Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Using Computer Games in Literacy

As anybody who takes a vague interest in this blog knows, I am very keen that students have opportunities to use computer games within their studies. Tim Rylands and Derek Robertson are two educators who have pioneered the use of COTS (commercial off the shelf) games within the classroom, using them as a means to making the curriculum more engaging and culturally relevant.

Robertson's work is particularly interesting as it attempts to add academic validation through a research project looking at the use of Dr Kawashima's Brain Training. His recent invitation as the keynote at VITTA shows that people are beginning to take note.

Our ICT curriculum here at Kellett has a module in each Key Stage 2/3 year looking at computer games. This also informs work on games design at the top of KS2 and into KS3. However, the real importance of looking at games is in the wider curriculum. For two years we have worked on a module using the simulation game Rollercoaster Tycoon as a basis for Literacy work at year 5, tackling aspects of persuasive language and research. The point with this type of activity is that the computer game is merely the stimulus for pupils, similar to a text, an image, or even a visit.

Last year our Year 5 students were introduced to the online game Samorost2, a problem solving activity. They loved the game and the difficulties the character faced so much that many of them carried on working on the problems at lunchtimes and at home.

Inspired by the work of Kim Pericles in Australia I sat down earlier this term with P6 teacher Katie Hitchcox and introduced her to the mysteries and intricacies of the first Samorost game. From there Miss Hitchcox planned the use of Samorost into her Literacy work; a two week module looking at story settings within a fantasy genre..... here's what happened.

Students were introduced to the game and encouraged to work in small groups to solve the problems and help the main character to save his planet. Interestingly, whilst many of the adults involved in this project had found the problem-solving aspects quite difficult (impossible, actually!!), the students worked well together and had clearly plenty of digitally native experience in this type of activity. Although the seven levels of the game were challenging, by the end of the first Literacy session most of the groups were nearing completion.

After spending time with the game, students then discussed aspects of narrative writing, taking notes on each scene before looking at creating powerful openings to their stories. To enhance their understanding of narrative, setting and character, the class then moved to the Drama Studio where they used a variety of techniques to help them understand the situation and feelings of the characters. Many of the pupils felt this was very helpful when they were working on their writing. Alongside the specific tasks within Literacy there was an ongoing writing task requiring pupils to write a story based upon the game. Most of the work was done in class using laptops.

What is Samorost?

Working As a Team

Samorost in Drama

Using Samorost to help Writing

Persuasive Language with Samorost

Writing Example 1

Writing Example 2

During the second week of Literacy, students focussed specifically on the fishing scene from the game, using figurative language to describe setting and including personification, simile and metaphor. To extend their work further, students also looked at the genre of advertising and created an advert for a future release of the game, Samorost3 assumably!
The images below are extracts from pupil work, click the arrows to move through them.

More to follow!

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