A Creative Writing Activity Using an Online Game
Topic: Planning stories
Writing Focus: Fictional story
Time: 1 hour/ 1.5 hours
Key Language: cellar, path, lantern, chest, hook, matches, well, rope, bucket, firewood, crate, rug, trapdoor, wine rack, barrel.
Preparation: Connected classroom or computer room. One printed copy of the flashcards. One photocopy of the walkthrough.
The ‘Arcane season’ online game series is a point and click adventure game that the film studio company Warner Bros runs on a website. It is young learner friendly though it’s worth playing yourself first with the help of a walkthrough to evaluate the ‘scarier’ elements that the games contain. Personally, I’d recommend using the game with upper intermediate teenagers and above. The Arcane Season games are visually attractive with a cartoon feel and its audio elements and short action sequences add an engaging dimension to its play.
There are about 8 episodes of the Arcane Season to date and each part is split into several parts. The material included with this article used part 1 of episode 1 the ‘Arcane Season: Miller Estate’ game. The activities are aimed at Upper Intermediate Language learners for practicing creative writing using the narrative tenses and also to extend their descriptive writing techniques. I have found it useful to have a pregaming activity to orientate the learners towards the language activity. This is so that when they get to the game playing activity they have a clear language objective in mind and don’t get ‘distracted’ by playing the game.
I have found it useful to have a pregaming activity to orientate the learners towards the language activity. This is so that when they get to the game playing activity they have a clear language objective in mind and don’t get ‘distracted’ by playing the game. I start by telling the class the name of the game and I write it on the board. Then I present four screen shots of the game and using these brainstorm vocabulary and elements of the story and write them on the board too. This all usually takes place after a presentation on the narrative tenses or, if it came up in a previous class, a short review that is placed on the board (or learners find the relevant notes in their books to avoid crowding the board). If it does get a little crowded on the board don’t worry. When this is done, ask learners to use the language on the board to ‘tell’ their partner the story orally. This helps activate their story telling skills. While they are doing this I monitor and input useful language items. Afterwards I elicit any useful or interesting language that learners may have used during this stage and write it up onto the board (if there is room). The learners then make notes of the language on the board. Once you explain that they are going to use their notes to write a story about a game you are ready to take them to a computer room to play the game.
This can be done in pairs on computers or alternatively in open class on a data projector.
- Pairs on computers
If the writing task is to be conducted in pairs on a computer they need to take the notes they made in the classroom with them. It’s good for learners to take writing material with them to the computer room as it stresses that there is work to do and it’s not just fun and games. Having said that I like to give the learners 3 minutes or so playing the game without guidance from myself or a walkthrough right from the start. Why do I do this? Because it not only helps learners to familiarise themselves with the game but the game is also sufficiently difficult that after 3 minutes they are so frustrated with not being able to solve the puzzles that they are more receptive and motivated to receive guidance. The 3 minutes free gaming time is also a convenient time for them to ask/ write down any vocabulary or language items but also allows time for me to round and make sure every one has the game set up and is ready to start. When they are ready the learners can start the game either by reading the walkthrough themselves or listening to you read the walkthrough to them. If you want the walkthrough to be a reading activity, learners can find the walkthrough and have it on a second internet explorer page. They can then go back and forth between playing the game and reading the walkthrough as many times as they like. A third internet explorer page could be used to access an online dictionary but the activity can be more fluid and more engaging for the teacher if learners simply ask the teacher any language questions. It is very important that the teacher monitors carefully to make sure that the learners are writing as they play and NOT just playing the game.
- 2. Open class with a data projector
The advantage of using a data projector is that the teacher has control of the game. Start by placing the learners into pairs or small groups to allow them to work collectively on their writing. It’s a good idea to have a printed copy of the walkthrough to hand. You can then play a short part of the game using the walkthrough for the class to watch. Be sure to stop regularly to allow your learners to discuss and write the part of the story they’ve just watched. Consider providing dictionaries and for them to feel free to ask you for help with any language. In between playing the game you can walk around the class and provide support to any of your learners.
Post gaming activity
Learners can swap their stories, read them and discuss which stories they like the most and explain why. If there is any interesting language elements from someone elses story, encourage them to write it down.
You can hand out the walkthrough for another part of the ‘Arcane Season: Miller Estate’ game although part 2 is best avoided as some of the game loses narrative elements in favour of puzzle solving (you have to figure out the correct order to prise a lifeless hands fingers off an amulet).
Flashcards of game images to use in a pregaming activity.
An annotated walkthrough – An online walkthrough which has vocabulary links your learners can click on to view images of the object.
Download a written walkthrough from here – You can print this to use as a gaming dictation/ relay dictation or a reading.