MissionMaking a Game

Our negotiated task for this term was 

to create a game, based on our study of history, using the MissionMaker program. 


Here’s a brief outline of how we went about it……. 

1.    Exploring world history. “Taste testing” periods, people, stories from 3 eras:           

  • Ancient history          
  • Medieval history           
  • Modern history 

2.    Focusing in on a story that they enjoyed –            

  • Researching         
  • Familiarizing          
  • Comparing info/accounts of the story 

3.    Playing with MissionMaker

  • Playing MM games           
  •  Watching training video for ideas, ways of using the props, objects, rooms           
  • Exploring the program themselves 

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4.    Negotiating task requirements«           

  • Pick up 5 objects           
  • Use a story from history           
  • Demonstrate knowledge of your period in history           
  • Rubric 

5.    Aligning historical story with MissionMaker game. Deciding on worlds, characters, objects that are available in the game           

  • Mind map of possibilities – who, when, where, what, why, how          
  • Physical map of the game – rooms, characters, objects, clues

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6.    Making the game – this is where we are up to now 🙂

7.    Presenting the games for play 

It’s school holidays at the moment so we have had to take a break from game-making for the next two weeks, but will continue when we get back to school.  

I have been encouraging the students to blog their preparations and plans as we go. To “see” what they have been up to please visit our class blog –  07 AllStars and click on their individual blogs down the right hand side of the page.

Commenting Confidence

Further to a previous post on my student’s commenting skills, I decided to explore the issue in a teaching unit recently. The series of lessons fit into our English syllabus as they involve Talking & Listening, Reading and Writing. 

I wanted to improve the commenting being undertaken by my students. 

We started our discussions by looking at lots of comments on many styles and types of blogs. Students classified them into 3 star, 2 star, and 1 star comments. 

We cut and pasted some comments onto one page and discussed these comments further, trying to find examples of what good comments were. 

Next, students tried to articulate the aspects of comments that made them worthwhile and meaningful to them as recipients. What did they, themselves, feel was useful in a comment? 

We looked at some sentence starters we had up in the room, and why they were good.We looked at open-ended question starters that we use in our Reading Circles and discussed how they were useful. 

We had a chart in our room that we had made earlier in the year that had our class requirements for commenting (full sentences, grammar, punctuation, positive, constructive). 

 We discussed this and realized that we had to add other criteria as well. We came up with a number of areas that were missing from our original chart: 

  • Links – to our own life and experiences         
  • Responding –  to what the blogger is saying/ thinking/ asking           
  • Conversation – between the blogger and you, asking questions for clarification, for more info 

We found it really hard work:  

  • to respond thoughtfully to what the blogger was saying, and to respond to their message.           
  • to articulate what was required in a great comment 

But we all have a clear definition of what is required now 🙂

PS: we practiced our commenting on our blogging friends blogs, and this is what Mr Pearce from Geelong in
Victoria had to say recently 


Learning Futures Symposium

An “opportunity to talk to and learn from teachers and educators across sectors ……. to talk through issues confronting education in a Web 2.0 world …… enjoy the feeling of being a part of something new and different and stimulating. … “ Megan Poore, Chair, Learning Futures Coordinating Committee. 


Held in the beautiful grounds of the Australian National University in Canberra mid September, The Learning Futures Symposium was an eclectic gathering of people interested and passionate in responding to and embracing the changes that must be made for formal education to remain relevant in the 21st century. 

Keynotes from Jillian Dellit, the Learning Federation, about the knowledge economy and the slow uptake of digital technologies in the education sector. Schools and teachers are the products of governments’ inability to change and to acknowledge the “knowledge economy’. 

Dale Spender spoke on the digital revolution and how it isn’t optional – how the implications for education are transforming learning, literacy, creativity and assessment. The world wide web has changed reading, writing, creating, thinking – it’s changing social, economic and political structures but it has not yet changed education and education structures. 

The spotlight speaker was Garry Putland, from education.au, who spoke on the applications that kids are using out of school, the applications used within schools, and user-generated content. He pointed out that connectivity is already part of our kids’ lives and that when we put up barriers, we are really just encouraging kids to go around the barriers.  

Garry mentioned that we as teachers have to tread carefully, but innovate and become entrepreneurial – push the boundaries because while kids use these technologies they are also “clumsy” with them. It is our role to discuss, explore, articulate and teach to the needs of the kids. We need to help develop our students’ critical thinking and analysis skills rather than banning everything we don’t understand/agree with. 

Lots of food for thought here! 

What I liked 🙂

  • Chance to talk with other educators across boundaries           
  • Sharing uses of technologies and applications           
  • Networking with others          
  • Hearing about exciting projects 

Things that worried me 🙁          

  • “We are already doing this” (no we are not- KimP)          
  • “It’s the teaching NOT the technology” (its both! Lets more on from PowerPoint – please!!!!!!! – KimP)          
  • “My system can’t/won’t/is unable to change” (it will have to – go on, lead the way –  KimP

Thinking about Samorost

Sorry, but this is a long one ……. 

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.

6 Hats


Sparkly white     White hat:    Just the facts…..

  • Curriculum Link: narrative writing in English
  • Class had already discussed
    • structure
    • purpose
    • problem/complication
    • characters
    • 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”

Sparkly Red       Red Hat:  Feelings and emotions …..

  • 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.

 Sparkly Black     Black hat: Negatives and cautions ….

  • 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

Sparkly Yellow  Yellow Hat: Positives and optimism …..

  • 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.

 Sparkly Green  Green Hat: Creative ideas and alternatives …..

  • 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

Sparkly Blue  Blue Hat: Thinking about the thinking ….

  • 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.


Writing with Samorost

Writing in class 1           Girls writing

“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?

 Samorost Planets  

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

Anteater Scene

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

Samorost – Day 1

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

“Keeps you working, thinking and playing.” Nadine

Samorost Class 1          Samorost Class 2

Talk IT

Talking our way into learning …….. I first started to realize the importance and value of computer games when I listened to my own children discussing and playing their favourite game. They would work through the game trying all sorts of problem solving strategies:

  • they would pause the game, 

  • chat about the best way to approach the current problem, 

  • try out their  strategy,       

  • try again,        

  • work out a new way to solve the problem,   

  • swap the controls and let the other player attempt the difficulty,    

  • automatically pass the control when they got to a difficulty that they knew the other player was stronger at,    

  • chat,      

  • discuss,     

  • argue !?!

Even when they were not playing the game (ie away from the PS) they would be working out plans, suggesting new ways of approaching problems, hypothesizing possible strategies to try later.  I was continually surprised, not just at the level of engagement with the game, but the amount of thinking, planning, problem solving and talking that was happening around the game.

The TALK that surrounded the playing of the game was substantial, high quality communication.

I wondered then, when preparing to use the Wii in our PE program, if the TALK in the classroom would be as substantive – there are many more people involved, a bigger age gap between oldest and youngest (it’s a Year 4,5,6 class and ages range between 8/9 years and 12/13 years), and the setting was completely different, as was the type of game being played. 

While we were trying out the controls and progressing through the practice sessions  I tried to I listen to what the students were saying as they went ( difficult: chaotic, loud, hilarious, quick )  

Helps: twist it, aim it

Hints: try this, what about that

Suggestions: just twist the controller

Instructions: move the controller to knock/spin the ball

After just one session with the Wii I noticed that even though the depth of thinking and talking was not great, my class were :

  • focusing on their language, making it specific and understood by the others
  • building a shared understanding of the words they were using
  • working together – sharing, listening, compromising
  • using new language/vocab in a supportive setting
  • problem solving for a shared and important end
  • using new language/vocab in a purposeful way

The purpose, at this early stage of our play with the Wii, was to build common understandings, skills and terminology so that our future use of the Wii could be shared by all the class – and the TALK in the session reflected this.

Unfortunately time ran out without us having the chance to talk about the learning that had taken place in the session – usually I would ask the class, in pairs or small groups or individually, to talk or write about the learning that had taken place using our “Thinking Hats” (De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats) so I don’t have any comments from the class – I will have to make sure that I leave time for this important reflection next time 🙂

Lots more to do and to explore. Interesting and exciting times!