If you take a look at his site you will see the LEG creates a random combination from these two burgeoning lists – I just generated DO “Glaciation” AS “A Mini Opera” ! John explains:
The idea for the LEG came out of desire to nudge learners (and teachers) and also to give them permission to move beyond the “comfort zone” of talk-look-listen-write and allow them instead to move across a whole chessboard of learning opportunities.
I decided to adjust the different sets of ideas to suit our sealife topic. Although the full list of outcomes from the AS pile is great, I needed to edit it down to just those which are manageable and clear enough for our Year 5s (9 and 10 year olds)to complete in a single session.
I created a list of sealife that the children have had some experience of or learned about during the last 5 weeks and combined it with the outcomes list in Richard Clarke’s excellent Excel version.
The class were split into groups of 3s and a couple of pairs. Each group had access to a laptop if they needed it. I spent time explaining that today’s session would challenge them and make them scratch their heads. I outlined what we were doing and it helped to just run through the different outcomes from the AS pile – they loved the idea of a finger puppet show.
I then generated the different Fish Friday Challenges – I think in the other class they even had a drum roll for this bit for added tension! I added to the Excel sheet the sentence “Show me what you know, have learned or can find out about…” which helped them to focus. Some of the combinations included:
A Killer Whale as a 5 slide Photostory.
A Puffer fish as a heated dialogue between enemies (good to highlight the predators!).
A dolphin as a cartoon.
A lionfish in the style of a weather forecast.
A manta ray as a mime.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the children rise to the challenge of the different tasks – each one requiring a different approach. The children really got into it and took to it with energy and enthusiasm. One girl said 5 minutes in:
Can we do this every week! I love it!
The children were engaged and the anticipation and unexpectedness of the task really helped. The outcomes reflected their commitment and this enthusiasm. I wasn’t necessarily that interested in the outcome as I was keen to see the children work in their group to solve the challenge. But it just blew me away.
This style of activity puts the children on their toes and makes them think laterally about presenting information. As John said we were well out of our “comfort zone” but it is good to know what that other place is like. We need children to face new unexpected challenges and to learn not just from the process but also from the accomplishment of completing it too.
One of the highlights for me was the mime about the manta ray between two children who probably had the biggest challenge. They did an amazing job and I was so proud of them – I asked the rest of the class what they just learned from the mime and they just reeled off facts about what the manta ray eats, how big it is and how wide – even how it moves.
In total we spent about 45 minutes preparing the outcome and then half an hour celebrating their work. Sometimes you spend days or weeks on pieces of work, we busted this out in an hour and it was great. I am sure you can see from some of the examples in the slideshow. (Some of the children had to do video interviews with an expert – hence the Flip cams in the slideshow.)
I hope you can see the potential for any unit of work in school for this sort of approach and urge you to consider including it in your work, why not try it next week?!
The unknown direction we were taking as a class, in terms of our learning, brought about a real energy in the room which pervaded the quality of work too. A great day!
We had fun today using Wii Sports Golf during our maths lesson. This week the children have been practising different written methods of subtraction and today we repeated the Wii idea from last year.
After doing some recapping of the compact method of written subtraction we worked as a whole class with the game. Each child was at their tables with a whiteboard and pen.
Start by making a note of the length of the hole you are about to play (A). This appears at the top right hand corner when you are teeing off. Get the class to write this down.
We had a 4 player round to generate lots of questions to practice.
Choose someone to come out and tee off. When their ball comes to a rest it will show how far to the hole (B). It does not show the length of their shot – so complete the subtraction with the class A – B = C (shot length)
We repeated this for the other three players.
As you get your different shot lengths (4 in our case) you are presented with lots of opportunities, such as ordering the shots from longest to shortest, how much further was ? then ? – we used some of these with the whole class after the first group of shots were made.
With the longer holes you may be able to get another calculation from the 2nd shot – but most of the time the second shot will sail over the hole. This makes it a bit tricky to calculate shot length.
Another direction you could take the game in a maths lesson is to plan for ordering decimals. When the ball lands on the green the game displays how many metres/yards to the pin (hole). It will show it to one decimal place. With four players hitting the green then you have the option of trying to order 4 different distances.
WiiMaths is created by Tristan Methers with funding from the Victorian Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development as part of the Knowledge Bank Next Generation Research Projects. Tristan outlines the investigation into positive and negative numbers in the game of golf and explains:
In Golf names are given for the number of stokes taken on each hole. If you score the expected amount for a hole that is called a Par. If you get a stoke over the expected amount that is called a Bogey and one stoke under the expected amount is called a Birdie. The number of stokes under and over and their names are in the table below:
DOUBLE BOGEY +2
TRIPLE BOGEY +3
Golf is a very mathematical game, from the distance to the pin, angles of shots, wind speed and so on. The first task of the students is to while a person/persons place a game of Wii Golf, they are to look for all of the maths that is being used in the game. In my class we came up with 8.
After listing these, the students are then given a verbal 9/18 hole golf course to solve and come up with a final score, linking the naming of the stokes to the total score:
Example: Hole 1 - Eagle
Hole 2 – Bogey
Hole 3 – Par
In Golf names are given for the number of strokes taken on each hole. If you score the expected amount for a hole that is called a Par. If you get a stroke over the expected amount that is called a Bogey and one stroke under the expected amount is called a Birdie. The number of strokes under and over and their names are in the table below:
DOUBLE BOGEY +2
TRIPLE BOGEY +3
The students are then given a verbal 9/18 hole golf course to solve and come up with a final score, linking the naming of the strokes to the total score:
Hole 1 - Eagle
Hole 2 – Bogey
Hole 3 – Par
I think that this is a good example of explaining the maths behind the scoring system itself and would allow a class or small group to practice +ve and -ve numbers in an engaging way.
This games based approach to maths engages the children. It certainly engages my class. They asked me to do some more in the afternoon. More written subtraction! They are switched on by the use of the game and enjoy the challenge of the maths that we packaged up within it.With some successful baseball addition earlier this week too, it is proving effective to use Wii games in this single lesson role.
Are the children better at subtraction because of the game?
Crucially we were able to practice and refine our calculations over a more sustained period in the lesson due to the game. The same occurred with the baseball addition earlier this week. Children were happy to work hard on the maths for longer due to the involvement of the game. If use of the game is combined with solid, clear and supported teaching of the written methods beforehand then it can raise the standard of work in the classroom.
Please share with me any other ways you have used Wii games in support of your maths lessons, as I am always on the look out for more ideas.
We have been working with Endless Ocean on the Wii for a couple of weeks now as crucial element in our Sealife topic this half term. I thought I would grab a few minutes and return to the surface to reflect on it’s impact so far.
Manta Ray by Kawa0310
The game has been perfect for our work in class as it is so open ended. There is no specific path or “levels” that need to be completed in a certain order. Once you are through the brief tutorial, which covers some of the basic controls, you are free to explore the ocean depths.
These open ended, sand box style simulations provide great learning opportunities for classes.
The currency of progress comes in the form of fish of course, or indeed any marine life you encounter. During our first week we organised a set of 5 activities in our literacy lessons that were rotated (a carousel) throughout the week. These included a teacher led (guided) reading session, some online research on the species we had already found and a group playing the game to explore it for themselves. It is important to allow children time to play it independently or in a small group.
I provided a simple factfile template (differentiated for a couple of levels) that gives the children some structure to their research and has proven useful for them to collate notes from the game. Here is a little video of some of the gameplay you would experience in Endless Ocean.
Each species that is found is recorded in the game’s Marine Encyclopedia (See 2:05 in the film above) which is proving a useful record. I also have lots of fish shaped card and written the names of what we find for display in the classroom. Children can then choose something from the display to go away and research without being tied to the game. I think it is useful to display your progress of discovery in this way. Taking the game out of the console into your room continues the engagement.
When you find a fish in the game you have to interact with it to learn something about it. In the film you will see each species has 3 facts to discover. The longer you interact with the fish and the more frequently you discover them, the more facts are revealed.
The children have been very engaged with the topic so far – we were using the Wii in our first literacy lesson in Year 5. A pretty interesting start to the year for them, not what they were expecting perhaps.
Many of the children have discovered fish during their time playing the game – you may have seen from our class Tweets of our dives we have been excited to find, amongst others, the Japanese Bullhead Shark, a Red Stingray and the Leopard Whipray. The children take great ownership of these discoveries. After I remarked on a certain type of fish I had not seen before, a boy proudly turned to me and stated, “I found that yesterday!”
Their engagement goes beyond the discovery. It continues onto trying to find out about the species in more detail. I think they make a connection between their simulated experience in the game and the desire to find out more. They want to find out more as they have invested something. With a trip to an aquarium planned for later in the term we will hopefully close this loop of experience with real life examples.
The experience of using the game so far shows me that a rich, games based simulation adds an ingredient that is hard to replicate in any other way.
I said in my last post I wanted an edge to our learning that provided moments of shared discovery and we have had many of those. For example, as a group has found a species like the Scalloped Hammerhead or the first sighting of a dolphin we have all downed tools and just enjoyed that moment.
In one shared dive with the whole class we swam away from the coral reef (which we have been learning about too) and in the murky depths I could see a large grey and white tail swishing away from us. We began to realise what it could be and I had to swim to catch up with it…suddenly we were surrounded by a group of Indo Pacific Sailfish. We thought it was a shark. It was a lovely moment of discovery we shared as a class and one that captures what is possible with these games.
You can probably see that these moments offer some excellent opportunities for narrative or recount writing which we have been exploring in the last few days. There be a story in them murky depths…
We do so much these days to try and engage our learners within our classrooms, to create content that is inspiring. But what about finding inspiring content for us. Teachers need to be inspired to go on to create great learning opportunities. We mustn’t forget about finding content that inspires us too. With the summer fast concluding concluded I feel energised, excited and inspired to begin our sealife topic. Here is a bunch of my ideas.
When you begin digging into this topic area you soon realise that there is SO much good content, resources and ways to work with it that maybe everyone should be doing it. I can’t wait to get my snorkel on! If you have been following me on Twitter then you have probably been awash with my notes about it all.
This is one of the major elements of our unit, and I suppose you might say that the topic is lead by using this game on the Wii. I already know games based learning is a powerful way to engage learners. Innovative work by teachers in Scotland continues to inspire me and I hope that our unit will measure up to their great work.
It is a very open ended game, allowing the player (a diver) to just swim around and explore the reefs, lagoons and open waters on offer. I love the fact that we don’t know what we might found in the murky depths. I began making notes as to the types of fish we discovered. But you know, I think the engagement and hook will be in those moments when suddenly, unexpectedly, someone finds a lion fish or a hammer-head shark. I recall these same moments of shared discovery when we played Myst, and it produces a great community of use in the classroom.
I want our play and our learning to have that edge. To emerge gradually as the map does in the game, I know which direction we are heading but what we find there is an unknown.
Steve Bunce has already used the game with classes and suggested I use a carousel of activities so that smaller groups can use the game on a more intimate level. There also has to be some time when we are sharing the discovery and exploration as a whole class. I will be planning the first week of work to include small groups working on the game and four other independent activities related to our topic.
We will use the game throughout the whole course of the 7 week topic and most importantly find out more about the species we catalogue in the game. As you discover a creature you are given it’s name and a snippet of information about it, this is then recorded in the game’s Marine Guide.
I am going to ask our kids to do something similar. A drawing, habitat, size, food – all entered into a small paper book. I want to keep it simple so we can update them quickly as we discover different creatures. I would like the children to explore some online resources to help them learn more about the different species. This ties in with the non-fiction strand of the literacy strategy.
There seems to be quite a considerable number of species to find and I am not expecting the children to amass information on all of them. Perhaps on occasion they can choose from a handful of species we have found to record and then there may be those that we all need to record. I will see how things pan out.
This idea is very much from my RANDOM pile but I think it could work really well. John Davitt has created something called the Learning Event Generator that randomly selects a topic and a way to show it. For example: DO “How to make an omelette” AS “a play by play sports commentary”. The AS list is over 200 ideas strong and I would highly recommend it whilst you are planning.
So take a big list of the species we have discovered and an edited (can we really do that in the classroom, with these kids) list of the outcomes and you get…
Show me what you have learned about the SWORDFISH as a FINGER PUPPET SHOW.
Show me what you have learned about the LUMINESCENT SEA SLUG as a T-SHIRT DESIGN.
I would break the two parts up. Give the kids, in small groups, the species name and 10 minutes to gather what they already know and more. And then reveal their way of showing their learning and 25-20 minutes to work on it. I think it is going to be fun and will challenge our classes in different ways.
And that’s my idea for Fish Friday.
As you can tell from the game you take the part of a scuba diver. Apart from actually diving in the local pool I wanted the classes to better understand what scuba equipment is all about. I am hoping to arrange with the local scuba diving club to bring a whole load of gear into school so that the children can not only handle it but get to chat to real scuba divers. Maybe they can have a go on Endless Ocean with us too and tell us how realistic it is!
Google Earth > Ocean Layer
Google Earth never ceases to amaze me and before researching into this topic I didn’t look too far into what was on offer in the Ocean layer. It will prove to be a highly valuable resource for our children, helping them better understand the actual information geography of different aspects of the topic. But as we have seen in the past, Google Earth will just be one way for children to “find out”, others will prefer reference books or websites. The important thing is that the choice is there.
Here is a list of some of the features in the layer, plus my notes.
National Geographic comprehension quiz – would be good as a paired reading task.
Animal Tracking – would help to illustrate some shark and whale behaviour.
ARKive layer – lovely resource of endangered marine life shown in context.
Using different layers of info for reading text – perhaps creating a few quiz questions of our own.
Expedition Tracking – active expeditions are shown, such as Roz Savage the ocean rower.
Fishing stocks and UK fish factfiles – would be useful to explore some species native to our waters. Tie this in with the work on persuasive writing and sustainability of fish stocks.
Dive and Surf Spots – adding Panoramio layer to show diving pictures.
There is so much here to consider (there are many more layers I have not referenced) but just knowing that we can direct children to a high quality resource like this is great. Disappointingly most of the embedded video which helps depict the variety of life uses YouTube which is blocked in our Nottinghamshire LA. A prime example of why it shouldn’t be. Although the placemarks in the ARKive layer also use YouTube video, on their own site the video is hosted, and it is a vast collection of images and video too.
Augmented reality (AR) is the combination of 3D models, a webcam (if on a desktop or laptop), AR software and a printed symbol. The screen will show what is visible through your camera. The camera tracks the symbol you have printed off and then places the chosen 3D model on that position. Turn the printed symbol and you turn the 3D model.
This is a screen shot of me impaled by the Sydney Tower.
Whilst exploring the topic I saw a tweet about the 3D Top Trumps that have been released. I wish there was a Sealife set to buy! I have played a bit with augmented reality (AR) with our classes last year. It has huge potential for learning. I used the AR Media Plugin for Sketchup and Google Earth to support some of our work on India. Small groups looked at the Taj Mahal in 3D and it helped them get a better idea about the structure of the building.
For our Sealife topic I want the children to explore different 3D models of tropical fish and other creatures from the oceans. I discovered an amazing set of 3D artwork by Max Grueter in the Sketchup 3D Warehouse and in his collection he has some divers too with some lovely depictions of older diving suits. Just looking at the models in 3D is limited in it’s use, it will be engaging I know that – but I want the children to perhaps answer questions and engage more with what is displayed.
I am thinking through and developing some AR Comprehension Cards. Combining text, the 3D model and then questions to challenge the children too. Will be a great way to engage those reluctant readers and to look at reading comprehension in a different, augmented way!
This film could be used on it’s own as a central part to a sealife topic but we are going to concentrate on the more open, interactive Endless Ocean to guide us. But we will be using the film to explore some of the PSHCE issues uncovered within it: families, loss, friendship and growing up. I know the children will enjoy it and it is another way of engaging them with their learning.
If you have a copy of the DVD you will know that the bonus disc has some great resources that could be used in the classroom, such as the short film about the coral reef with Jean Michel Cousteau. I like Mr Ray’s Encyclopedia which gives a short narrated film clip about a handful of species from the film. I would use this in a notetaking exercise with the kids, or perhaps in 2s or 3s for a quiz.
For what it is worth I have published some of my more detailed thoughts about the literacy involved in the unit in this Google Doc. Let me know what you think. I have thought about the ways I would like to engage the children with the topic and then looked at the Primary Strategy references. If I followed the strategy verbatim we wouldn’t cover information text (Year 4 unit) but I want the children to create exactly that sort of thing, so it’s included.
What you see in the planning is medium term and there every idea I had about the different literacy work. With only 7 weeks we will not cover everything nor do I expect to.
Since being in school I have discovered lots of books that we already have that will support our work and these (with the help of many people’s suggestions on Twitter) will also help supplement the work we do.
Baleen – Josephine Croser (A nice narrative but also would be good for information during “Whale Week” – yes we might have a solid week on learning just about whales. Amazing creatures. This might give us an opportunity to use our Google Sites, encourage the children to build a mini-site about whales.)
If you get a chance to look at the Dan Yaccarino book you will probably realise why that one gets a special mention from me. There is only a few sample images online of the picture book but I love the tantalising glimpse of the artwork it is made up of.
I contacted Dan about the artwork, which he said was done using stencils and an airbrush, to see how we might recreate some of it in the classroom. Layered tissue paper might work well and I expect we will spend a lovely afternoon very soon with copies of the book in hand and our creative hats on!
From the Expedition layer in Google Earth I discovered the ongoing coverage of the ocean rower Roz Savage. This is an ideal example for the children to keep tabs on throughout the next few weeks as she makes progress across the Pacific. The Roz Tracker is a lovely example of real time mapping and social media which gives a great insight into the conditions onboard and the state of mind of Roz.
The RozTracker is an interactive map that you can use to track Roz’s progress across the Pacific, and see exactly where she was when she posted various social media.
surrounded by sharky feeding frenzies. not the day to take a swim.
It would be good to spend some time with the children doing a couple of things purely based on this short message:
Find out what type of sharks might be there based upon her location, the fact there are many and their behaviour.
Based upon that information try and work out what type of shark she may be referring to. Send her a Tweet explaining what we found out. Are we right? Does she know?
Learn what sort of food the sharks may be feeding on and draw up some food chain information. Why might it be described as a frenzy?
Use this as a starting point for some descriptive fiction.
Explore newspaper coverage of shark attacks.
A fine example of how social media can put are classrooms in touching distance of people doing remarkable things.
Another fantastic resource that I discovered via Twitter is Tour de Turtles. The site tracks 11 sea turtles as they begin their migratory journey. Each turtle has a name and is depicted as a contestant in a race, competing with each other. The turtles are being tracked with GPS and you can look at a map showing their ongoing progress.
A lovely site that holds stacks of information for the children to explore, the opportunity to raise awareness of real issues affecting these creatures and big slice of fun and humour to engage young learners. We will definitely be checking in with the turtles. I expect I will ask the children to adopt one of the 11 for the next 7 weeks and see how things work out, encouraging them to learn more about them and keep tabs on their progress.
That just about wraps up some of my thinking for this next half term and as I said at the outset I am excited to get underway with it all. Just to finish you could always record your own dancing turtle like I have done. I know that after all the 7 weeks of hard work the dancing turtle will probably be the one thing the kids remember most!
I am delighted to get our Nintendo Wii installed and setup in our classroom. To get the audio working I used a small jack for the connections and ran it from the Wii into the PC’s Line In and then out again to speakers. We have one for each of the Year 5 and 6 classrooms. Not only will it obviously be lots of fun, I am hoping to make the most of the games to support learning. We have the Sports game and also Big Brain Academy which looks good. Soon I will take a closer look at BBA and see what more it has to offer in terms of classroom use, so look out for that soon.
Here is one sketchy idea already: Addition and Subtraction using Wii Golf (part of the Sports game) Use as a maths starter, an engaging way to generate whole class sums or even a small group activity – children take a shot, we subtract from the total yardage for that hole. Written addition of the yards for different shots. Total yards of shots around a short course. The yardage will only ever be into three digits for a single shot – unless I get a go and it will be less! Perfect 2 and 3 digit addition and subtraction for the age group of our class.
So much more to explore!
Next week we will be getting the children creating their Mii avatars and I will try to find a way to export those images for use elsewhere. I wish that back when I was ten my classroom was this much fun.
This post follows on from the first in my series of reflections about using the PC adventure game Myst in the classroom. In this post I will look back on how our Year 5 children worked with the Year 2 classes in supporting their own Myst literacy unit. I also welcome a school colleague Gemma Coleman, one of the Year 2 classteachers involved in the project, who has kindly taken some time to reflect on her own experiences of using the game – you can see Gemma’s contribution a bit further on in this post.
As I mentioned previously the inspiration for working with Myst has come from Tim Rylands, however much of the finer details of how we might use the game has come from the exploratory work documented by Learning and Teaching Scotland. In their accounts of the game they give plenty of details about the use of the game in the classroom with much needed reflection. They also present the idea of using the game with pairs of younger and older children together. The older children guiding the early years pupils in their writing and exploring the game together. It was from this exposition that I began planning an element of collaboration in our own project. Through conversation with the Key Stage 1 literacy coordinator we decided to explore the ideas further together – I would strongly suggest looking at what LTS has done and consider teaming up with a younger age class if you can.
4 week 2 week
In order for the children in my year group to feel comfortable acting as an expert our Myst unit ran for 2 full weeks before we began working with the year 2s. This is very important as it gave the children time to explore the game themselves and experience understanding the plot and layout of the different levels. Although we spent 4 weeks working with Myst we only had 3 sessions with the younger children. They conducted their own literacy unit with just a single copy of the game and the visits I have mentioned from us. Our own unit could have continued for much longer and initially was planned for a shorter period but I adapted it as it progressed.
I had this image in my head of the children in Harry Potteresque cloaks walking solemnly, probably by torchlight, with the laptops in their outstretched arms (carrying them correctly of course) to the classes of Year 2 and arriving with great mystery and intrigue. I know that sounds strange but that’s the way my mind works, seems like the mystique surrounding the game got to me! We didn’t need the cloaks nor the torchlight in the end. But we did travel with the game to the other classes and it worked out far better then we could have imagined.
I split my class into two groups and took 15 or so down to the Year 2 class whilst the remainder got setup with Angie our TA. The children were responsible for getting their set of equipment ready, for a Myst Ambassador needs: a copy of the game, laptop, headphones, mouse and a map of J’Nanin (one of the first Ages or levels the children can explore). Once I arrived in Year 2 and the Year 5s had paired off with the Year 2s, I took the remainder of the younger children back to my own class and their adventure began.
Mantle of the expert
In order for the younger children to make the most of the sessions they needed the older pupils guiding and helping them in the correct manner. It was lovely to see how some of the children in my class reacted to working with the 7/8 year olds. The children were in a different role, perhaps out of their comfort zone a little, and they responded really well. They took on the mantle of being the one with the most knowledge and helped and guided the Year 2s in their use. I spent some time helping my classes understand what the role will entail and how best to approach it, the important sense of taking a back seat to the action and guiding their partners to discoveries of their own.
Speaking and communication
In hindsight I think I will place a greater emphasis on the language, speaking and communication that occurs between the pairs of children as opposed to the primary focus on written outcomes. In much of the work the Year 5s did in support of the Year 2s was towards a written outcome, such as helping them to record vocabulary for the different scenes. But there is such rich evidence of speaking and listening in the encounters between the pairs. I would strongly suggest keeping this in mind if you embark on something similar. I would certainly like to just listen and record some of their responses and moments of supportive guidance or curiosity that occur.That is certainly one big change for next time – it is not all about the writing!
Anyway enough from me as I would like to introduce Gemma Coleman who is currently a Year 2 classteacher at our school and one of the teachers I worked with in this unit. Gemma has kindly agreed to share her own thoughts on using the game in the classroom.
When my Year 2 colleague and I were first told about the possibility of using the games-based-learning approach in the classroom, I must admit our first thoughts were “its nearly the end of the academic year, we have just gone through SATs, it sounds like a lot of hard work!”
However, the more Tom told us about the game – Myst – the more our ideas began to develop and our interest turned to intrigue.
After an initial “ideas” meeting with Tom, myself and Cathy (our other Year 2 teacher) we decided that the game would be a great way of stirring the children’s imaginations in Literacy – particularly as this year group is very boy heavy, and we are always looking for ways to grab their interest and encourage them to focus on the task in hand.
Cathy and I took the opportunity to observe Tom teaching his own Year 5 class, using the Myst game through literacy, and it really helped to see the game “in action”. The children were brainstorming adjectives to describe a scene in the game and it seemed to really fire their imaginations. The breadth of language they used was fantastic and it was obvious to see that every child was on task and focussed on what they had been asked to do – in fact the Year 5′s were so engrossed in the game, they hardly even noticed we were there!
In Year 2 we had already planned on teaching a narrative unit, and an instructions unit in our last term of Literacy. We decided that we would try and use Myst to incorporate both of these units and discussed some initial ideas – however, as this was a completely new approach to literacy, our plans were quite organic, evolving throughout the unit as new inspirations and ideas were generated along the way.
We decided that we would roll out the unit over a 2-week period, allowing for longer if needed. With our ideas flowing, we were ready to bring Myst to Year 2!
We decided to use “Awe and Wonder” as an introduction to Myst and simply provided the children with a wooden chest containing various artefacts. We were careful not to give the children too many details initially as we wanted them to really use their imaginations and generate their own ideas as to what we could possibly be doing/looking at. The children explored the artefacts, which included a pink crystal, a small padlocked box, a map of a place called J’nanin, a letter, a book and a globe stand. These were passed around for the children to feel and look at and they were given a few minutes to discuss with their peers what these items could be for. We did initially intend to introduce the game at the end of this lesson, but the children generated so many ideas that we decided to list some of these on the Interactive Whiteboard and leave it there, ready to lead into the next day’s lesson.
Over the next few lessons the game was introduced – we showed the children the video clip at the beginning of the game – which they were completely mesmerised by – and this was used as a basis for some descriptive writing. We wrote adjectives to describe the setting of the game and discussed/wrote about the characters we had met so far, and what part they might play in this adventure story – we even used some drama, acting out scenes from the game.
As Tom mentioned in his own blog entry, his class of Year 5′s came to Year 2 as ambassadors for the game and each Year 5 paired up with a Year 2 child. They worked together brilliantly, with the Year 5′s showing the Year 2′s how to navigate through the game, giving advice, support and using excellent language – while promoting independence by the Year 2.
Later in the module, the Year 5 children worked with the Year 2′s again to help them solve a “barrel puzzle”. This part of the game was used in line with our work on “Instructions”. The Year 2 children had a written outcome of writing instructions on how to solve the barrel puzzle, using clear direct instructional language. Again, this collaboration between Years 5 and 2 worked brilliantly, with some excellent instructions being produced.
Our grand finale for the Myst module was to inspire the children to write a suitable and fitting “ending” to the Myst story. After nearly 2 weeks of exploring and playing the game the children had really gotten into the story and had a really good knowledge of the settings and characters involved.
As it was nearly the end of the Summer Term we tried to make the written activity as interesting as possible – as i’m sure any teacher will know, children’s interest in academic activities can start to wane at this time of year! – therefore, instead of simply providing a written story in their extended writing books, we provided the children with “zig-zag” booklets, which they wrote in a comic-book style, with colour illustrations and speech bubbles. The children loved these, and took great pride in writing and drawing exciting endings to their Myst adventures.
Since using the Myst game as a module for literacy, my Year 2 colleague and I have been asked many times whether we would recommend games-based-learning, and whether we would do it again. Our answer to this would be a definite YES! It has undoubtedly been a learning curve, and there are probably a couple of things that we would do slightly differently – as there always is with a new resource or approach to learning – but in general this form of exploration of a mythical world proved to be an excellent way of really firing children’s imaginations, and in my opinion, the interactive nature of this approach stirred their interests to a much greater degree than a simple text book might have done. The quality of some of the children’s written literacy work might not have been any higher than the work they usually produce, however, some of them did produce some great writing and all of the children’s imaginations appeared to be much more stretched, resulting in them generating some fantastic ideas, and their enthusiasm at such a late time in the year really was electrifying.
All in all, a very successful module – and we look forward to using Myst (or similar games-based-learning) in the near future!
It is great to hear Gemma’s perspective on the use of the game with her children and her further reflections. I am sure you will join me in thanking her for taking the time to share it all with us.
In my next “Emerging from the Myst” post I will be getting into the details of how we used the game in the lessons, how this effected planning and the balancing act it all became.
I am just about coming up for air from this year, the summer holidays are upon me now and I will finally have time to reflect upon some of the classroom activities that have gone on in this final term. This post is about using the adventure game Myst in a literacy unit with my Year 5s. It has been one of the most memorable projects we have worked on this year and I am so thankful we had the opportunity to explore this games based learning approach. I hope to reflect here and in future posts what it is like to handle this type of exploration, discovery, learning and writing in my classroom.
The unit is completely inspired by the work of Tim Rylands and more recently by the work of Derek Robertson and his colleagues in LTS’sConsolarium. I was really interested in how the Scottish school in the pilot project had teamed up their older children with a younger age group. At the beginning of this term I had some quality time to work with our Key Stage 1 Literacy coordinator and show her the game and lay down my ideas. This was an important step as it forced me to articulate and crystallise my own thoughts on what the game could do and also perhaps get some buy-in from another colleague. Cathy immediately saw the huge potential to motivate the boys in her own class and so ideas began to turn into plans.
An ideal environment?
For over a year now I have been eyeing the possibility of this literacy unit with my children and with the increasing number of laptops in my room it finally seemed possible. Of course having a 1:1 resource is no prerequisite for this unit to take place as Tim Ryland’s video clips show a single user (the teacher) and the class watching on – but I imagined that many children would want to get their hands on the game themselves and I was also curious to explore what was possible with individual use. 30 laptops 30 games.
That is what we went for and considering the games cost us just over £4 each it was not particularly expensive to achieve. For me this was the ideal environment because I wanted the children to be the explorers – but much (as proved by many before me) can be achieved with just one copy of the game. Individual games did give the children a free rein, they owned the pace by which they explored and to some degree by which they wrote. Classroom organisation was a little more complex but importantly the children defined the game pace.
Many people have approached the use of the game to help inspire descriptive writing and narrative that draws upon the rich environment that a player can explore. Many different text types can be explored and so I decided to work on a hybrid text that could effortlessly draw in some of these into one. When exploring the game myself I found it useful to read a walkthrough guide that would in turn help me guide the children if needed. A game guide or walkthrough has the potential to be stylistically descriptive as well as having functional parts. In addition the games’ puzzles could be explained using instructional language. I decided on the game guide as the written piece because of these extended possibilities.
Games based learning at school
This Myst unit forms part of a wider school strategy to incorporate the best of games based learning in the classroom. It has proven to be very cost effective as mentioned above and the return has been amazing – the feedback from the chidren has been extremely positive. At our school we have role play corners throughout the early years and up to the Year 3 classes with a big emphasis on this sort of play. The children enjoy games and we have seen them interact using their Nintendo DS consoles for a long time now – the language of gaming is something they are very familiar with. Harnessing the enthusiasm for it is the key. During this unit directing their enthusiasm to perhaps more traditional outcomes (writing) has sometimes felt awkward but nonetheless important. We will be beginning a Nintendo DS project in Year 4 next year as once again we are inspired by those working in Scotland. Beyond these new projects something that has proven very successful is the use of games to promote the development of mental maths skills. This has been a school target and in Year 5 we have been highlighting a variety of different games and online activities that can help the children via our school del.icio.us bookmarking account.
Making a start
Although Myst is a game I wanted to retain the sense of narrative and not just say from the outset that we will be using a computer game. I knew that Myst would capture their attention, but I wanted to draw them in without even starting the game – in my own way. A while ago I bought my wife a wooden chest and filled it with her Christmas gifts, the chest was going to be a key prop in the tense opening of this literacy unit.
The Myst game pivots upon the special powers that books have in the story, so I placed a large anonymous book inside – a recipe book from home but I concealed the spine. With much intrigue and hushing of my voice I told the children that I had just taken delivery of this chest. No “This is what we are doing today in literacy…” or lesson objectives, just straight into talk about the box. Without opening it we talked about what it could be, what it could contain, why it could be special. I soon realised that within a few minutes the children were in that wonderful place between disbelief and intrigue. They not only asked questions about the box and the contents but how it could have arrived, who might have brought it – the anonymity of it all troubled and intrigued them.
On opening the box I told the children that I had received 2 scrolls throughout the week that told me of the arrival of something for the class (the box) and instructions not to open whatever was inside. I explained that I had been informed that the book has great power and carefully took it out of the chest, showing the children. We then talked about what this power could be, what properties it could have and how it may be magical (In the game the books are called Ages, a written creation that becomes a physical place which you can link into) The third scroll was inside the chest. I had written a code for the children to break, using Puzzlemaker - a message that would add another layer of mystery to the tale so far.
The children spent the next 20 minutes or so cracking the number/letter code and we shared our discoveries as a class as it progressed. Of course the code reveals more questions then answers and refers to the beginning of some sort of journey. You will have to break the code to read it in full!
We sat together and discussed the message that had been revealed from the code and questioned what meaning we could attriubute to it, what we knew already and what was yet to be revealed. Without saying much more, other than explaining that I was following instructions, I fired up the game and we watched the opening sequence of the game and the title film. The timing is crucial here, as I wanted to finish the lesson with this tiny glimpse of what was to come – the game begins overlooking a canyon in a place called Tomahnha, I moved the mouse and showed that we were in control and the journey had started, I stopped and said that it was time to finish. There were cries of disappointment and a great buzz as they left for assembly – our Myst adventure had begun!
In my next post about Myst I will explore how our Year 5 children became Myst Ambassadors and took the game to the Year 2s, and Gemma Coleman one of the Year 2 teachers will be explaining how it fitted in with them and their own approach to the unit.