Updated: Oct 13, 2019
What's going on everyone?
New to this Blog? You can follow along from the beginning by starting here.
Want this Curriculum? You can find the full curriculum for this class here.
This Post Covers Days 1-3 of the Unit.
So after a summer of creating curriculum, I kicked off my new ELA class this semester. So far we have played about the first 15 minutes of Gone Home. Now that may not seem like a lot, but we did a lot of front loading. We spent a full day going over the syllabus and the expectations of the class, and another day reading through a review of the game. My students will be writing their own reviews when they finish the game so I wanted to provide an example upfront for them to keep in mind. My students are English Language Learners so it also acts as a way to front load, which will help them retain information in the long run.
Since this class is meant to be a way to help prepare my students for the New York Regents Exam in English Language Arts, we spent the first 3 days discussing the mood and setting of the game. As mentioned in my previous post, Part 3 of this test asks students to closely read and determine the central idea of a text. They then need to analyze how the author’s use of one writing strategy (literary element, literary technique, or rhetorical device) develops this central idea. Examples include: characterization, conflict, denotation/connotation, metaphor, simile, irony, language use, point-of-view, setting, structure, symbolism, theme, tone, etc.
The first day focused on reading the syllabus and getting the students acclimated to the language required of them in Part 3 of the English Regents Exam. You can see here on the left, I asked my students to annotate the instructions for this section of the exam. In this case they underlined what they believed to be the most important part of the instructions. They were then asked to rephrase the expectations of Part 3. This student mentions that they need to "find the central idea and also analyze by using one writing strategies, organize the ideas. Use strong evidence and have standard written English." Determining the central idea of a text will be the most important aspect of this essay. Then they can analyze the author's use of a writing strategy.
For Day 2 we started off exploring just the front porch. Each student spent a minute or so walking around the porch getting acclimated to the controls. We are playing together as a class on one copy of the game, so the students will need to take turns playing. Not all of the students are well versed in gaming so this part of the game provided a safe space to practice the various inputs necessary to play the game. It was also an opportune moment to teach mood. Mood is how we are made to feel as readers, or in this case players, or the emotion evoked by the author. When we first appear on the porch, the music is somber and there is a thunderstorm with lots of lightning in the background. My students mentioned how it made them feel afraid, scared, and even depressed. They noted that there was a sense of mystery about this place, especially after reading the note on the front door.
After establishing the mood of the game, it was time to begin discussing the game's setting. The first room of the house, the foyer, sets the stage for the rest of the game. This room serves as a tutorial. This room introduces the players to every single control necessary for the remainder of the game, introduces several of the characters, and establishes the house itself as an integral character of this story. This room gets students thinking about when and where the game is taking place. We come across the first two journal entries of the game, a number of magazines to examine, several letters and postcards to be read, and a sad ominous voicemail left by a crying girl looking for the player's sister, Sam. All the objects to be read served as a means of getting all students to participate since only one person can play at a time. The students took turns reading each available document out loud to the class. Since my students are all English Language Learners, the game has been a great way to get students to practice their reading, speaking, and listening skills over the course of a single lesson.
Here you can slide through the handouts of the same student over the course of Days 2 and 3. This student took notes and answered questions since they were not the player for either of these days. They kept track of the mood, wrote down questions they had, wrote down some characteristics for various family members, and wrote down summaries for the various journal entries in this section of the game. Although, as seen on the third slide, it seems like this student needed more time to think about the setting of the game since the Aim of Day 3 was "What is the setting of Gone Home? How does the foyer set the stage for the rest of the game?"
Overall this week was very successful. The students are eagerly looking forward to continuing the story since they all love a bit of mystery, and my students whom have never played a video game before are greatly anticipating their turn to play. Very rarely do my students outwardly express excitement for the next lesson. There are many that love learning, but usually don't mention how they can't wait to be back in my class the next day, at least not out loud in front of their peers. I myself, am also really looking forward to how the rest of this unit plays out.
Thanks for reading,
Next week's post can be found here.