Reading Class as an RPG (Role Playing Game): What I've Noticed So Far

This idea came from a number of sources. There was this TEDx talk by a teacher who turned his science class into a game, plus the reading I did from Reclaiming Reading on conferencing with students, and the conversations I’ve taken part in and watched in my Twitter PLN.

The heart of the project, or the foundation, if you will was a desire to have more productive and more frequent conferences with students about their reading — the use of strategies as they read, their metacognition, their comprehension — and how both the student and I could monitor what we talk about in our conferences, which would, in turn, help the student focus his or her own reading work.

In the interest of full disclosure, part of the inspiration for this idea came from the fact that this was the first summer that I haven’t taken classes since 2007, and I had a lot of time to play RPGs. I played Half Life, Lego Harry Potter, Call of Duty, Fallen London, Rune Raiders, Portal… the list really goes on. And as I was playing these games and reflecting on conferencing, I thought it might be interesting to impose the structure of these games that I play, and that many of my students play, on top of  our class. I’m not going to go too into details about the construction of the game right now, but after two weeks, I wanted to share some of the things that I noticed from our conversations

  • the talk is about whether or not they’re using their skills (reading strategies) and earning skill points, and how they’re struggling with using these skills with specific types of texts
  • we also talk about how close they are to earning achievements (which are tied to, primarily, aspects of writing and reader response projects)
  • the quality of their work and how that shows their understanding

The most profound thing I’ve noticed is of my 65 or so students this semester, no one has mentioned anything about grades so far. Admittedly, it’s only been two weeks, but that’s not where their focus is when they come into Reading Room 211. Their focus is on whether or not they’re becoming better readers and writers and thinkers. And I love that.

A major drawback thus far is I’m thinking the same way they are–not in terms of grades but in terms of using resources and the skills we’re working with. Since grades must be done, I have to find a way to marry the game with grading. I think it’s difficult, especially since the students are working toward mastery and should be rewarded as such.

Any thoughts? I could use some perspective on grading within a game. Additionally, what are your thoughts on adapting the format of RPGs into classrooms?

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