Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Mario Kart Adventure Continues... WEEK 2

This week I brought Mario Kart into a Gr. 3 classroom, using the game again in literacy centers and a math activity.

Many of the literacy centers were similar to last weeks (see previous post). The Peach center was the only one to change significantly: it went from a math center to a 'Surprise Center', which in this class changes every so often to a new activity. The surprise activity of late had been answering 'EQAO' type questions with the 'answer sandwich' procedure. So I gave this a Mario Kart spin.

For those of you not in Ontario, EQAO is the province wide assessment that takes place in Gr. 3 & 6 at the end of the year. Students in this Gr. 3 class are learning to create paragraph answers in response to questions by: restating the question (bread), then providing 3 proofs (sandwich fixings), then writing a concluding statement (bread)--ergo, an 'answer sandwich'.

For this center, I created 'cards' with different questions on them related to Mario Kart and gaming, such as

  • "You are playing Mario Kart with a friend who has never played it before. Write a paragraph to explain to your friend what the game is about and how you play". 
  • "Compare Mario Kart to another video game you have played. WRite a paragraph to explain their differences and similarities." 
  • "You are to advertise the Mario Kart game in a store. What are the game's best features? Write a paragraph to convince other people to buy the game". 
  • "You want to be able to play Mario Kart in class but you need to convince your teacher it is a good idea. Write a paragraph to convince your teacher to use Mario Kart in class."

In this class there were some students who were not familiar with the game or the Mario Kart phenomenon & I realized that I had to account for their lack of exposure. So I ended up including this in the EQAO cards: "In any of the questions, substitue Mario Kart with the game of your choice (either video game or other game)".

(I also had these students play the game first, and also watch the game as another played so they could become familiar with it.)

By its nature, this centre was a bit challenging for some students, especially those who were reluctant writers. We also had to encourage students to think deeper beyond just saying 'it's fun'. Why is it fun? What makes it fun? What is so important about having fun?

As such, this centre required a bit more intervention on behalf of the regular classroom teacher & myself.

In addition to using the game data to sort game results (see previous post), I again tailored Mario Kart to the class's current math focus, which happened to be double digit addition with regrouping. Students were already using the base 10 blocks and placements (of ones, tens, hundreds, etc) so we just 'tweaked' the usual questions to have a Mario Kart focus.

We started with Mario Kart word problems, which they had to figure out using their base ten placemats. They were also given strips of red/green/yellow construction paper which they had to hold up if their answer was:

Odd: red
Even: green
Greater than 50: yellow

You'll notice those colours mimic that of the Mario Kart race 'starting stoplight'!

Here's an example of a Mario Kart word problem:

I wrote Nintendo 66 letters asking that they include my new character in the Mario Kart game. I had my friend write 77 letters. How many letters did we send altogether?

We went through several of these.

Then I used the Mario Kart colouring pages from last week to create Addition Colouring worksheets. I took each character I had (Peach, Mario, Luigi, Bowser) and put 2 digit addition questions into their various colouring sections. They had to figure out the answer then look at the code to determine what to colour that section. So for Peach, for example:

Odd answers=pink
Even answers=yellow
Greater than 50 answers=blue

We could go deeper! I found myself this week wishing I could have expanded on a number of the literacy centers and incorporated the game more fully. The writing center activities could be a more thorough class lesson, where we look more closely at the characters and karts in the game, describe them more specifically, compare them, and create new ones, etc.  We could do stories set in the different level settings. The reading center is another area. This continued to be a big hit, with students LOVING the dramatization of Mario characters. Many of them started writing their own scripts, though they didn't get enough time to finish them withint the context of the literacy center rotations. But you can see how that could easily turn into a larger drama and writing activity, again turing to the game as a whole class to look more specifically at characterization, setting, etc.

Alas, I am restricted by time restraints and the goals of my specific project. There's just so much more that could be done and I'm feeling my project is like a 'sampler plate'--a wide variety of Mario Kart options are presented, but many could become larger 'meals' in themselves if given time and space. That would allow the game to be utilized more, even just as snippets to show the whole class. (The entire game doesn't need to be played).

Not Meant to be a Magic Bullet! Most students were engaged by the inclusion of the Mario Kart game this week, but not all were. There were 2 students in particular, both on IEP's, who were just not that interested in it. It wasn't something they liked (they have other interests). (There were 2 other students, also on IEP's, however, who were VERY engaged because of the game theme). I think this speaks to the fact that we need to include variety, even within the context of games based learning. It's never one size fits all (I could definitely see 1 of these students responding more to the Kinectimals xbox Kinect game, for instance). My point here is also that the inclusion of gaming/technology does not replace the other supports that students need to be successful. Students who had difficulties with writing still needed direction and prompts at the writing task. This is a comment that comes up often in #edtech comments on Twitter: technology is a tool for the teacher, it does not replace the teaching!

Overall, high enthusiasm! Nonetheless, my overall impression was that students rated the event highly  and when I interviewed them, it was quite unanimous that they enjoyed themselves:

"I liked it" "It was fun" "I liked the literacy centers" "Awesome!" "I want to do it again" "That was really cool". "What I liked most is that we had Mario stuff instead of class stuff. We got a change."

Some of their favourite tasks were the Mario Kart scripts, the task on the computer, and the writing center where they got to create their own character.

Next week I'm in another Gr. 3 class, and will give literacy and math a Mario Kart 'tweak' yet again...

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