Guest post by Sarah Garcia from Kilbowie Primary School, West Dunbartonshire.
Sarah is a Primary 7 (11-12 year olds) teacher at Kilbowie Primary School, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. She has been teaching for seven years and loves helping children to learn. Sarah really enjoys trying to find innovative ways to get children excited about learning and allowing them to explore a wide range of relevant, purposeful learning experiences, which will prepare them for the future. Sarah is particularly interested in new technologies and game based learning, which is a happy coincidence as that is something the children are interested in too.
Brandon Generator Project
I got the idea for developing a Brandon Generator project after seeing the project mentioned on Twitter (a great place for sharing teaching ideas). I watched the first episode and instantly thought my class would love to get involved. I pretty much dropped what I had planned for the upcoming weeks in literacy and looked at how I could develop their skills using Brandon Generator as a stimulus. We worked as a class developing Brandon's story and watching the various episodes, the children were excited to see that similar ideas to theirs had been incorporated into the animation. We discussed writer's style, choice of vocabulary and structure, the writing process (drafting editing etc.), character development, plot.... the children got a real working understanding of the process of story writing. The children also created their own songs and podcasts of the voicemails they thought would be on Brandon's phone. Additionally, the project allowed the opportunity for philosophical debate about creation, reality and existence which the children really enjoyed.
I didn't really predict how engaged the children would become with the project. I think the secret ingredient was the opportunity to collaborate with real authors, it gave their writing a real purpose and a live audience - so they really gave it their all. I was really amazed by the quality of writing they had produced; some real authors in the making!
It was great to see even the more reluctant writers absorbed in their work, scribbling away, taking work home to finish! Some children were inspired to write songs about Brandon and were out in the playground with paper and pencils, leaning on a book and writing songs words together. Brilliant stuff.
Kodu in the Primary School
The Kodu project was a cross-curricular game based project, spanning across of curricular areas allowing for the involvement of a wide range of secondary subject teachers . Games were created in the primary schools and each school voted two winning games (one per primary 7 class) to save and take to high school for use in the project. As well as creating the games children took part in a variety of learning activities in the primary school. They took notes during the game making process, developed their Kodu characters and wrote imaginative character descriptions whilst exploring vocabulary: adjectives, adverbs, metaphor and similies.
They wrote back stories for their games and developed a narrative to go with their game. They also explored different genres and styles of writing and wrote a review of their computer game.
I only really had to run through a basic tutorial with the children and go over a few key features of Kodu. The children were creating their own games straight away, the programme is fairly intuitive and children were creating and discovering things for themselves as well as teaching me new things!
The project engaged all the children, particularly those who perhaps are not top of the class in other subjects such as English and maths, they were allowed their moment to shine and designated the role of 'Class Kodu Experts' and helped others to learn.
Kodu at High School
Once at the high school the children were put into mixed groups from the various feeder primary schools. The children were given the opportunity to play and review the Kodu games created by the various P7 classes. Each group was assigned a particular game to market and formed their own marketing company. The children came up with their own company names and designed company logos. Within their company they then created task teams, which focused on a wide range of learning tasks such as: creating game websites, game advertising podcasts, writing game reviews, designing promotional materials and launch invites, exploring finance, event planning, photography, film and even providing catering and hospitality for the parents’ event . The parents event took the shape of a games launch event and the children were able to show parents around the school and share their transition work.
The children really enjoyed the Kodu transition project, they were so motivated to create the games and were learning so much without really realising it. It was great to see the children teaching their parents their new skills at the games launch.
If you would like to speak to someone from Clydebank High regarding the Kodu transition project, Hazel McLaughlin the depute head teacher co-ordinated it.
Game Based Learning
I will continue to use Kodu as part of ICT. Game design features in the new Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and am keen for children to develop these skills. I also aim to develop a game based project using maths as the focus, using XBOX 360 and London 2012 game is an idea at the moment.