Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writing A How-To Through Game Play!

It's almost spring!  With spring comes thoughts of flowers, birds, Easter, and yes, unfortunately state tests.
I detest them.  But they are our reality and so we must deal with them the best way possible. To relieve some anxiety and to make the review somewhat tolerable, I say why not play a game?
A little while back, my students finished their unit on Ancient Greece, Rome and Mali.  We were working on the reading skill of Reading Directions and the writing skill of Writing A "How-To".  I love when I can integrate so I had them create an Ancient Civilization board game. The board game they created  had to show evidence of their learning. They needed to include at least 10 facts through pictures or words to reflect what they knew about these civilizations.  I provided the question cards that they had to include as part of the game.  They had to supply the answers by writing them on the back of the cards.   
Here a student is recording answers on the backs of his question cards.  I checked these answers  and then used this as a quick assessment. 
Here a student is creating a board game. This allows students to show their understanding of the content material is a creative way.  Again, here is an alternate way to gauge student understanding. 
Some showed evidence of learning by including the Parthenon, Mediterranean Sea, shipbuilders, farmers, etc. on their gameboards.

This child created a game about Mali called Mali-opoly.  It was based on the game: Monopoly.
Clever!  Lots of evidence of learning on this one!

Loved seeing the variety of boards that were created!  Kids were very motivated and engaged!

Since we were also working on the writing focus of "Writing a How-To", I decided to have them write a set of directions to go along with the board game.  Our mentor texts for this writing were actual games and direction sheets from games like: Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.  I projected these onto the smartboard and we analyzed what needs to be included when writing directions.
I believe strongly in having students engage in what I call: Oral Rehearsals before writing.
Since these directions are sequenced, I had them make sequence word cards to use when orally working through the steps on how to play their board games.  I also gave them a flow chart sheet to record steps in quick pictures and word phrases. This set prepared them for actually writing the directions down.  With the flow chart complete, they needed only to rewrite the steps in complete sentences. Prewriting is extremely important.

We had already done whole group "How-To" writing so they were familiar with this format:
See file below if you wish to access these materials to use with your students.
After successfully writing their directions to their game, students were allowed to play games with a partner.  They loved this and this provided the study for their Ancient Civilization test.  I kept these games and we can now use them with different question cards on other topics that I can easily make up and give to them. We will be breaking these back out prior to the spring tests for sure.
So instead of the teacher making the game, why not allow your students to do that? I  have done this activity before with a Government Unit and an Animal Science Unit.   You will be amazed at what they can come up with!
I have posted this new Writer's Workshop file on TPT.  It has materials for you to use as you scaffold the process of writing a set of directions.  Included are ideas for you to use as you model and write collaboratively with your class and then ideas for your students to write a How- To on an independent level.
Interested?  Check it out here:

So now I'd love to hear from you!  How do you make reviewing and preparing for state tests fun?
Email me!