In our fourth grade PLC, we attempted to leverage the power of digital game-based learning to mitigate the known weaknesses of read alouds (teacher-directed, no student ownership, passive activity, difficult to tell if students areengaged) to improve our ROI (Return on Instruction) during one read aloudsession per week.
We call this new task “Future Ready Read Alouds”. The learning design/pedagogywas heavily influenced by Tom Murray’s (Director of Innovation for Future ReadySchools) “Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today”he co-authored with Eric Sheninger, and James Gee’s (Mary Lou FultonPresidential Professor of Literacy Studies) “What Video Games Have to Teach UsAbout Learning and Literacy”.
Future Ready Read Alouds blend physical and virtual learning spaces to facilitate joint media engagement. We substituted the traditional leveled middle-grade novel with a differentiated (mixed Lexile) middle-grade novel of text embedded within an RPG (role-playing game) format.Students are assigned to groups of four based on reading ability. Each group has astudent from the class’s top quartile and one from the bottom quartile. Thisensures each group has all students reading fluently at their reading level.
Students go beyond reading their characters text by actually exploring the story-world. They control the main characters (graphically represented as sprites) usingthe keyboard. Students collaborate with their group to make decisions where togo and what to do, and sometimes even what to say (dialogue branch choices).This format may be relatively new to the educational world, but it’s well known inthe gaming world (RPG’s debuted to wide audiences in the early 90’s). There areroles beyond “reader” that allow students to be valued for intellectual abilitiesother than reading. These additional roles (such as explorer, battler, navigatorand problem-solver) foster inclusion. All students in a class—including specialeducation and ELL students—can collaborate together, regardless of readingability.