If you have read many of my other posts you will be aware of my passion for games in the classroom. I am on a mission to put the fun back into learning. This year I am involved in teaching the VCAL Literacy strand and it seemed a perfect opportunity to use game based learning.
Reading and writing for practical purposes? Games are a no-brainer. We started each lesson by playing a game for 10-15 minutes. Quite often the board games we played were not familiar to the students and so they needed to read and interpret the instructions in order to play (i.e. reading). After each game we wrote about the experience. In their own words students recorded the rules, the aim of the game, suggestions for improvement (i.e. writing). We didn’t just explore board games: we played card games and computer games, classics like pacman and social justice games like 3rd world farmer.
Lots of discussion later, combined with some grids and graphic organisers (comparing and contrasting) and a little bit of research (i.e. reading for knowledge) and we were in a position to write an article for the newsletter about why people play games (i.e. writing for knowledge). I think my students surprised themselves with how easily they were able to reach the recommended word limits. 300-500 words sounds like an epic novel to students who have come to believe they are ‘dumb’ or ‘can’t write’ … but actually wasn’t that hard when we started to put together the bits and pieces from our grids and graphic organisers.
Then I set them the challenge to create their own game and write the instructions. Some took to this eagerly … a pair worked together to make a variation of Monopoly called ‘Chopperly” … yes, you guessed it, based on the life and times of Chopper Read (but I didn’t have to nag them to do the research). Another student used their work placement experiences in a pre-school to create an educational game to teach basic spelling words. All seemed to be going well. Lots of fun, laughter and challenge as we trialled aspects of the games and tested the instructions they were writing.
However, two students seemed a little overwhelmed with the ‘choose anything option’. I had to rethink … this is applied learning … how can I get them to DO something that will help them to see how it works?
Light bulb moment!
In one of my op-shop ferreting moments I had found a game that I had never heard of and never played. I was sure the students would never have seen it either. So I removed the instructions and handed them the box. They had to figure out how to set up the board and how to play the game. In essence, they had to create their own game.
We have even turned spelling tests in to a game. We choose 9 letters from the Scrabble bag and write them on the board. Students then have 10 minutes to make as many 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 letter words as they can. Points are awarded for the different word lengths.
The aim is two-fold: (1) beat your own personal best for a pick of the lolly tub (2) beat the teacher to win a chocolate frog. (I should point out here that I have been given the handicap of only having 2 minutes to make my words!). We can explore spelling strategies and patterns depending on the letter combinations each week.