Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Video Games and Writers Workshop

I read a very interesting post at Edutopia on what we teachers can learn from video games. The post started with some scenarios like:
  • "You are dropped off at the top of a ski resort's steepest run when you've only had experience on the beginner slopes.
  • You have to spend your day on the bunny hill when you're an expert skier."
Video games, of course, are not like this. You start at an easy level, get lots of positive reinforcement, and things slowly get more difficult. At the end you reach the most difficult level, and feel great that you finally reached that high level.

Unfortunately, our writers workshop is often like one of these scenarios. (Most likely the first scenario where you are on the double black diamond ski run) We ask a student who struggles with English or with writing complete sentences to write an essay, or write a story, or write quietly and independently for 20 minutes.

What happens?

They start with good intentions, and 3 minutes later are talking with a neighbor. They sit staring out the window. They say, "I just don't know what to write about." They ask about the spelling of every other word to avoid making mistakes and avoid writing.

How can we use video games to help our writing time?

One thing I do as a class is create a graph of how long we are able to write. The Stamina Graph (from The Daily Five book) gives students positive, immediate feedback. Yesterday we lasted five minutes, but today we wrote for 7 minutes. Wow - you improved by 2 minutes. Slowly, students move from 3 minutes to 45 minutes of focused writing and conferencing time. Every step along the way, students get positive feedback on how they are doing better.

Here are the three key ideas from video games!
  • Start small
  • Celebrate success
  • Reach challenging levels
What about our ESL students? Here is an interesting post about learning to read in a second language. Remember, learning to read is 100 times easier than learning to write. I think you will find this post a real eye opener for you when you think about your exited and current ESL students.


    1. Hi Sacha

      I followed the link from the original blog you mention to this one .. both have provided me with food for thought.

      I am about to start a writing workshop unit with my year 8s and have a massive gap between by top and bottom students in terms of ability ... I really like the idea of writing stamina!

      Thank you for your thoughts!


    2. Hi,

      We thought would be a really good tool for creating these sorts of programs, where students can keep track of their progress and the teacher in turn can view the student's progress via sharable links.

      We'd be keen to get some feedback if anyone has any!