I've always been one who wants to show people how to do something through doing it myself. How do you know what you're asking the students or anyone to do unless you do it yourself? I can't teach a game unless I've played the game and learned it myself. I can't teach my daughter to make homemade pizza unless I've done it myself.
It will be a lot of work, but I recommend modeling everything for the students in this unit. That includes making a small game of your own. You don't have to go big (remember K.I.S.S.?), but you should make something so that you can also troubleshoot the problems that the students might encounter.
Below I've made a list of the activities you should prepare to model for the students so that they understand the expectations and can see what the end product or what they're doing should look like:
1. Research Reflections
Before you begin allowing the students to play games, you should prepare them for writing reflections on the games as part of their short research. By playing they games and thinking about what they like and didn't like, this will help them choose a mentor game and, hopefully, better understand how games work.
2. How to Write a Game Proposal
Before they can receive advice about their game, they have to fill out a rough draft of what they think their game should be. I filled out a rough draft of a game, as well, to show them how to do it. This also included brainstorming ideas for what kind of game they might want to make and choosing a mentor game.
3. How to Speak with a Game Developer (previously called the Publisher)
Have the volunteer or a volunteer show the students what you expect from them when they meet with the game developer for feedback on the draft of their game. Also, show them what types of notes you would expect them to write and what they are accountable for.
4. Writing a Narrative to Accompany a Game
I can give my students the narrative checklist from the beginning of the year, but writing a narrative that demonstrates the expectation is even better! Then the students can read through the narrative and see if the checklist is being met. It also provides them with a mentor text. There is no excuse when you have provided them with an example.
5. Writing A Formal Instructional Packet
Filling out the packet that you want them to complete shows them the expectation. Use it as a teaching tool to demonstrate how to use bullet points, where to put periods, and what can be written in sentences or paragraphs and what needs to be written in steps. As they fill in the template, they can reference what you've done in your own example to guide them.
6. How to Create Digital Media
If you can show them your own finished product using the same digital tools that they will be using, it gives them hope and they see just how awesome their own creations can be. You can run a tutorial on these kinds of things, but it will always come down to having to work one-on-one with the kids to complete the task at hand. Still, make a demonstration of how to create their work digitally and have a final product to show them.
7. How to Construct Components
When you have your final components printed out or ready to construct, take a moment to show the kids how to cut out cards and apply them to playing cards or how to cut cardstock cards and glue them to backs. Showing them how to do it might seem silly, but in the end, it might give them a better perspective on what you are looking for in a final product. Sure, my 4-year-old can cut on a straight line, so you'd think a sixth grader could. It's amazing how many don't. So don't pass up the chance to show them exactly what you are looking for, even if it's just a quick 5 minute demonstration.
8. How to Playtest a Game
It may take a little while, but showing the students how to playtest a game is a valuable modeling activity. The kids want to treat it like real published games or they don't want to give the games a chance, because they can't figure it out in two seconds. Providing them with steps to follow can be beneficial and acting out those steps can also be incredibly helpful for the students.
9. How to Leave Feedback for a Game
Once you've done a playtest, make sure that you demonstrate how to leave feedback. The students would hopefully have learned how to do this prior to now, but since it is in another format and students struggle with transference of skills, it is important to show them how you want them to leave feedback. If you just give them verbal examples or quickly go over it, they will also seek to leave meaningless and inconsequential feedback for people when they play games.
10. How to Prepare an Argumentative Presentation/Present an Argumentative Presentation
I made a presentation. I wanted to show the students exactly what I am looking for in their presentation, while still allowing them their own creativity. So I made one and then I actually gave the presentation to my students. I asked them to use the rubric to score my presentation (or look at the checklist for the activity) and then I asked them to tell me what they noticed about me as a presenter. They talked about things like not looking at the board, looking at the audience, talking loudly, etc.
One thing that we found was helpful was reminding the kids before they present to look at the heading on their slide, then turn away from the slide and talking about the heading. Who knows more about their game than they do. Then, when they were done talking, they could look at the slide as they prepared to change, in case they forgot anything. It really made a difference in presentations, because the kids still felt mildly confident glancing at their slide, but they were so much more interesting and authentic when they were talking. I can tell my students that and even show them until the cows come home, but it wasn't until my husband said something that they listened. Broke my heart, but there are only 9 days left in the school year. They're sick of my yammering.
There are so many more things you can talk about with modeling and all the different aspects of modeling, such as how to write a Works Cited for images and Mentor Games, but it's the game thing. . . walk them through it and write one of your own to guide them as a demonstration. I prefer to have my students write their bibliographies or works cited without using all these fancy new gadgets, because sometimes it's 50xs faster than plugging in a bunch of info to a thing and it spitting out a potentially flawed looking citation. I'm still old school like that.
Either way. . . modeling is a requirement of making this unit work. Not only for solidifying your own knowledge and understanding, increasing your ability to empathize with the issues that students might run into, but also to be an engaging teacher.