Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Classroom Activity: Learning the Ropes

Now that I've been approved to teach an enrichment class using role-playing games to develop critical thinking and collaboration among middle school students, I'm slowly covering all the flat surfaces in my home with legal pads and post-it notes upon which I scrawl ideas for class activities, resources needed, and questions I have to answer.

It's a bit of stress and a LOT of fun.

Here is a sample of my random scrawl:

  • How to deal with character fragility?  Incr HP?  Death save?
  • Level limits: drop them?
  • What order for attributes?  Moldvay/Labyrinth Lord? Pathfinder? 5th ed?  Does it matter?
  • Use saves or ability checks?
  • Skip minis: kids think they need them to play, they break "disappear", take extra prep time
Of much more importance than those fun little mechanical puzzles are the classroom activities I'm starting to design to form the core of my lessons.  Good lesson design starts with the end in mind of course ... in other words, "What do I want my students to be able to do as a result of the instruction?"

In Unit One, I want the kids to learn to play some basic form of a role-playing game (so that we can build off of that foundation for later units) and I think it would be cool to use role-playing to look at how bias and point of view can affect the way that people interpret (and recall) the same situation in different ways.

Unit One: 
Learning the Ropes -- The Rules of Play for a Collaborative Storytelling Framework

Key Objective #1: Students will develop familiarity with the basic rules of a collaborative role-playing game.

Key Objective #2: Using the framework of a storytelling game, students will explore the effects of point of view in narrative

My first two activities will focus on helping kids get some basic understanding of our rules (whatever those end up being). If an activity is to be worth anything, we've also got to answer the question: 
"How will I know if the students "got it" (learned what I wanted them to learn)?" 
So I'll need to build in assessments for each meaningful activity.

c 2006
Activity 1: Reading the rules of play as an informational text.

  • Technique
    • read-aloud, think-aloud, think-pair-share, reading partners
    • examples! Let the kids roll the dice
    • each student with digest versions of the rules

  • Assessment: short answer quiz on rules, roles, and terminology
    • “What do hit points represent in the game?”
    • “What are the basic types of characters you can play?”
    • Which is better, an armor class of 10 or 16?”

Activity 2: Play in three-person teams, each team controlling one character

  • Technique
    • arrange students in groups of three
    • furnish pre-generated characters (one per group)
    • use Smartboard to run simple dungeoncrawl
    • I'm from the Voltron generation,
      but to my kids the whole team
      robot thing = Power Rangers

  • Assessment: 3x5 reflection on the activity
    • “What was the best part of this activity?”  
    • “If we had been able to play longer, what would you have done next?”
    • “If you had controlled the character by yourself, what would you have done differently?”

Not ground-breakingly different stuff there, but a start. I think that the novelty of the game itself will give me significant traction. While I'd prefer to just hand out pre-gen characters and toss the kids right into play, I may be working with 35 or more kids at a time so I need to keep the steps pretty basic and structured (at least until I can get them running games for each other).

In the weeks ahead I'll continue to post activity ideas as I flesh them out.

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