This term we have introduced the use of Super Scribblenauts on Nintendo DS into our Literacy Rotations in the 6B classroom. Released in 2010, the game is a little gem for GBL, as the puzzles rely on the player correctly and creatively using spelling, adjectives and nouns to solve puzzles that encourage players to think outside the square.
The game is rated PG, so I sent home notes to gain parental permission for students to play the game in class. It was easily the fastest return rate on notes I have ever seen, and every child received permission to play.
For the first time, I have been able to get a class set of games through a wonderful partnership we have established with a games association in Sydney. Previously I have funded all of the consoles and games used in my classroom and have not been able to afford class sets of games. This has restricted the focus of the literacy learning to topics that apply to different games at one time e.g. character focus, vocabulary in the game. With a class set of Super Scribblenauts I have been able to create learning foci more specific to the content of the game. This has enabled students to work much more collaboratively on a puzzle than when they were playing different games at one time. Students have also been able to save their game progress and continue from where they were the week before without another player adding to their score or progressing further in the game.
The use of adjectives has been a focus for the students in my grade since the beginning of the year. Most students tend not to use adjectives in their writing, even though some are using similes and simple metaphors. Success in Super Scribblenauts depends on the use of adjectives to clearly describe the nouns required to defeat monsters, fill the empty box, cause the extinction of the dinosaurs, fix the race car, allow the arguing brothers to get along and many other goals to achieve in the game. I have created graphic organisers for each puzzle we have focussed on and they are downloadable as images if you right-click on them and select save as from the menu.
Four of my students this year were in my grade last year too and are now very comfortable with learning through the use of games. The other students, who had not experienced GBL prior to this year, very quickly got used to approaching a game as a text and with a particular focus for learning in mind with the four experienced students guiding them.
The graphic organisers made the learning focus for each puzzle very clear to the students and reminded students to use the internet to source further information around the puzzle’s focus. Students were able to compare and contrast items within each puzzle, group them according to use, alphabetise them and find a relevant match for them. When we began to use Super Scribblenauts students seemed to automatically rely only on their prior knowledge to solve the puzzles and would come to me if they didn’t know anything about the topic presented to them by the game. After a few weeks of this students now come to me only to ask if they can get a netbook as they now know that exploration of the topics through use of the internet is a way to make text-to-text links with the game.
This year my school is employing a new data tracking system, which includes the tracking of student attendance across the school. As of last week, my grade had the best attendance in the school for the year so far. I believe GBL has quite a bit to do with that statistic.
The puzzles in Super Scribblenauts cover a wide range of topics and I think this is a positive as it exposes students to a range of landscapes, vocabulary and themes they don’t engage with on a daily basis. For example, one puzzle focuses on homes for different characters, including a tiger, a boy and a cow. The graphic organiser asked students to list these characters and the homes that match them, but then asked them to list other animals and their homes. Some students were able to complete this using prior knowledge, others used the internet to research some animal homes to complete their list.
When playing the game, students must use at least two adjectives to describe any noun they use for a puzzle. I then linked this focus to writing, and asked students to include two adjectives for each noun in their narrative writing, so as to encourage students to make further text-to-texts links between the game and their own writing. From my experiences with games in Literacy last year, I expect that students will begin to make this link on their own during term three.
Super Scribblenauts has been an excellent game for use in the grade 6 classroom, and I recommend it to teachers in the grade 5 to year 8 areas (middle years). The game presents challenges that entertain and engage players of all ages. I know I’ve been challenged by it, especially in level 8, where one puzzle still defeats me! It has been much more valuable in regards to focussed learning to have a class set of one game rather than a broad focus designed to suit the learning in a variety of games.
I’ll post more graphic organisers as I create them.