Archive for Samorost
We all had a great time working with and through the Samorost games over this last month. What I found myself wondering though, was why it had such an impact on the students’ writing. Was it just a case of grabbing their collective imagination, was it that they worked on the game as a class – problem solving together and collectively solving the game, or was it the fact that it was a game that the students found so engaging?
The class and I used De Bono’s thinking hats to organize our thoughts about the games (see previous post and individual student posts) but this didn’t really answer my questions.
I have explored narratives with many age groups over the years: we’ve used stories and texts to inspire, we’ve looked at paintings and pictures to set scenes and watched movies to see characters and explore story lines. I have always tried to share whatever was available to help my students “put pictures and experiences in their heads” to use in their writing. Sometimes results were encouraging, but never has the quality of ALL student writing been as high as it was this month, using Samorost.
Tim Rylands’ blog and website are inspirational, and his success with using MYST with students to help their creative writing encouraged me to have a go at using some form of game to try out his ideas – albeit in a small and isolated way.
So I knew that this had been tried before, that success had been documented before, but still no real why was this so?
What often happens when I’m unsure about things: I ask my class what they think.
This is what they came up with:
- the scenes and environments are out of the ordinary – they appeal to you because they are different/ unexpected
- the environments show great detail which you can describe
- you are within the scene, not static, there are hidden things that you don’t expect
- it is surprising – keeps you active
- the game aspects – you think differently in a game rather than in a book – you are actually DOING IT
- it could really be happening to you
- you are part of what is happening
- you control where you go – in a picture or book you have to stay where the character is
- you choose what happens to you – you make the adventure
- the sounds give you the mood and the atmosphere
- it’s interactive – you use all of your senses
Interesting, don’t you think?
Games are very important to these students. They like being the centre of the game, in control, and making decisions. It gives them the experiences that they could possibly write about. They have sensory experiences to recall, they have scenery to describe, choices they’ve made, places they have explored. Experiences ready and waiting to be articulated, discussed, expanded upon, labelled, thought about, talked about, shared and finally written about. Cool!
I thought I would use De Bono’s Thinking Hats to organise my thinking and reflecting on using Samorost as an aid to teaching Narrative with my Year 4, 5 and 6 students.
- Curriculum Link: narrative writing in English
- Class had already discussed
- language of narratives
- First experience with game = played the game together as a class and wrote down our first impressions of the game.
- Talked about Intro scene (45 minute session) –
- Discussed purpose of this scene and linked it to a narrative
- Students shared words and phrases that could describe the little planet. Tried to set the atmosphere of the story – calm, peaceful, mysterious
- Played around with interesting language, shared vocab, wrote sentences using shared vocab (kids scribbled in notebooks), and rearranged these sentences to see what would happen (were they better, worse, more/less effective?)
- Played Samorost 2
- Collaboratively brainstormed (in three’s) words to make a “Feelings” matrix of words and phrases to use that would show rather than tell how a character is feeling or the mood in a scene.
- Discussed similes, metaphors and imagery as ways of adding to descriptions. Found examples in literature that used similes, metaphors and imagery. (We collect great sentences or phrases, type them up and put them on the wall for language/literature activities)
- Explored the Anteater scene (1 hour session) –
- Imagined what it would look, feel, sound like in the metal ball that descended into the anteater scene of Samorost 1. Closed our eyes and imagined.
- Thought of ways that Sammi would move that would indicate how he was feeling. Actually acted out ways he might exit the ball and how they would show how he was feeling.
- Tried to “step back” from the scene and look at the environment to identify any images that we could use.
- The kids were writing down any interesting ideas, phrases, words, sentences that they came up with as we went along
- Time for writing throughout the session – jotting as well as constructing
- Sharing each student’s “best bits”
- Successful because it was embedded into the curriculum – it was an integral part of what we were doing – not added on because it was a game.
- High engagement with the game transferred to the writing about the various scenes. It was almost as if the kids felt they were part of the game/world and so it was motivating and just an extension of the game to write down what happened.
- Group situation supported all students in taking risks in using unfamiliar language, looking for and using imagery, and experimenting with sentence structure and order.
- Students may not have the language experiences to adequately describe what they see or feel.
- Scaffolding that is needed by the teacher could shift the focus from the student back to the teacher (who takes over).
- Issues with the pipe smoking
- Enabled the students to become part of the story they were writing
- They had acted out the story by playing the game, they had been in the setting and knew ( or even were) the main character
- Going through various scenes again enabled the students to talk about what they could see, put words to their emotions and to use these words to build pictures about the scenes
- Shown how to write with emotion – closed their eyes and felt what it would be like
- Used their senses to get a deeper feeling for the setting and for their character
- Using the game meant that all the students had a common experience to work from. The virtual experience meant that everyone was able to share thoughts on a variety of surreal environments.
- Students who find it too difficult to write (special needs) drew beautiful and very detailed drawings of the environments we were looking at. Able to add the action that thought would happen.
- Early ESL learner wrote one sentence (with difficulty) on the first day, three sentences on the second day and half a page in the third session.
- Students could collage new scenes or environments that might be a part of Samorost 3
- Use the camera to take photos around the school of interesting nooks and crannies that could then be photo-shopped to create digital collages of new scenes/environments.
- Students could write about what happens to Sammi and his dog at the end of Samorost 2
- Map the planets
- Tell the story from the point of view of another character (Samorost 2)
- Write procedure for making pear juice (Samorost 2)
- Write up “walk throughs” for other groups
- Use Mission Maker to make their own game
- Colin Thompson books set in tiny worlds
- Whole class group sessions were vitally important as the more able students were able to model and share confidently, and the other students used this modeling to join in and contribute
- The idea of being in the game/story was the big difference. The structures were already there, in the game/story – the students were free to describe what they saw and felt without having to control all the other aspects of a narrative (the complication and resolution, the climax and ending).
- Because the game was purely visual, this allowed the students the freedom to add any text they liked:
- Conversational spoken texts as they played the game
- Logical procedural spoken texts as they problem solved whilst playing
- Basic field building vocab in first impressions writing
- Leading to figurative language building in consequent written texts
- The students grabbed hold of this opportunity to experiment with language in a non-threatening environment, where they were scaffolded by the story to play around with ideas for using language. It put the students at the centre of control of the language being used.
“Phew!” what HARD work! but ….. what fun! We have had a couple of sessions working with Samorost this week – everyone is still really motivated and I am really pleased with the quality of work produced. What do you think?
We worked first on setting the scene and mood of the story. Students tried their hand at using the setting to create different atmospheres – lonely, peaceful, mysterious:
Roaming peacefully, the planet drifted calmly through the tranquility of space. Timothy
Floating in the isolation of space, the miserable planet wandered… Marshall
Drifting through the silence and blackness of outer space, the mysterious planet sways through the bright lights of the stars…. Natalie
The silent planet, waiting for the unknown to become known. Celia
We spent some time this morning trying to put ouselves into the little character in Samorost (generally called Sammi!). We discussed using emotive descriptions of what the character was feeling, we closed our eyes and imagined that we were in the metal ball that descended into the scene above:
Swinging like a pendulum, the ball on the rusty chain starts descending through a pitch black tunnel. Emily
Feeling dizzy and confused and helpless, I dangled amongst the mossy roots and branches of the gnarled trees, in an ancient, rusty ball ……… Timothy
Swinging from a chain in the round, brown sphere, I felt sick and dizzy. Squeaking and screeching, the sphere suddenly came to a stop. I thumped onto the floor of the metal ball. I grabbed the metal window and pulled myself up like a baby trying to stand…….. Sharon
The hollow, swinging sphere fell down and down, leaving Samorost to listen to the deafening clanking of the old and rusty chains. The chains finally stopped clanking and everything seemed still and quiet. Samorost peered curiously out of the circular, barred window wondering what was going on…………. Nancy
I was falling in a ball, so fast. I could hear the chain rattling. I sat in a corner of the ball, the falling seemed to last forever. Finally the terror stopped and I was swinging gently from side to side. I just sat there. I was like a mouse ath the time, afraid of seeing what was out there …….. Clement
I peered through a little window and caught a glimse of a larger forest, inhabited with fungi, moss and mushrooms spread across the forest floor like butter on toast …….. Gloria
The branches of the trees look like the massive body of a pterodactyl. On the neck of the pterodactyl – like branches, sat the lazy and hungry anteater. Marshall
In the maze of prehistoric trees, an old box was hidden ….. Naomi
The trees were like tentacles, all twisted up together, connected to an unknown monster, waiting hungrily for a lost traveller to approach. Sarah
…..I decided to explore a bit more. I walked a few metres to my right and saw roots that were tangled up like a dozen cords all trying to get into the one power point…….. Ramiz
Feeling helpless I dangle amongst the ancient branches and plants of the aging rainforest, suspended only by a rusted metal chain……… This was just like an amusement ride, I think to myself, but the only difference is that if something goes horribly wrong there will be no one to help me if I am wounded. Rocking unsteadily in the darkness of the metallic ball I wonder if I will get to the ground safely or drop to my death ……… Martin
We have had Samorost fever this week! I knew the kids would be hooked by the story & game and I really hoped that I wouldn’t spoil this engagement by using the game as a teaching tool.
I wanted to let the students guide me on how to work with them exploring the game, in terms of a narrative, and to work together at discussing and sharing observations and impressions. Not sure exactly how to begin, I started with a joint walk through of the game.
We sat on the floor around the iWB and took it in turns to move the stylus over the page and work out what to do. I wanted the students to get a feel for the game – especially the characters and setting – so I thought that playing the game together would give them a reference point from which to work later when we did some writing about the game.
Most of the students thought that the game was going to be “shoot’em up” game and were puzzled and perplexed when none of their predictions came true. The lack of instructions also proved problematic to some students and it took a while for everyone to work out what was happening and what they were required to do.
“I never thought it would be a brain game. ” Clement
“It’s simple, but to get to the next level you need logic.” Gloria
The “hard thinking” was a highlight of the game for many of my students – they loved trying to work out how to make things happen, and for some just the idea of cause and effect, and logically working out what might happen as a result of something that had happened earlier, was new.
“If I did that – what would happen next?” Gloria
“When you activate certain objects or certain people you have to think how it will affect your surroundings.” Martin
“There might be a message hidden in the game that you have to find out.” Nadine
I hoped that we wouldn’t get bogged down and frustrated, but the students pulled together and worked co-operatively as a team to solve the problems as they arose. Most of the students commented that had they tried to solve the game alone it would have taken much longer than solving it together.
“When we worked as a team we did well. Everyone thought it was exciting so they all wanted a turn.” Timothy
So our first experience of Samorost was really positive – the students were buzzing about the character (Sammy, Sam O. Rost, pyjama guy!) and the planet/space station. Most students wanted to be able to play the game at home and so a link was put on our class blog to enable them to do this. We scribbled down some first impressions of Samorost and most of these have made it onto the students’ individual blogs which can be found here.
“The game is great. The best thing is that you can’t die!” Marshall