Survivor Renaissance

The Beginning…


My first full year of gamification couldn’t go quietly into the night; it needed to go out with a bang. Survivor Renaissance was that big bang! Based on the show, students were transported to the island of Survivor Renaissance. They were placed into one of three tribes, there they received a list of 10 unique Renaissance figures. Together with their tribe, students pick their characters. Tribes had to research the list to make the best choice possible. Just as in the show, only one will be crowned the most important figure of the Renaissance.

Survivor Renaissance has been a great new project this year. Students and myself have both enjoyed this theme. Think about spicing up a unit of yours with a Survivor theme. Read on…


Start by creating a list of influential characters on the topic of study; I chose the 30 most important characters of the Renaissance. Brake this list of people into three or four tribes and assign students to these tribes. For added suspense place the list in an envelope for the Tribe to open on launch day. To help smooth out this process I have student first pick how they will settle a dispute between two member who want the same historical figure. Most of them came up with doing rock-paper-scissors. Once they decided how they would settle these disputes they were cleared by me to open their envelopes.

Students should start by performing a quick info dump, a quick research and share mission, to better understand what are their options. Once they have finished doing that they can start to discuss who the tribe should make sure they have on their team, not all characters will be selected.


Tribal Challenges…

Just like the show, there are elements that test the individual and the tribe. When constructing your Survivor unit think about building in some tribal challenges that will test the tribe and give them chances to earn some perks. My first Tribal Challenge was titled “Meet and Greet”. Students had two days to make an informational brochure about their character and have it ready to show at the meet and greet. The tribe who had the best brochures won the ability to add two votes during a tribal council event. This was a highly sought after prize and encouraged tribe members to work together.

Think about creating several tribal challenges for you Survivor unit. They can be content driven or make some silly challenges. Just remember the show, add obstacles to make the challenges fun and exciting and whatever you do make sure you award a useful reward for the winning tribe.

Set the Mood…

SONY DSCIf you are a regular reader of my blog or podcast series you know that I am very big on creating a mood for my classroom activities. For Survivor Renaissance I started by placing LED candles on each of the tables. Then I blasted some intense music and turned off the lights. The stage was set. As students passed by on their way to other classes I heard excited chatter, students at lunch said they couldn’t wait for class.

One of my favorite things I heard was a 6th graders who was trying to come to class but was blocked by a 5th grader who was staring in amazement said to him… “Get out of here 5th grader, this is our intense time.” Marcus W. current 6th grade student.

Creating an experience for learning is central to a good lesson/unit. Students who are connected to the class/lesson through an experience care more about the outcomes.

Rene Descarte
Ferdinand Magellan
Leonardo Da Vinci

Tournament Bracket…

March Madness, World Cup, even the Olympics use this simple yet highly motivating structure. However, this tool is often over looked in the classroom. The use of the bracket could be a blog post in itself. In fact it already has, Dave Burgess wrote a blog post titled Repurposing March Madness on his blog Dave, an extraordinary educator, also wrote the book teach like a pirate.

In the first round of Survivor Renaissance one person from each tribe engages in a short debate. During the second and third rounds, students competed based on who progressed in the bracket. The debates were structured as follows:

  • Opening statements (90 seconds)
  • Question round (each student can ask one question of the other members)
  • Closing statements (60 seconds)


Tribal Council…

The heart of this awesome unit is the Tribal Council. During the debates the remain students in class form the Council. It is their job to vote for who won the current round. I have each student cast two votes for the top performing students. Remind your students that they should be voting only based on what was said by the people in the debates. Do not, I repeat, do not vote based on what you know of the characters. This forces students to do the research and know their stuff.

I also encourage students to research their competition to form good probing questions that might help reveal the darker side of their opponents. This is another positive of the tournament bracket, it allows students to know who they are up against and what to research.

My ballets have students write who they are choosing and why they think they should move on to the next round. I added this to avoid people just voting for friends. One ballets that are filled out and give good reasoning count. This also boosts the councils listening during the debates as they will be required to write something about what was said for their votes to count.



BANG! This unit was the perfect ending to my school year. Students were engaged, interested to see who would win, and did wonderful independent research that highlighted the strengths they had developed this year. Girls and boys alike were driven and interested in this unit. It was filled with individual growth and success as well as team work with the tribal challenges. Students talked about what happened in each period at lunch and at recess. Right up to the last class of the year students were given their all and loving it. Think about adding this to your class soon!

Winners of the first
Survivor Renaissance :


Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan



Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci



Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes










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