It had to happen. After two years of thinking about it, I’ve finally integrated the amazing CSI web-based learning adventure into an English class. And what better time of year to trial this than the end of the year when keeping students engaged becomes more challenging than ever.
I’ve posted about CSI before. I became interested in the principles of game-based learning and decided this web-adventure could be used as a spring board for creative writing for a range of reasons. I’m acutely aware of the difference between game-based learning and gamification. I’ve probably gamified the learning process more than created a genuine game-based learning opportunity BUT I’ve attempted to balance engagement, skill development and assessment in the context of creative writing. The benefits of using games in the class include:
1. The popularity of online, interactive games – engagement
2. Rewards-based activities incentivise learning – in CSI, students gain instruments when they complete a section of rookie training.
3. The opportunity to reinforce core values around digital citizenship introduced through our wide reading blog – managing passwords and accounts, staying on task, using several sites consecutively (dictionary.com, virtual thesaurus and CSI)
4. Problem solving – one of me, lots of you means try to work it out yourself OR ask a friend first!
My learning outcomes were also linked to the NZC as creating meaning through creative writing is probably one of the most challenging aspects of the English curriculum to teach. Through embarking on the CSI web adventure I aimed to:
1. Give students a range of concrete nouns to include in their writing through creating individual glossaries of new subject specific words.
2. Provide a tangible setting for their writing – as they explored the labs and crime scenes, they were exposed to places they could describe in their stories. If they struggled to transfer that to their writing, they were also encouraged to use settings more familiar to them (Peter Johnstone Park, the Octagon, etc).
3. Introduction to a range of potential narrators through the game – students were given the choice of writing from one of the character’s points of view OR to imagine themselves as a rookie investigator as part of the team.
4. Sew the seeds of potential narratives as they took part in the interactive case studies .
5. Opportunities for cross curricular learning – the CSI game offers resources for a range of subject areas, especially Science.
Over the past few weeks, my two Year 9 classes have completed Rookie Training and at least two case studies, created a glossary of new words (the goal was 15 words) and set up Google doc accounts. I’ve also trialled using Kaizena to give verbal feedback to several students. Kaizena enables students to share their docs with your profile. You then highlight words/phrases and give feedback on improvements needed. There’s a great introductory presentation available here. I’ve found I provide more feedback and it’s highly personalised so it becomes instantly more meaningful.
We then revised characterisation and narrative structure and, discussed a range of potential hooks to draw the reader in which I modelled on the board using the CSI theme. I got students to complete a planning sheet of ideas (who is your main character, what happens, and then…) as like most of us, the hardest thing about writing is starting.
Every one of the 58 students has submitted drafts at varying stages of the writing process. I’ve been blown away by some of the drafts. Given the stage of the year, I fully expected to have to closely monitor laptop usage but have only had to reprimand one student in the whole two weeks for not being on task. They’ve been genuinely riveted (and at times frustrated) with the game and have taken that level of engagement through to their writing. Given that I have students working from Level 2-5 of the NZC, I’m happy with that outcome.
I’ve got a planning unit available for anyone interested in giving this a go. Over the next few days, I’ll also seek permission from a couple of students to publish their work here. Watch this space!