Monday, September 1, 2014

Classroom Activity: Student GMs

Tomorrow is the first day of school and I'm still busily planning lessons for my brand new Adventure Games class. I've had full support from my administrative team and they've even developed a short affinity survey to gauge the interests of our students and to help the teachers of my grade-level team place our kids in the areas where academic needs and individual interests best align. This kind of thinking is really setting me up to win!

Today I'm thinking about ...

Unit Three: Managing a Game

Key Objective: Students will begin to develop proficiency as the lead narrator of a collaborative storytelling framework

  • Students will consider how to best engage players
  • Students will revise a setting based on player input and self-assessment

Activity 1: Manage (GM) prefabricated / pre-stocked setting for peers

  • GM chooses and manages setting
  • GM provided with a survey
    • Name your players
    • What did you do to help engage each of your players individually?
    • What could you have done to better engage any players who were not engaged?
    • What was the best / most engaging part of the game?
    • What part of managing the game was the hardest?
    • What do you wish you had handled differently?
    • Grade your performance as a GM
    • What tools would make it easier to manage your next game?

  • Players are provided with a survey
    • Who was your GM?
    • How engaging was the game?
    • What was the best part?
    • What did your GM do particularly well?
    • What could your GM improve upon?

  • GMs given reminder cards, summarizing their roles
    • apply rules fairly to all players
    • keep game moving and players on task
    • provide information about the setting
    • make rulings when players attempt things not covered by the rules
    • create interest and excitement
    • insist on good sportsmanship from your players
    • refer difficult situations to teacher

Formative Assessment
  • player survey and GM self-survey

Activity 2: GM manages a setting that he or she has created from scratch (prior Unit)

  • GM develops and stocks own setting (prior Unit)
  • GM manages setting for peers
  • GM provided with self-survey
  • Players are provided with survey
  • GMs given reminder cards, summarizing their roles
  • GM revises setting based on reflection and player feedback
  • GM manages revised setting for a different group of players
  • GM completes second reflection
    • Identify your second round players
    • What specific changes did you implement to improve your setting?
    • What was the best / most engaging part of the game this time?
    • Grade your performance as a GM

Formative Assessment
  • player survey and self-survey
So, as I learned last year, the really, really sweet spot is where I can give my 8th graders enough experience role-playing (as players) and just enough guidance in the form of rules (suggestive, not proscriptive) and imagination-sparking support materials (sketches, partial maps, sample monsters, hazards, and treasures) that they can step out and begin to GM groups of their peers on their own.

What I sketched out above is my effort to intentionally scaffold that development. That being said, while I'd like every student to try running at least one session for peers, I don't have the expectation that every student will feel an affinity for the role of GM. Somewhere around this point I expect my class to fork, branching into two or more different tracks, with some students continuing to refine their skills as GMs while others double back to Unit Two and engage in world-building and still others move ahead to Unit Four to focus on designing completely new games.

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