Trying Something New In The New Year

Old School Games

Creative Commons Image Shared By David Moore On Flickr

I can honestly say that I took this two week holiday to relax. I’m just finishing up my 13th novel, and I’ve loved all of them. In between many hours of reading, I also spent lots of time with family members and friends. This holiday was a great way to unwind and get ready for a busy January. In between my relaxation time though, I did manage to join in on some fantastic conversations on Twitter, including one recently on “gaming.”

I know very little about “gaming.” Yes, I use DS’ in the classroom, but I only have three of them, and my students largely use the chat function of Pictochat to engage in conversations about books or Science or Social Studies topics. The activity is a reading and writing one. The Nintendo DS is just a tool to use.

This “gaming” conversation caught my interest though, especially when Kent Manning (@kentmanning) joined in and told me about what Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) is doing in the classroom. His Grade 6 students have created their own video game. Kevin designed this incredible Science, Media Literacy, and Writing Video Game Design Project that has had me look at “gaming” in a whole new way. What I love about this project is that Kevin has provided a rich task, where students can create and problem-solve, while also meeting numerous curriculum expectations. I want to do this with my class!

You should probably know that my video game skills are limited to say the least. I’ve never played a lot of video games, but I know that all of my students do, and they love playing them too. Even my hesitant writers would be eager to write about a video game that they’re designing. I also know that I’ll soon be introducing my students to procedural writing, and this project would be a great way to have students work more with this writing form. Okay, I’m now excited!

I knew that I needed to give the game website a try though and see if it’s something doable to do with Grade 1 and 2 students. I went to Gamestar Mechanic and signed up for a free account. It’s easy to do! I know that my students could easily create their own accounts. Kevin had his students complete the “quest” before creating the video game. I thought that I would try out the quest. I spent four hours yesterday in front of my computer, and I’m only 11% done the quest. Some levels took me forever to complete. I don’t have enough gaming experience.

I actually emailed my best friend last night and told him about my terrible performance, and he said to me, “does this mean that you’re going to change the activity?” Well of course not. My students play video games all the time. They know how to beat levels. They’ll be thrilled to overcome these different obstacles, and I’m sure that every one of them will beat my time too! 🙂 I’m hoping that they can teach me more about video games in the process. Plus, these quest activities allow the students to apply their decoding and reading comprehension skills as they read instructions, understand what’s being said, and apply their knowledge through the quest itself. I think that this will be a great way to show students a practical application of reading.

After many tweets back and forth with Kevin (thank you so much Kevin! You’re truly amazing!), I’ve decided that I’m going to link this video game activity to our upcoming Social Studies unit on Mapping. Both the Grade 1’s and Grade 2’s have to create their own maps, and the series of mazes in the video game is almost like a map. As part of the planning process, students will need to create a legend to match up to the symbols that they use (for Social Studies), and they’ll need to write the steps they followed to create their game as well as to play it (for Procedural Writing). Students are also going to make advertisements to “sell” their game (for Media Literacy). Since I believe in giving students choice, I am also going to give them the option of making a board game instead of a video game. When we’re done, we’ll play the video games that the students created, so we can play the board games too. Both activities allow students to create a project to show what they learned, while also sharing their project with a real audience too.

I have never done anything like this before! I’m petrified! It may not work, and I am now telling the whole world about my idea before I’ve even been able to test out the website at school. We’ll see what happens though. It’s a new year, and time to try something new. Success or failure, I’m sure that I’ll be learning a lot from this process, and I know that my students will be as well.

What are you going to try during this “new year?” I would love to hear about what you’re doing too!


2 thoughts on “Trying Something New In The New Year

    • Thanks Lizzie! I’m so glad you’re excited to do this. You can teach all of us a lot about Board Games before we make our own.

      See you tomorrow!
      Miss Dunsiger

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