Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can't Even Game Without Teaching

So we are driving to North Carolina to visit family and friends. We always make a point of gaming as much as possible when we are with our family and friends because, quite honestly, there just aren't enough people in our Wisconsin Circles to really game frequently. Maybe that is one of the subconscious reasons I try to expose my students to so many tabletop games. Who knows!

The bottom line is, when Ray and I were talking in the car about games, I all of a sudden went on some random tangent about how I want to create "Teacher Editions" or "Teacher Skins" for classroom friendly tabletop games. For example, I LOVE using Dixit and Tsuro in my classroom for reading comprehension strategies. What I run up against using them, though, is that they aren't connected or linked with anything super obvious. Tsuro is a bunch of dragons flying around. . . what does this have to do with Alex Rider? I would have to implement additional cards to the game to support additional learning. So not only do they have to justify their move by revealing their prediction or inference about their dragon's movement, but they'd have to draw a card or something that then relates to the story. Clearly this needs work, but it's just an idea to help really drive home the need for tabletop games in the classroom!

Or, for example, I could use Zombicide to help students understand and develop narrative stories! Why this ultra-violent game about zombies. . . in the classroom? Oh no . .. here come the parent notes. But surprisingly, my kids wrote so many zombie-related stories last year that, well . . I couldn't help but include the game. On the flip-side, I could also attempt to tone down some of the violence when I make my "Teacher Edition."

So once I've created the classroom friendly edition, what am I going to do besides attempt to kill zombies and hope my little character doesn't turn into one? Well, the students would have to write a zombie story and use the game to create a plot. Each of the moves drives the story. You still have an introduction and a climax and a resolution. Either you all get out alive or you all die! And I think it would help the writer's block some students might have when pushing their plot forward. . . or their need for a ". . . to be continued. . ." (Can I just say I hate when students use tbc. It is such a cop-out from actually learning to use the final step of the narrative process. I may be a hardass for it, but I just don't let it fly. I only allow it if you have a complete story and feel the need to write a second.) So the students can choose one of the little character people and develop a character. Then they can create a little band of people and develop their personalities. Look! They have character cards to help them GRAPHICALLY ORGANIZE their characters! How perfect is that? So you keep all the same rules, but add a worksheet or something to help the students outline their story! This is something I actually am so gung-ho about, I've started making notes about how to implement it. Hey, maybe I can even contact the creators and get some discounted copies of the game for my classroom! (shamesless teacher plea for teaching materials!)

As you can see, I can't seem to separate my innate desire to game with my obvious passion for teaching. They are just always linked together. Which made me further think about my desire to professionally develop my literacy background by researching the benefits and positive connections between actual tabletop games and the classroom. I mean, the kids don't have to sit in front of a TV or play on their phones. . . no. . . they can enter a whole new realm that can challenge their thoughts. Why does everything about to be about electronics in the classroom? How about encouraging the kids to build up their own personal computers  (duh. . . the brain) and still engage them? I almost feel like there is a mission in here somewhere. To spread the love of tabletop and imbue the benefits of it as a learning tool in my field.

And there you have it. On my drive down to North Carolina, I couldn't JUST talk about games. . . I had to make it a teacher-moment. It makes me wonder what the actual gaming is going to be like. Guess I better keep a pen and pad of paper handy for all those moments where I realize "I COULD USE THIS IN A LESSON!!!" Now back to my regularly scheduled geek-a-thon of gaming!

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