Today was story line day. Students brainstormed all day and filled up three storyboards with ideas for the alternate reality game. There were some very good ideas! At the end of the day, I asked third block to go ahead and vote. I had already talked to each block about continuing to move forward by allowing each block to make decisions as they came up. That way, we would have a chance to finish the game by the end of the year!
The winner is…. A story inspired by the TV show Flash Forward.
The students seemed antsy today. Brainstorming really is hard work. By the end of the day leading brainstorming all day, I’m exhausted! I’m not sure they are comfortable without a vision of what the game will be. It is too ambiguous right now. I’m hopeful that tomorrow feels more focused now that we have our story line.
Well, we begin again! It is that joyful time of year when the state test is finished. In class, we talked about the standardized test as a way for the state to see what we know. But now, we get to show the state what we know our way! And, our way is way more fun!
We started again on an alternate reality game. Earlier in the year, when we were playing the 1 Destination game that the students created last year, several current sixth graders said that they would like to add on to the game this year. However, when we began discussing the game today, all the current sixth graders were adamant that they wanted their own game.
So, we spent the day playing two different games to get a feel for the genre. The first game we played was the 1 Destination game. We also played the 39 Clues alternate reality game that is available online. That led to a brainstorming session about our dreams for our own alternate reality game. The students have high expectations! I hope my feeble expertise can live up to those expectations!
One of the big take-aways for me is the students stance on the written word vs. videos or other means of communication. I remember last year, students wanted to use video and we made extensive use of it. In fact, even the problems themselves were embedded in the videos. Some of our players last year commented that they wished the problems - at least the problem they had to solve – was in writing so they wouldn’t have to go back through the video again. This year, students commented on the amount of text in the 39 Clues game. They said that they did not want that much text. Somewhere there is a balance between written text and videos. Maybe we’ll find it this year!
I know this is late, but I wanted to post one of my student’s Game Development Documentary. (I was delayed as I was getting permission to post and she was editing.) This was written on May 15, 2009 by a student without prompting or request. I felt compelled to share it and after you read it, I think you will understand why. Here it is:
Sixth Grade Game Development Documentary 1
Written About: Rountree Sixth Grade Students
Written By: Brianna
Our Rountree students have been developing an alternate reality game the last six weeks of school We are just beginning development, but will finish with great excitement and a positive attitude! This documentary will help all players that play our game and give them clues while playing the game. Our game does not have a name, but will with the process. Our game is about four main characters, two teens and two adults. Their names are Brooke Summers, Kyle, Damonte Ramirez, and another woman with no name yet. Let me explain our characters, Brooke is from New York, New York and is a very snooty person. She is fifteen and a half and also rich. She somehow knows stuff about the island. She gets mysterious text messages from her cell phone that barely works. Kyle on the other hand is a pilot who flew the plane to the island. He is also prone to accidents, so something will most likely happen to him the game. Damonte is a “G” from Compton, California and he is sixteen. He is known as a bad kid and always is stirring up trouble. The other adult woman is divorced and lost her close loved one. She is sort of quiet and out of the picture thou [sic], for now at least. The island is very weird. Every bad thing that happens on Manhattan Island happens on our island. For instance if there is a water plant in Manhattan then there’s a fresh water source on the island in that same exact spot on our island. We are now working on the plot of the game. We think it will go something like this: Every person is on the island for a reason and some how it will change your life. The island is out of balance and needs someone or something to put it back in balance. Our characters have to travel back in time and go to different desinations on the island to put in secret codes. To get a code, you have to answer a ratio and proportion question. You have to go to all the destinations, come back in time, and be able to somehow get off the island. This game is in our hands and with enough imagination we can make a game of all games. Our game is the first alternate reality game to be on the internet thru [sic] K-twelfth grade. Our imagination is bigger than undergraduates. (Not saying our game is better.) I can’t wait to journal you in again on what sixth grade is doing and how our game is coming. With the amazing help of the best math teacher in the world Julie McLeod, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE FOR FUTURE GENERATION MATH!
I didn’t have the chance to blog last night about our progress, but we made some good developments. One thing we decided is that our plane crash on our crazy island will correlate with the plane crash in the Hudson River from back in January. We had some discussion about connecting it to the 9/11 attacks but that brings with it so many negative emotions and the Hudson River crash is really associated with positive feelings.
I also think we have found a good connection with Manhattan Island and the problems that occur there. One student found a really good graphic (below) that has helped us identify the major issues that Manhattan faces.
(You can see the graphic in context here.)
So, students in second block decided on four issues from Manhattan to make a connection to our crazy island and to ratios and proportions. The four Manhattan issues are:
1. Homeless/housing issues – When our characters crash on the island they are certainly homeless! The students are thinking about how they can make a connection to ratios and proportions. Thoughts are with ideas such as the ratio of materials needed to construct housing or the ratio of shelters per person, etc. I was really proud of the way that two of the students were working together yesterday. They each brainstormed ideas. Then they compared and contrasted their ideas using a Venn Diagram and made some decisions about what to keep and what to throw out. Here is a photo of them with some of their work (no faces for privacy reasons):
2. Health Issues/Swine Flu – This is probably the one that has been developed the most so far. One of our characters, likely Kyle the pilot, will become ill. The group is researching homeopathic remedies for the flu, which includes vinegar and garlic. They are thinking there will be a ratio of ingredients and then that the players will have to calculate the proportion of ingredients that Kyle will need for a certain number of days.
3. Rats/Rodents – The students are researching ways to naturally rid themselves of rats. They are looking into traps and natural predators.
4. Transportation – This one is still a puzzle to me but I know they will come up with something! I think they are looking at how to get around the island, but I’m not sure how it will all take shape.
Today we made some exciting breakthroughs on our alternate reality game! I was becoming worried about where “reality” would actually work its way back into our story. Today I got my answer!
In second block, we started talking about the plot and all the students started playing ideas off each other. They came up with one of characters, Brooke, having a real map. It started as a map of a mall since she loves to shop, but moved to a map of New York since that is where she is from. This real map would mirror the island map and could be used to guide the characters into “balancing” the island so they can get off. We searched for maps of New York in second block and then also searched for real problems in New York that could mirror some of the problems that we had come up with for the island during our plot development work.
In third block we were continuing the work of second block. We decided that since Manhattan is an island that it might be good to have Manhattan Island mirror our “Lost” island. There is a nice symmetry to that, isn’t there?!? They also did some searching for problems on Manhattan Island that could mirror our problems on the island. We put our connection ideas on a new panel of our storyboard (pictured above). I’m thinking we could link to those real news stories and real maps in order to keep the reality part of the alternate reality game. Exciting developments!
In addition to our character work today, second and third blocks also began working on the plot. We are thinking that the island is off kilter a little which is why it holds such mysterious powers. In other words, some things are out of proportion on the island which is what the characters will have to fix in order to get off the island. Finally, the math comes into play!!
This was difficult work because we all made a agreement in our project requirements that we would “hide the math” as one student put it. What we are saying is that we want the characters to have have an authentic reason to solve ratio and proportion problems, not just one of those games where you solve random math problems to get food or something. We equate it to those little games where you shoot an alien that has an equivalent fraction. In those little games, there is no story line, there is no real connection between the alien and the fraction. When we play those games, we get bored easily. We wanted our game to be different. So, we set high standards to “hide the math.”
So after two blocks worth of work, we only had the seven ideas seen in the photo above that fit our project requirements. Those seven ideas are good ones though!
It was interesting because in third block, I was getting them up to speed on what happened in second block with the plot development. There were three plot cards from second block and the students in third block thought that the second block students had slacked off during class. It wasn’t until they had to think of more ideas that “hid the math” that they realized how hard it is!
This is the math meat and I’m excited about the ways students are making connections to the way we use ratios and proportions in the real world! We’ll continue to develop more ideas on Wednesday.
Character development is key to fiction stories. Why else would readers care what happens in the story if they don’t care about the character?!?! (Again this important writing information comes from the book The Write Genre.) So before we move into the plot, we’re working on character development. Third block began the work on Friday. They couldn’t decide if they wanted a mix of adults and teens or just a group of teens. So at this point, I had them begin by developing 3 teen characters. If we end up with some adults and have to combine two of the characters or something, it will not be that big of a deal.
On Friday, they broke into small groups and began developing a character by addressing the character’s personality, background, values, relationships, appearance, habits, tastes, strengths and flaws. We ran out of time, so on Monday first block will continue the work they began. First block will also decide if there will be adult main characters or just teens.
I think I will keep us moving along and hopefully get to the plot tomorrow by third block. Then, every few days, I’ll have groups do more character development. That way, everyone is getting to know the characters over time, like you might truly get to know your friends. Also, as the plot develops, it might really strengthen a certain aspect of a character’s personality. I hope this is good thinking! If you are experienced in group writing, please let me know if you disagree!!
On Friday, we were able to create a story summary. According to The Write Genre, almost all fiction stories can be condensed into the following pieces:
But (Conflict or problem)
Our statement reads (photo above is the statement posted on our storyboard)…
A group of 4 people wanted to get off the island but every time they tried to escape, some force of the island pulled them back so they found clues to time travel into the past and went through a portal off the island.
The students decided that each block would continue the work of the previous block. Some were a little worried that they would not be involved in every detail, but for the most part, they wanted to continue to move the work forward as efficiently as possible. The other option was to take one day for each decision so that each block could generate ideas and then each block would vote on the ideas the next day.
We have a winner for our storyline in our game! Today the students voted on all the ideas we generated yesterday. I used a similar technique to what I did early in the year with the red and green faces. For this vote, the red faces were just for the student’s favorite idea whether or not it was the best idea for the game or not. The green faces were for the idea with the best potential to meet the requirements of the game. I had told them that it would need to be a story with the potential for a beginning, a middle and an end AND it would need to have some sort of conflict, mystery or puzzle. The winner was a story line similar to the TV show Lost. Tonight, I went to the Lost website to brush up on the story line since I’ve never watched the show!
Tomorrow, we’ll begin working on the character(s) and the plot. Should be exciting!!
What does game development look like for 6th graders? Well, it looks a lot like game development for adults!
For our culminating project in sixth grade math, the students are designing and developing an alternate reality game. Yes, this does relate to math! I’m having them use ratios and proportions as a part of the storyline for the game. The state wants 6th – 8th graders to develop strong proportional thinking. It is the most important strand for these middle grades. So, I’m asking the students to complete a culminating project using ratios and proportions. On Monday, we spent some time researching alternate reality games. The thing I like about alternate reality games is that they can be created without a lot of technical expertise. They do require a good storyline though!
So today, we got our creative juices going. I had about 8 different links to online activities that use ratios and proportions in different ways. We then talked about real world connections to ratios and proportions and ways to embed those connections into a storyline. We then had a brainstorming session for stories that might be used for our storyline. We brainstormed classic fairy tale type stories that we liked, modern books, movies and even television shows that had interesting stories. The picture above shows that each block needed more than one storyboard panel for their ideas! It was really an invigorating day. We had some really, really good ideas.
Tomorrow, I’ll have the kids begin to make selections and narrow down the pool of ideas. Then, on Friday, we will begin to develop the storyline.