Monthly Archives: June 2011

Gaming Soundtracks

Level: Intermediate/ upper intermediate

Location: Connected classroom

Skills focus: Writing

Language Focus: Relative clauses

This is a nice little activity to stimulate a little writing in class.  I have used it to practice relative clauses but there’s no reason that you can’t just forget a language focus and just get learners to write.  I’ve done this activity a few times and I either :

  1. Let them see the titles of the game and ask them if they know the game.  If they do if they know the music.  If they don’t know the game I ask them to predict what the music might sound like.
  2. Don’t let them see the titles and simply play the music following the instructions below.

Pre-play

Brainstorm the titles to a few video games on to the board.

Ask the following questions about each game and elicit some sentences using relative clauses.

When is it?          Where is it?          Who is it about?

e.g. Mario brother olympics

I elicited the following:

“In a time when Mario and his friends went to the olympics”

“In a land where Mario and his friends live”

“About people who compete to win the olympics”

Play

  • Put learners in pairs and tell them they are going to listen to some music from a video game.
  • After they hear each piece of music they should write three sentences about what they think the video game is about.
  • You can get them either to number the sentences in order or ask them to write them out of sequence on a piece of paper.  Tell them not to worry if they don’t know which video game it is.  This is not important.  What is important is that they listen to the music and imagine what they think the game is about and write the sentences.
  1. Age of empires intro
  2. Call of duty 4 intro
  3. Farmville
  4. Full metal gear intro
  5. Grow cube intro
  6. Half life intro
  7. Spore intro
  8. Sims 3 intro
  9. Pacman intro
  10. Mario intro

Post Play

  • If learners have numbered their sentences in order then they can compare their sentences and decide which are the best for each piece of music.
  • Play the music again if necessary to help learners decide.

OR

  • If learners have written their sentences out of sequence on a piece of paper you can collect them in and hand them out randomly.
  • Learners then read them, listen to the music again and match each three sentences to each piece of music.

Homework

  • Dictate the names of the games and ask learners to find out online about the game.  They can then rewrite their sentences to compare the following class.

OR

  • Learners go home and choose three games (one’s they’ve got if possible) and write three sentences about them.  They then read the sentences out next class to see if their classmates can guess the name of the game.
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Playing At Pirates With 'The Ballad of Kinetto'

The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ has proved such a successful movie franchise that we’ve decided to get in on the act at Digital PlayThe Ballad of Kinetto is a series of online pirate adventure games involving strong narrative features, some great puzzles and its own pirate heroes – Kinetto and Amber.  ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean‘ is on its 4th installment and Kinetto has doubled that and is now on its 8th.  Here are some screen shots from each chapter (Chapter 1-8 clockwise from top left):

*Oops! 1 and 2 are the wrong way round!*

As the movie franchise is on its 4th release we’ve decided to give you some ideas on how to use the game with the 4 skills of writing, reading, listening and speaking.

Writing

Use a walkthrough to play the game yourself on a screen in a connected classroom.  Ask learners to predict what you have to do or identify language elements (such as vocabulary) as you play but use the walkthrough to move the activity forward.  At intervals pause the game and ask learners to write the storyline as it unfolds.  To encourage some range and complexity of language you could either brainstorm narrative language elements onto the board or list them yourself.  Here’s one I prepared earlier:

  1. Tenses (past simple, past continuous and past perfect)
  2. Sequencers (First of all, after that, then, etc)
  3. Direct & reported speech
  4. Grammar (adverbs, adjectives, phrasal verbs etc)
  5. Typical pirate vocabulary (galleon, skull & crossbones, cutlass, deck, mast, flag, desert island etc)

Encourage learners to use the list regularly tin their writing.

Reading

Learners open three internet explorer windows.

  1. They play the game
  2. They read the walkthrough
  3. They use an online dictionary.

Of course, if you have copies of learner produced stories from the game from say a different class then there is no reason why you can’t use these with another class playing the game.  If they are reading the story they can get a good idea of how to play the game.  This in fact generates a lot of discussion as they translate the story into actions within the game so encourage speaking in English as much as possible.

Listening

There are a number of ways to do this:

Pairs or group dictation – Print off a copy of a walkthrough for each computer in the computer room.  In the computer room put learners in pairs.  One sits at the computer and plays the game while the other sits behind them with the walkthrough.  The learner with the walkthrough dictates to the gamer (in their own words if possible) how to progress in the game.  The gamer listens and plays the game.  If computer room dynamics means that there are more than two to a computer set up a ‘chinese whisper’ activity with one learner at the computer and learners sitting directly behind in a line.  The last learner in the line has the walkthrough and whispers it to the learner in front.  The instructions then get relayed down the line to the gamer.  Whichever one you choose to do make sure to get learners to change positions regularly so they all have a chance to play the game.

Relay dictation – Place a copy of the walkthrough on thw wall and get learners to take it in turns to read the walkthrough and then return to their partner/ group and dictate how to play the game.  Get learners to swap roles (gamer and dictator) every 5 minutes or so).

Teacher dictation – With a walkthrough in your hand dictate to your learners how to progress in the game.  Encourage them to describe what they can see on their screens as you monitor to encourage peer help.  Also some of the language may be new to your learners so encourage them to ask you for definitions.

Speaking

Play the game in a connected classroom using a walkthrough.  Learners work in groups to discuss what happens next in the game and a spokesperson reports their conclusions to the class.  The class then votes on the best idea and you tell them how close their ideas are to the game storyline.  Give clues so they can guess what happens next if they are off the mark by referring to the walkthrough and then move the game on further and repeat.  For lower levels they can direct you to vocabulary items on the screen to click on. Higher levels can describe what to do on the screen while the highest levels can predict what events in the story happens next.

You can find links to each game and their walkthroughs on a single page by clicking on the link below:

The Ballad of Kinetto

Let us know how you get on by posting a comment.

Free Online Game Creator

This free downloadable game creator let’s you make your very own flash games.

If you’ve ever fancied turning your hand to making a simple flash game or perhaps you’re looking for a summer course project to run with learners then Stencyl could be just the program for you.  It’s free, online, simple to download and use and it’s available for either a PC or a Mac.  The program comes with a few examples to try out and customize.  They are pictured here on the left.

After a quick look I settled on the RPG (role playing game) option.  Why?  Well . . .

  1. the vocabulary looked a bit richer and there’s potential to exploit a narrative within the game.
  2. It also looked quite easy to understand and explain just by looking at the opening shot (see below)
  3. Learners could be away from computers and draw, design and discuss the game.

The game itself consists of a male or female game character (avatar) who can explore the game world (outdoors, which is pictured above, and indoors) collecting treasure, avoiding obstacles and fighting foes.

Your question may be ‘how do I take this and use it on a summer course?’  Well there are schools out there who are already doing it that may provide you with some ideas:

Summer camp at Cal State Dominguez Hill sets out a three week programme and lists what you will learn and the topics covered.

Emagination runs video game design workshops as well as others with a strong technology slant.

ID Gaming Academy has a more ambitious three week programme that you can watch here:

Video Game Design and Creation Summer Camp

Different ways to get language production from this could be:

  1. A learner game design journal where they reflect on things they have learnt and directions they wish to move in.
  2. Discussing game maps and content with partner or team.
  3. Writing the game instructions.
  4. Recording audio descriptions for their game.
  5. Producing a gaming dictionary for game content.
  6. Any story lines and narrative giving background to the story.
  7. Giving a presentation of the game using a presentation tool.
  8. Writing a walkthrough for other learners to use.
  9. Writing a review of a learner created game or the creator platform itself.
  10. Opening a wiki on which to save game images.

I’ve yet to try this as a syllabus elective course for language learners but I can see some great potential here.  Any pioneers out there who can give it a go then get in touch with us because we’ll offer you a guest blog post here.

Stars for good behaviour

Level: Kids of all levels

Location: Connected classroom

Aim: Better classroom management

Game: Flight

My star chart for good behaviour was looking a bit dog-eared so I decided to look for some Digital Play that would replace it and I found this game:

What is the game?

It’s quite simple really.  You pick up the plane using the mouse, drag it into the air and throw it (see above), releasing the mouse when you want to let go of the plane.   You then get to see how many stars you collected on the way, how far you threw it, bonuses you accumulated and finally how much money this earnt you (see below right).  As you progress in the game you earn more and more money which can buy you upgrades (see below left).  There are levels in this game too.  Each single level takes place in a different city in the world (see at the bottom of the post) and you have to throw the paper plane from one end to the other taking many goes to do so.

How did I use it?

I used the game as a reward for work done and good behaviour much in the same way as my now defunct star chart did (my learners voted for this to take its place).  Having an IWB (interactive Whiteboard) helped as I could then present it in a mush bigger way and also have my learners use the pen instead of the mouse to play.  They were also given a chart (Download it from the link at the bottom of this post) to record their scores.  By recording their scores they could not only compete against each other in the short term but also themselves in the long term.   Top scores were kept by only recording a personal score if it was higher than their last score.  Of course, in any one throw they might score low on distance but high on stars so some time was needed after to scan the scores and make the necessary notes.  Play the game and you’ll see what I mean.

There is also the upgrade system (above left).  You can either do this yourself as you see fit or engage your learners in negotiation over which upgrade you should spend money on.  If you spend it on fuel then you can press travel further in flight by pressing the space bar.  Generally I do this myself to avoid complications.

When do I use it?

The trick is, though, not to overuse it in class.  Use it too many times and you not only tend to lose control a bit (the learners do tend to get excited over the game) but you may also wear the game out.  that is if you overplay it your learners may lose interest in it.  I’ve found that I’ve started to use the game as a reward in a few ways:

Completed Homework – At the beginning of the class I ask learners to put their homework on the desk and form a line at the board.  In this way everyone who did the homework gets rewarded immediately.  While they take it in turns to play the game I mark the homework with the learner next to me.  That way I can encourage them to self correct.  Those that didn’t do the homework have to do it while the others are playing.  They can’t copy and they see that by not doing the homework they lose out on the fun.

Classwork completed – The first one to finish an exercise from the course book or work book gets to have one go.  The learner who tries the hardest also gets to have a go when they’ve finished.  This is my way of striking a balance between always rewarding the achievers (fast finishers) and those that may struggle and usually never finish first but should be rewarded for their effort.  This kind of means the middle range kids may be receiving a little prejudice but if you can see a way around this then please say by posting a comment.

Good behaviour – Although the star chart has been retired it’s still a good idea to keep a record of good behaviour.  In my case it’s a happy and sad face on the board.  Each time someone misbehaves they get a letter of their name spelt out and marks if they have misbehaved so much that their whole name is spelt out – Spanish names tend to be quite long though.  If they are good they either get letters deleted from their name under the sad face or begin to get it spelt out under the happy face.  I’m sure everyone has a different system.  this can get a little confusing ( is ‘Mar’ spelt under the sad face Marta or Marc?) until you are used to it.

There are of course lots of games like this that you could use in a similar way.  Read about some of these and maybe play a few by reading our ‘incentive to work’ games post.

Download the Flight Chart.