utilized Kahoot!‘s team feature to have students work in teams of 4-6 to answer APA questions about the artifacts. 

Kahoot! Teams, allows students to join a team to answer questions. Our version allows for 10 teams to compete.

The quiz works better if you engage with students between questions. Why is APA formatted this way? Where did you find the author for a book chapter in an edited book? How would you write an editor in APA? etc.

We aimed to have 3-4 questions per artifact. We found this was too much when paired with the discussion between questions. You might consider reducing the number of questions, reducing the number of artifacts, or asking the faculty member for more time in the classroom. 

Conclusion

Combining these two activities allowed students to hold the artifacts that they were going to use in their hands and see the information as it would be presented to them (for example on a title page/verso). This was important for me and the design of the activity.

If you know me, I love using gaming as an analogy for bigger topics. APA style is no different. At the beginning of the class, I told students, to think of building citations as a combination of two of my favourite things, Where is Waldo? and Tetris. 

Waldo and Tetris, two ideas that have never been used to talk about APA citation.

Students have to find the information that they need to properly cite in APA style (Where’s Waldo?), but they also need to slot the information together correctly like bricks (Tetris). 

As educators, we need to be comfortable trying new things and considering the challenges of making them scalable in the classroom. I wasn’t sure the activity would be engaging with students but they tended to be very engaged with the content. We need to think outside the box and remix and remash our content to move forward. 

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