Saturday, 5 March 2011

Mario Kart in The Classroom WEEK 1

This week I finally started my research project and brought Mario Kart into a Gr. 2 classroom! At last! I've been waiting for months to give games based learning a try.

In each class I go into over the next 5 or 6 weeks, I'm:

-adapting the current literacy workstations to have a Mario Kart theme.
-setting it up so each student plays the game once. The game play results are then used as data.
-giving the current math focus, what ever it may be at the time, a particular Mario twist.

So, for instance, in this particular Gr. 2 class, I created Mario Kart versions of their literacy "I Can" workstations:

  • "Yoshi "Partnered Reading Centre (short, easy scripts staring Mario characters written by me for student read aloud), 
  • "Bowser" Word Wall Work Centre (a list of word wall words that related to the games used in various activities), 
  • "Mario" Spelling Centre (a list of 'content' words related to the game, like star, power, kart, fast, slow, etc, are used in various activities), 
  • "Donkey Kong" Listening Centre (Listening to music from the game, comparing it/describing it, and watching a video)
  • "Luigi" Writing Centre (various descriptive writing tasks related to the game, such as describe a character from the game, create and describe a new character or new kart)
  • "Peach" Math Centre (using Mario Kart math manipulatives, such as big/small print outs of Luigi/Mario pictures, to create patterns and to use as non-standard units of measurement

The YOSHI Partnered Reading center was VERY popular. Students love dramatizing the Mario characters. This activity carried over into recess, with students playing "Mario Kart" out on the playground.

I used my as the listening/computer centre, and students loved listening to the music of Mario (an idea I got from Dawn Hallybone) and the video "Real Life Mario Kart" (by freddiew). They then filled out a google doc graphic organizer to answer questions about these.

I also gave each student 'a ticket' with their name on it that allowed for one race. Students were called up, did the race, then the timed results went on the back of their ticket. I wanted the timed results so I could only play it one person at the time, not multi-player (which does not give a time!). We did this during the literacy centres, over 2 days,  during 2  20-30 minute literacy blocks, approximately. Each student took 2 minutes at game play, approximately.

Once the game had been played by everyone, we could do the math. The math was broken into 2 sections. First, using the cards as manipulatives, we ranked all the times in small groups to determine who had the greatest time for each race (there were 4 sets of racers: Peach, Mario, Luigi and Donkey Kong). To each of those winners, I gave a certificate. Then we decided who had the best time across all the races--that was our 'grand champion' and they, too, received a certificate (and also they get to race the teacher at a later date).

Then we moved on to the specific math focus. The Gr. 2's were working on 2D shapes (identifying and sorting polygons). Their Mario Kart task was to fill in the outline of a Mario Character colouring page with pattern blogs of various polygons then answer some questions about the shapes they used: total number, number of different types (triangle, quadrilateral, etc), which were used most/least, etc.

The students loved this task. Their focus was amazing! Not a single redirection, prompt or 'Johnny, get back to work'. They all dug right in and stayed there. There was also lots of 'purposeful talk' about shapes. When they were done, they got to keep the colouring page, which in itself made them very excited.

1. A little bit goes a long way. This does not need to be rocket science! Even the slightest nod in the direction of student interest (such as using Mario Kart colouring pages for the math) = big time engagement.
2. Bowser is very popular! There was lots of requests for a Bowser versions of things.
3. Students loved this! Just taking the usual class activity and giving it a Mario Kart Twist = students saying "This is the best day ever!" and repeatedly saying how much fun they were having. One student stopped me in the halls later to tell me thank-you, and how much fun he had.
4. It was easier to facilitate than I thought, especially the game play. The ticket system made it run very smoothly, no hiccups.
5. Mario Kart is quite adaptable--which is a point I'm trying to prove! In addition to the 2D math idea, I also came up with a corresponding 3D shapes activity. Essentially, play the race course with Bowser's castle for the whole class to see. Then ask student to use 3D shapes to create their own "Bowser's Castle". They could use red construction paper to cut out lava strips. Then they could use a similar tally sheet (to the one described above) and document number and types of 3D shapes used to make their castle. (I would have loved to implement this, but, alas, must move on to the next class).

As this is an 'action research' project, I am also conducting surveys, collecting finished work data, and doing interviews with teachers/students to document the impact and success of using Wii in the classroom (especially as it pertains to students working below expected levels). I haven't yet gone over this data in any detail, but my own initial, first impressions indicate this was very successful in terms of student engagement and also in terms of work completion (ie: that 2D math task was diligently completed by ALL students).

Next week, I take Mario Kart into a Gr. 3 classroom...and will need to adapt Mario Kart somehow to the concept of place value and double digit addition! *thinking cap is firmly in place*

Of course, I will be blogging about that experience in one weeks time!


  1. Great post, Julie! I like the creativity you incorporated into your activities, giving your students a heap of fun while learning literacy and math.
    Your comment "a little goes a long way" is especially encouraging, perhaps to a teacher who doesn't feel confident coming up with really creative ideas.

  2. Thanks! I appreciate hearing the feedback. This is a new idea I'm trying out. Games based learning in general is an emerging field. I'm hoping to promote the idea that its fairly easy to incorporate plus adaptable.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Julie J.