In our digital literacies workshop for high school English Language Learners, we are deep into our science-based video game design project. The past few days, we talked a lot about how to think through what a game will look like, tying in the “design” elements to the planning stages. The kids then worked on a storyboarding activity as a way to get their thoughts down before launching into Gamestar Mechanic to build their games. (See a post that I had done for Gamestar Mechanic about storyboarding process and lesson.)
There’s always some resistance to this stage of game design. Kids just want to jump in. But I insist on the storyboarding element, and liken it to the rough draft stage of writing. Sure, the game might move in other directions when it is finally underway, but the storyboard is a road map of ideas. In the end, even those who fought me on this activity were grateful that they were able to articulate some ideas, and the storyboard itself becomes a place to have more focused discussions with students about their games.
In addition, for ELL students, the storyboard is a non-threatening way to write, as it combines art and short narrative text, and symbolic thought. The students in this summer are all struggling writers, but I suspect we have gotten more writing out of them in their daily journals and in projects like the video game storyboarding than their regular teachers do. I can’t say that for sure. It’s anecdotal. But it seems like even the most struggling writers have been deeply involved in what we have been doing.
Now, with four days left in the program, it’s on to developing and publishing their video games and completing online portfolios. Plenty of time …
Peace (in the writing about writing),
PS — if you have interest in video game design, you can check out the resource site that we created at my school, and feel free to use any of the resources there.