Friday, 25 November 2011

Game Review Wrap Up! Lego Batman & Just Dance!

This week we completed our critique of  video games in preparation for our next writing assignment: game reviews.

A while back, we played & critiqued New Super Mario Bros Wii...we also read a review of the game written by Luke Navarro.

This past Wednesday, we played & critiqued LEGO Batman for the Wii...and read this review of the game by Hilary Goldstein.

Today, we played & critiqued Just Dance #1 for the Wii...on Monday we will read a corresponding review.

On Monday, students will also begin writing their own game reviews. They can choose either one of the games we looked at in class or one from home. If they choose to review one from home, they need to take home the graphic organizer THIS WEEKEND and bring it back on Monday. All students were informed of this today.

When we critiqued the games in class, we all used a graphic organizer. This organizer will help students write the review. The organizer included providing descriptive words about the game, game play summary, the effectiveness of the controls, sound, graphics and multiplayer features (and justification for whether you thought they were effective or no), personal connections and the final rating.

JUST DANCE was a great way to end this week and this unit! Many students gave this game a 10! By the end of the class, even non-players were up dancing! (Who says learning can't be fun?! In fact, I kept hearing that all morning: 'This is so much fun!' 'Can we do this again sometime? It was so much fun!') This was also a great community builder & some students really got a good work out!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Top 5 Literacy Tasks!

If you were at parent-student-teacher interviews, they you know that I asked students to check mark from a list their favourite literacy tasks so far...these tasks included reading, writing, media & oral language tasks that we have done (or are in process of doing) since September.

I have tallied the results and here are the top 5!

5. Tied between Video Game Reviews & Learning Frames 4 animation software
4. Photo-A-Day Plus Caption
3. One/Zero (by Kathryn Otashi) retell using Frames 4 media
2. Poe's Tell Tale Heart
1. Interviewing guest writers  (such as Chris Simon & Luke Navarro)

Incidentally, #6 is Independent Writing Journals.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Anti-Bullying/Anti-Violence Discussions & Media

This past week was anti-bullying week and thus it seemed an appropriate time to address certain aspects of the Gr. 7/8 health curriculum:

Gr. 7-assess the impact of different types of bullying or harassment on themselves & others and identify ways of preventing or resolving such incidents

Gr. 8-demonstrate the ability to assess situations for potential dangers and applying strategies for avoiding dangerous situations

We spent some time discussing these issues by first reviewing various media messages and youtube videos, such as:

Anti Bullying Commercial Words Hurt , Bystanders 'take the pledge'  and The Price of Silence
 The real-life footage of  Casey Haynes Incident in Australia.
Homophobic Bullying Rick Mercer Reports  RMR Rant Bullying #1  RMR Rant #2

We also had a guest speaker: Ms. Smith, our Vice Principal. She spoke to our class about her experiences and the bullying/violence she has seen in her education career.

Our emphasis was on strategies as a bystander & prevention, what options were available in certain scenarios, how to handle violence.

As a culminating task, students created a '3 word' message (similar to this great '3 word' project --though ours has an anti-bullying/violence focus). I took photos/video of their '3 words' and will be creating a media piece to display it. I have included a few examples here.

PS. The video has since been created and uploaded to our youtube page! 

Spelling Started!

In a previous post, I mentioned how we were going to be including proper spelling (of common words) as a requirement in our upcoming writing pieces...this past week we finally put that into motion, cooperatively building a class spelling words wall (the first 31 words! The rest will be added gradually).

Students also have the full list (200 of the most commonly misspelled words) in their writing folders as a resource.

I am also putting our word lists on for at home and in-class spelling practice. This site provides audio-visual & contextual supports for spelling practice (ie: the word is said in a sentence). It also provides the opportunity to take on line spelling tests, as well as play spelling games.

The link to this excellent site is on the side bar. I will be adding to this site over time.

To prepare for spelling, I also had students read over my blog about the necessity of spelling and answers reading comprehension questions about it. They had to quote from my text 2 reasons for proper spelling (ie: it's a matter of personal pride & so you don't irritate your reader), explain whether they agreed with me and why and then also explain why I used WORDS IN CAPITAL LETTERS in my formatting (ie: to give those words extra emphasis, to show high emotion).

Please let me know if you have any questions about spelling.

Thank You!

On behalf of Mrs. Bell & myself, I would like to thank all the parents, guardians & students for coming to interviews this week! Please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, comments!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Reading About & Meeting Luke Navarro! THANKS LUKE!

Today two interesting things happened in our gaming & literacy unit...first, students read this review by Luke Navarro about the game we just played (New Super Mario Bros Wii). Students had to explain why Luke gave the game the rating he did, quoting details from the text. They also had to explain if they agreed with him and why.

Reviews are all about opinions...and you can have any opinion you want but your opinion WEIGHS MORE if you can back it up with substantial reasoning. So what was Luke's reasoning?

After reading and answering questions about the review, students got to meet the author! Through the magic of Skype, Luke spoke with our classroom from his home in California. Students had paired up and prepared questions for him. One student got to come to the microphone at a time & ask the question, while the other wrote down the answer. The written responses will form the basis of our upcoming news report.

In addition to writing gaming reviews, Luke also reviews movies and books (check out for his weekly book podcasts).  However, our focus today was exclusively on gaming!

Many boys were interested in hearing Luke's opinion about COD, which was very exciting. COD enthusiasts seem to have their own language...and I personally think it was cool for the boys in our class to meet an adult that could speak that language (I personally do not speak COD)...not to mention that he writes about such things (and guess what guys? He likes books too!). This is one of the reasons I think Luke is a great role model. He demonstrates that it is possible to enjoy video games AND books and that one can think critically and intelligently about both.

I'm convinced that if COD were a part of the curriculum, we have student experts who would not only ace that class, they would be able to teach it! Part of my motivation in having Luke as a speaker is to validate that interest and to draw that interest into literacy.

Luke made the statement today that video games are 'art'--a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. Not every one in the class did, however, and I would love to continue the discussion on whether video games are indeed a 'low' form of entertainment compared to books...or not.

One of my goals as an educator interested in games based learning is to prove that there are more things similar than different between books and games. We may have Luke back again as a speaker to explore this concept further!

Again, thanks Luke! We appreciate you taking the time on your Tuesday morning to discuss your reviews & gaming!

Thank You Luke Navarro!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Gaming in Literacy

Those of you who know me, or have read my bio page, understand my interest in games based learning.

Please check out my MISA funded research Mario Kart project from last year, and also  my resource page, which shows how other educators are using video games in the classroom.

I was also interviewed CBC radio (and other radio stations) and also by various newspapers.  You might also like to read my blog Using Video Games At Home For Learning Over The Summer.

I'm very excited to bring gaming to our literacy program. Today, we played and critiqued the Wii game New Super Mario Brothers Wii.

Pulling names randomly, students were invited to the front of the room to play the game. Each game session lasted about a minute or so. After each session, we filled out a section on our brainstorming sheet as we prepare for review writing.

We were looking at: finding 5 descriptive words about the game, explaining & summarizing the game play, determining the effectiveness of the controls, the sounds (music, effects, voice), the graphics, and the multi-player function (and justifying those opinions). We also looked at personal connections to the game and then every one gave the game their individual, overall rating.

These points will make up the criteria of our review writing.

Students got quite impassioned in their opinions. Some thought the game too childish (for which they had to JUSTIFY their positon--for example, the graphics are too much like a cartoon, the game play is too easy) while some thought the game one of the best, ever (for which they had to JUSTIFY their position--for example, the music is happy & well suited to the sense of the fun that the game provides).

One thing we have been emphasizing in our reading & writing program is the need for SPECIFIC DETAILS (see previous article 'where's the beef?'). Whether writing reports or answering comprehension questions about Poe's The Tell Tale Heart, students have been encouraged to put in specific details and to justify  their responses with details from the text...or in this case, the video game.

Int his unit, we will be reading game reviews and studying the way writers write reviews (one of these writers is our guest speaker, Luke Navarro). And of course we will continue to play games and critique them! The final assignment will be a review of a game of student choice, either one covered in class or one from home.

Later in the year, we will apply these same strategies to the more traditional movie & book review process.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Student Guest Blogger: JS

Chris Simon by J.S.
What does Chris Simon do?

Chris Simon is a reporter. He writes for the Scope of Innisfil. He came to Goodfellow PS in Innisifl Ontario, Room 142. He came on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, to talk to us students of Mrs. Johnson's room about his job, how he started at Innsifil Scope. Also, he shared writing techniques to inspire us and to show how writing can happen outside of school.

When Chris Simon came into our school he gave an interview so we asked questions. Here are some questions and answers that we asked him. The first question was: what other occupations have you had? Answer: Chris Simon worked at Wal-Mart and Pet-smart before he was a writer. Here is another question we asked: what is the best thing about your job? Answer: the best thing about his job is talking to famous people and talking to people with interesting stories.

I really appreciated Chris Simon coming to our school! I learned a lot about his job.

Interview with Luke Navarro!

Next Tuesday we are very lucky to get to interview Luke Navarro via Skype!

Luke participated last year in my J/I Boy's Literacy Event. He is an avid reader, co-creating the site with Kevin McGill where they both discuss and review books via podcast. (Here is the J/I event from their perspective.)

Luke also created his site where the name 'geek' is proudly worn as he watched (and reviewed) 52 movies, read 52 books and played 52 video games in one year.

Here is the list of games Luke reviewed. 

Our class will soon be writing a report about Luke (based on this interview) and a game review (based on games we are playing in class and/or a game of student choice).

Later in the year, we will also write a movie review and a book review--following in Luke's footsteps!

Thank you, Luke, for volunteering some time to be with us on Tuesday!

Here is a bit more info about Luke from the guyscanread site.