You would be forgiven for thinking that using a PlayStation 3 during writing lessons is intended as a cunning piece of reverse psychology; maybe the only way to stop children writing about games is to actually ask them to write about games. But that's not my way of thinking. I see using games in class not only as a motivational tool but as a unique way of developing pupils' writing.
I start the lesson by introducing the children to Journey, the beautiful game that they will be playing over the next few weeks. Journey is dialogue-free and the main character wears a long cloak and a mask. We have no details of who they are or where they are going. In many ways, the game is a blank canvas on which students can create their own narratives.
A handful of children play the game during the lesson (the players rotate each week) while the rest of us watch. The character explores a dark, silent cave. As we observe this tense scene, I begin to provide a commentary. I describe the looming, serpentine statues carved into the cavern walls and the ink-black pools reflecting the pale glow of the moonlight. The children, captivated, then take turns to provide their own narration, carefully choosing vocabulary that adds to the suspense and excitement of the game.
Before long, the players encounter a terrifying creature in the depths of the cave. I ask the class to take notes describing the appearance and behaviour of this monster. The children share their descriptions as we continue to play Journey, taking the time to construct original similes and metaphors that reflect the mood of the game.
The lesson provokes some fantastic pieces of original writing, proving that computer games can be a great way of motivating and inspiring pupils during lessons. With the right guidance, the passion that children have for games can be transformed into a passion for writing.
Jed Gilchrist teaches at Hanover Street Primary School in Aberdeen
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