How to "Kinect" Gaming to Writing

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My husband often tells our family about one of his high school writing assignments. His teacher taped a Popsicle stick to the chalkboard and told his class to write an essay about the stick. This one lesson stands out to him as his catalyst to writing achievement in college. As we teachers know, a good grasp of writing translates into success across all subject areas. Imagine the delight in my classroom when I first used the Kinect to teach writing skills. Not only did the students learn subject matter, but after they became a part of the game, the children were writing from a fresh, first person experience. More importantly, the boredom of a paper and pencil assignment was alleviated, and the students were actively engaged. The writing lessons took place each day after using the Kinect game Nat Geo from the TV series America the Wild. This Xbox/Kinect game begins with a short television episode lasting around 20 minutes. During the middle of the episode, the students go on a “side track” after spotting animal tracks. Next, the children become the animal using augmented reality and play a video game relating to the television segment. For example, a particular show segment teaches the children how grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park dig through the rocks to eat moths. The students then play a game in which they sport grizzly bear heads and paws, and the object of the game is to eat as many moths as possible. After the game, the students use a graphic organizer to organize descriptions of the bear and the actions of the bear. The impact is that the students’ writings are much more vivid and descriptive. Years ago, my husband’s teacher was thinking outside of the box by having him write 1,000 words about a Popsicle Stick. Writing in the 21st century means not only thinking outside of the box, but using what is in a box, the Xbox!

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