Archive for Writing
Future Directions in Literacy Conference – Sydney University
This term I have been using the wiiMusic Game with my class to develop knowledge and understandings about music. Here are a couple of posts from my class blog – 09AllStars – all about what we’ve been doing.
We are studying music for the next few weeks, and we will be using the wii to help us explore and experience a huge range of instruments.
We used our Golden Time today for the intial taste of what the wii can do – everyone had a quick turn at playing an instrument and we all had a bit of a laugh as well.
Stay tuned for more posts on what else we are doing with the wii Music.
Over the past week we have been playing the wiiMusic in small groups so that we can practise the activities and get better at the games.
We have been playing lots of different instruments and hearing and accompanying many different tunes. Its quite hard at times to play tunes that you haven’t heard before. We have found that you get better – and it becomes easier – the more you practice and the more familiar you are with both the instrument and the tune.
We have found out about “pitch” by playing the “Pitch Perfect” game – you have to listen carefully to match the notes that are the same, or put the notes in ascending order by listening to them. Sometimes this is hard, and the timer is counting down so you have to hurry!
Future Directions in Literacy Conference – Sydney University
I have used the wii in my classroom quite a lot over the past two years, here are notes on a number of games I have used with my Stage 3 (Years 5 & 6 ) class.
Pwii – Tennis
Here’s a blog post my class wrote when we used the wii for our PE lessons.
We have finally started our “PWii” lessons. We call them PWii (rather than PE – physical education) because we are using the Wii to play tennis.
Each group of students has written up a lesson on a tennis skill, and they teach the rest of the class how to do the skill. We play outside using a wide range of bats and racquets to learn the skills we need to play inside on the Wii.
Each pair plays the Wii in the classroom, and we choose the “best of 3 games” option. When everyone has had a turn we will each play other students and have a “Round Robin” tournament.
We hope to put together either a wiki of our work or at least a page to show you what we’ve been up to
wii Tennis was the first experience I had with using the wii in the classroom. The class was really excited about using the wii as no-one had one at that time and so enthusiasm was at an all time high!
The game linked into the curriculum through English (Talking & Listening, Reading and Writing) as well as PE:
- we researched the types of PE skills necessary to play tennis
- divided these up and pairs or trios of students then devised lessons to teach the skills to the rest of the class
- together we used the internet to locate some appropriate warm ups, stretches and cool downs to use at the beginning and end of the lessons.
- we located videos of how to perform the skills in tennis so that the students knew what they were to teach
- students wrote up their notes into lesson plans
- talking and listening skills and strategies were discussed with the class and a set of “Super Speakers” and “Great Listeners” charts were constructed to remind students of the expectations of the groups when students were teaching lessons
- small groups of students taught these skills over a period of 3 weeks out in the playground
- inside, the wii was set up and groups of students rotated through it playing tennis - to get the feel for the game and the skills they were teaching
- after all the students had taught their lessons we arranged a tennis tournament inside the classroom, using the wii
Mario and Sonic at the Olympics
It was a bit of a surprise to find ourselves using this game for poetry! However, a stand out of the game were the different characters and their individual responses to winning or losing the athletic events. Each of the characters were different colours and we discussed how the colours reflected each character’s personality.
Then students thought about the colours themselves, and how each colour looked, felt, smelled, the emotions it evoked, and even the tastes it reminded us of.
Lastly we put both aspects together and wrote poems that showed how the colour and the character linked together to really show what the characters were like.
My colour jumps with joy and relief!
My colour sounds like a creaky hall way.
My colour feels optimistic.
My colour feels like the mysterious night sky
My colour is dark as the night sky.
My colour sounds like storms on a rainy day.
My colour is as evil as the grim reaper.
My colour feels like a touch of death.
My colour is the colour of horror.
My colour tastes like a shadow waiting to be unleashed.
My colour smells like darkness.
My colour is mysterious.
My colour is black.
My character is Shadow.
Literacy is my home, my comfort zone: I know what to do and what to expect.
So I’ve been a bit uncomfortable for the past few weeks, as our wiiMusic unit develops and grows.
Enabling the students to discover, explore and make connections with what they know and are familiar with about music and what they are learning about music through playing with the wiiMusic game, is a vital part of the learning cycle.
We have been talking our way through the game, the concepts and the terminology, investigating ideas and thoughts more fully through art as well.
We’ve written some informational texts, but I have been uneasy and at a bit of a loose end and I think it’s because I haven’t been able to harness the fun and excitement of the wiiMusic game into the literacy learning of the class.
I have tried to placate myself with thoughts that my students are learning about music – the language, the sounds, the instruments etc – but I was a little apprehensive about the lack of meaningful literacy moments that I could take advantage of.
I LOVE creating and crafting texts with my students: of playing around with writing so that it connects to readers and says exactly what you want it to say – but the opportunity had not arisen ……. Until today!
Today we shared ideas -
We built on each others words,
We explored vocab together,
We searched for the appropriate phrases,
We put images into words.
We created together!
This class is different to the classes I’ve had over the last couple of years: as a group they are much more reserved, they are less confident in themselves, there are fewer risk takers, there are more early phase ESL students in the group, and as a group they are less academically engaged in school.
So the strategies I used
⇒ were modified,
⇒ the positive reinforcement more frequent and specific,
⇒ the scaffolding was greater,
⇒ the re-phrasing and modeling more explicit, and
⇒ thinking time was more individual rather than shared
But the results were astounding!
Once the initial shyness was overcome there was much clapping and supporting of the efforts of all!
A shared purpose.
A shared pride.
A shared success.
How is literacy different now – not just the tools.
Cramped definition of writing – what does writing look like today?
Writing is happening in new and exciting ways
Historical context -
- Personal + response
- Discipline & punishment – punitive
- Cartoon + humour
- Protest – graffiti, posters
- As a process different types of writing
- Writing model is made linear ( in learning institutions)
- Digitised – publishing opportunities
- Connecting + visuals (colours, images impact on writing)
- New & exciting ways to connect – part of the process – which medium and why??
- Now not just the computer or screen BUT web2.0
WRITING TODAY IN SCHOOLS – activities to try
1. Blogging from school to the world
- Discussion board
- Answering about book
- Different criteria – not words but response to others (respect, regard for others)
2. Becoming Jane Austen
- Character/ persona of someone you study
- Relationships with others, thoughts
3. Information Ecology
- Owned by others, gated, bureaucracy
- New model = online
- Answer a question using only blogs
- Map the journey
- How do we decide what is trustworthy and what is not?
- Academic, mainstream & alternative sources
- Need to be explicit so students can be explicit
- Time Magazine top 25 list of blogs
4. Blogging as Learning in Action
- Where do we see poetry in the culture – how is it poetic?
- Blog of unnecessary quotation marks
- Signs – changing over time and the assumptions they make
- Need to de-construct
- “out in the culture” & blog about it to share with others
- embrace learning together – participation
- tool set (blogs, wikis, twitter) to control – which tool to use when to connect to others???
- experts and lay people composing knowledge
- citizen knowledge – available to participate in science projects -
- built into the model of scientific data gathering
- citizens journalists composing news
- “I” reporters
- started as a result of crisies
- when people are helping each other there is greater trustworthiness
- history is being made before our eyes – primary sources
- now people are reporting why
- citizens composing power
- eg Iran – twitter, blogs
- blog is a tool that connects to other tools
I have been using games in my classroom for nearly two years now and have been constantly surprised at the excitement, success and achievements of my students in this time. My students’ writing has especially been of interest to me and I have thought long and hard about how and why using games elicits such wonderful responses.
I first used PS2 game back stories as models (in 2006) for my students to write their own stories with surprising results. I then moved on to the very different and beautiful Samorost and Samorost 2 games as stimulus (2007) with again, wonderful results.
Using historical stories to build their own games, and write the back stories (also 2007) encouraged the students to come up with interesting and well thought out ideas.
Most recently I used Mario and Sonic at the Olympics as stimulus for writing poetry, which also yielded positive results.
Lots of different games, from internet based to COTS, yet all had great impact on the quality of the writing produced by my students. Why? How?
Well, in a coming together of ideas and professional learning over this time, I’ve read “Out of Our Minds. Learning to be Creative” by Sir Ken Robinson. So much of what he said made sense to me and led me to this post of thoughts as to why using games with my Primary aged students helps their writing.
The use of the games allows for and promotes creativity!
Robinson refers to creativity as
a process rather than an event
most of these aspects can be linked to the use of computer games within my class. Perhaps my students are creatively learning – is that it?
I would love to know what you think
Collaborative nature of using games with the whole class on the big screen enables all to participate at whatever level they are comfortable with: amateurs, newbies, competents all have some stake in the game; all have important comments and views to share.
Newbies are seeing things for the first time – they can often share new perspectives that competents and amateurs hadn’t thought about.
Newbies ask questions that competents and amateurs can try to answer – by articulating what they know and teaching others the whys and hows of the game, strategies, language and information within the game can be shared.
Sharing of knowledge, ideas, vocabulary and the “piggy backing” of thoughts helps to grow new ideas and thoughts. Robinson says that we make sense of the world by trying on ideas for size. Shared vocab, shared imagery – this belongs to all of us. Sharing of the language involved provides models and scaffolds that support all learners – ESL, language disordered, struggling and advanced users of English.
Sometimes the class starts with a common sentence, and everyone builds that sentence into something new. New vocab has meaning; new ways of saying something are shared and modelled. The language belongs to all of us, it gets better and more descriptive the more we use it and mould it to what we want to say.
Striving for more - students push themselves to get better/ be better. They work and think hard together, as a class, to achieve, to make the work stronger, the images clearer and the language richer. Students enjoy the notice, the acknowledgement of their classmates when they come up with a great idea, word, image or phrase.
During the game and the learning sessions, students are working for the common exploration of the game, the theme, the topic; they are working together to explore and imagine. There are no grades, no external reinforcement, just a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they can do. Pushing past what they thought was their best, to speaking, writing or thinking something that is new, improved and satisfying.
A community. My students are not isolated - it’s not them and a blank page – everyone starts together through talking and suggesting. The game provides a shared beginning with lots of “jumping off” points to get them started and on their way.
The oral aspect is vitally important for all students. Trying out ideas, and how they sound in English, and how they might best be written is hard for my ESL students- many of whom don’t yet have a strong idea of exactly how English should sound.
Acceptance of their ideas, providing alternative ways of saying the same thing, playing around with the language in a supportive way builds up the sense of community – everyone has something to offer.
Drama is a fantastic way to tease out new ideas and concepts especially when students are struggling with finding the English words for what they are seeing. Even advanced English speakers are able to develop their vocabulary through dramatic representation of what they are seeing and doing on the screen, in the game.
Students are motivated to try new ideas, new imagery, new ways of approaching writing in a supportive, yet exciting environment. My students are in a familiar domain (computer games) and can relax into the rigorous school domain where they are expected to write (in English) about unfamiliar topics, events and experiences. Their motivation seems to run deeper than simply playing computer games in school. They are being asked to do more than just play the game – they are being asked to think, to respond, to create, to move past the actual game in front of them, to record and deliver their ideas in new and interesting language.
Safe risks where students are encouraged to take risks and realize that to fail (some ideas they have will be better than others) is an important part of learning. Sometimes the flow of ideas and talking is so fast that it’s hard to get what you want down, but in this environment my students can see that their writing is not permanent – they can change it, add to it, re-arrange it, and if they really don’t like it cross it out or leave it and move on. Robinson beleives that creativity involves a dynamic interplay between generating ideas and making judgements about them. We get more ideas, and better ideas through taking these safe risks in a supportive atmosphere.
How different this is from the prolonged agony of no ideas, an empty white page and 20 minutes to write something, anything, at all. When all there was time for was to write down the first thing that came into your head, and it stayed there on the page mocking you (but it really didn’t matter because you didn’t need to read it again anyway. The teacher was the only one who read your work!).
The excitement and noise of ideas bursting forth, of being re-written and re-worked, of being tried out and accepted or laughed at and rejected, only to be picked up again later and turned into something useful. Or the quiet of pencils scratching workbooks, students mumbling sentences under their breath and a sigh of success as their writing works out and they finish off with a flourish and a grin J
I don’t know ………, I’m scratching for answers or insights into why gaming offers such impetus to my students. Is it the creative aspects of the tasks that appeal and resonate with the students? I do know that using computer games has impacted strongly and positively on my classroom over the last two years. Hopefully I’ll find out more (answers or questions – I’m not sure) when in Scotland and England early next year!
Image: ‘The Questions Crap‘
I noticed many times during our work with Haluz that the kids were re-working paragraphs or sentences to get better effects. They would start off with an OK paragraph, sentence or idea, and then have another try, often changing the word order around.Sometimes they would try out various emotions and the associated vocab or language that went with the emotion. Over the years I’ve been constantly frustrated by my students inability or unwillingness to work on their writing – to improve the meaning, even to edit their work. Yet I have noticed that many students seem to enjoy working at making their sentence or paragraphs interesting, clear and entertaining.
This playing about with words and language – either to experiment with the power of the words, or to try out different effects of words – is really positive and encouraging. 80%of my class speak another language at home, and have rarely had the time or the confidence at school to experiment and play with English.
In our hurry and intent to “teach” non-English speaking students as much English as possible, we haven’t allowed time to use language for “play” purposes. I noticed my students were excited to try out different ways of writing the orientation, or about a character, or about an event they had experienced in the game. Was it the control over their writing? over their ideas? over the language? that was most exciting? Or was it the confidence of being in charge of English and being in charge of their story? What do you think?
In this session we looked at the various characters in the game.We discussed (as we moved through the game, often retracing our steps, or jumping ahead to see/watch/view the particular character we were talking about)
- the lack of main or “big” characters in Haluz
- what each character added to the game
- the personality characteristics that each character had/showed
- how we knew what the character was like – and what made us think that way
- background music
- way the character moved
- what the character did
- what the character might have been feeling/ hearing/thinking at different points in the game
- and how this influenced the characters movements
- how the words we used to describe changed according to how the character was feeling/acting
During this session we couldn’t help but act out different ways of moving, of reacting, and of thinking whilst we were “in character”.
The kids then had some time to work on writing about one of the characters. I think they made some great attempts at actually “being” the character …… what do you think?
“Sendrick the snake had never heard music before, so he hastily pulled himself out of his basket when the strange music began playing” Sarah.
“Zaffa the hungry snake ferociously swallowed the cute furry mouse like a racing car going at great speed” Moustapha.
“Watching the mouse as carefully as a shark spying on it’s prey, Valisa, the suspicious snake waited for the mouse to peek out of the tiny hole” Momtahina.
“George excitedly popped out from his basket when he heard the beautiful music” Steven.
“I stomped outside to see what was going on. Even though a vulture-like predator had my satellite dish I couldn’t help but smile. I was about to embark on a miraculous quest …” Timothy.
“Peeping out of the ancient box, one eye after the other, I rise carefully with caution, to the roof of the slimy lizard’s mouth. Jerking upwards towards the lizard’s dirty, disgusting tongue, I shake my head sideways and bump into the lizard’s throat, giving him a constantly sore throat” Naomi.
“Carelessly, I sprang out of the straw basket swaying to the music, not thinking of what I was doing. Only one thought was on my mind, “sway to the music” for I had not heard the marvellous music that I was swaying to right now for what felt like a hundred years” Natalie
In May, Australia is undertaking, for the first time, national (as opposed to states-based) literacy and numeracy testing for students in Years 3, 5, 7 & 9. In the follow-up information received after last year’s state based testing (the NSW Basic Skills Test) my school identified a variety of areas we needed to focus on this year to improve our school results.
In the Literacy – Writing area our Areas for Focus were identified as:
- Text Processes: Effective orientation
- Text Processes: Effective resolution
- Topical language
- Figurative language
- Sentence structure
The genre of Narrative is the only text type required this year, so my time has been spent working on my students’ narrative writing.
Last year I explored the use of the on-line “point and click” game Samorost with my class, and used it to work with my students on their writing skills. The results were inspiring and very exciting – you can read about what we got up to here ….
I was keen to use a computer game again to explore writing, and to motivate, engage and involve my students in writing narratives. However, I didn’t want to/ couldn’t just repeat what I’d done last year (two thirds of my class this year were in my class last year) as I was interested in a number of areas:
- to explore what other areas of writing lend themselves to using a game
- to investigate if more structured, text-based writing skills could be learnt/taught/practised using a game
Fortunately I came across another post from Ewan , who threw out a link to Haluz – a “point and click” game in the same genre as Samorost – which has meant that I can explore some more with my students …… and teach writing as well :)
You gotta love that don’t you?