Myst Revelation in the Classroom 2
Age Range: 7 to 11
This week, we have continued to use different parts of Myst IV to explore a range of concepts, reviewing and revising various non-fiction text types, as well as a selection of other Literacy skills.
On Monday, we continued our exploration of Tomahna, looking around the various greenhouses and observing the incredible landscape that is on view when wandering around the wooden pathways. Although I knew exactly the steps I wanted to take (for reasons which will become obvious in a minute), the children helped to guide the adventure, asking to look at things and suggesting what might be 'around the corner' / 'in the cabinet' / 'over there'. We explored up until a big explosion occurred, which gave us a perfect cliffhanger ready for tomorrow's lesson!
The children then received a (differentiated) written description of this exploration, which I had prepared in advance. This description matched the journey through the game that we had just completed. However, the punctuation was missing from the children's text and it was their task to correct the passage. Some of the children added this directly to their sheet, others wrote their passage out again adding the punctuation as they went, and some were given the task of adding the punctuation to a digital copy of the text, using our laptops to do this.
While this is a pretty standard activity, the use of the Myst characters and locations meant that the children were incredibly keen to carry out their task. Their motivation levels were extremely high and I don't think I've ever seen them more keen to complete a punctuation activity!
After waking up clinging to the broken walk way in Tomahna, we then found our way into Atrus' bedroom. This was home to two descriptive books about the Ages of Spire and Haven, which the children were extremely keen to read. Their desire for more information about the different places in the game was very high. It was fascinating to see them piecing the clues together to create some interesting predictions about what the rest of the game had in store for us! We then solved a puzzle and found the two linking books to Spire and Haven... providing another cliffhanger ending to this session. This is probably a bit cruel, but it really leaves the children wanting more. I was on playground duty one morning this week, and a group of children asked me if they could have Literacy lessons all day... I've certainly never had that request before!
The children's main task today was a comprehension activity based on the books that we found whilst exploring. Lots of attention is paid to the landscapes and the characters in the Myst games, but the books and journals are also an incredibly valuable resource for teachers to use. They contain lots of wonderful descriptive language, as well as clues for other parts of the game (which are great for developing prediction / inference and deduction skills).
The children were given copies of the journals which I had prepared (by taking screenshots in the game and then pasting them into Word). They then read these and completed a selection of comprehension questions which I had also produced. Some children used the book about Spire, others used the book about Haven, and another group used Yeesha's journal. This was great for differentiation as the level of the text in Yeesha's diary was a little easier than the others. Despite this, the book gave away some very useful clues for the rest of the game, which the children were extremely keen to share with their peers.
Again, the motivation levels for this activity were incredibly high. Children who sometimes need regular reminders to keep on task worked their way through their comprehension work without any intervention. Some of them also asked if they could take home the copies of the books / journals so that they could read them at home!
After finding the two linking books, the children voted to travel to Haven today (which was very lucky, as that is what I'd planned to do!). Haven is probably my favourite Age out of the two Myst games that I have played... the locations are beautiful and incredibly varied, and there are lots of wonderful creatures to interact with (more on this in Day 9).
Today, we went to look at the shipwreck which 'stands proudly in the crashing waves' (in the words of one of my pupils). I wanted to review instruction writing, so the children made notes about our movements and how to solve the puzzle that stopped our way at one point, as we played. They then used their notes (with some backup notes that I had made to support lower ability children) to make their own game walkthrough. I explained that I had used a walkthrough to play the game whilst preparing for our lessons.
The children looked at the features of instruction writing (using Sue Palmer's Skeleton Books) and wrote their own walkthrough instructions, with maps and images to support the reader. Unfortunately, we didn't get time to test them by playing the game again, but this is something that I would definitely like to do as it will help them to evaluate their work.
I was looking forward to this day ever since I planned it. As I mentioned previously, Haven is home to many amazing creatures. After seeing the children's reaction to the 'squee' in Myst III, I knew they would be even more excited about the animals that we would encounter today. Their reaction when we first saw the mangree was something I don't think I'll ever forget!
We met four very different creatures during our exploration, discussing what they were like in terms of appearance, diet, habitat, movement etc. The children again made notes in their Myst notebooks as we explored, and they were able to use this information later.
Today's main activity was to write a report about the amazing animals on Haven. The children each drafted some descriptions of two of the animals, working with a partner so that they had reported on all four of them within their pair. In the afternoon, the children drew and painted some wonderful images of the creatures on Haven (which they were desperate to take home to show their families). To give support with the art activity, I'd taken some screenshots of the animals whilst playing, and pasted these into some Smart Notebook slides which we shared on our whiteboard. However, the pictures weren't very clear, so I was very lucky to find the excellent Mystobsession gallery in the middle of the lesson. The site has some detailed images of the creatures... when I first showed these on the board, the whole class' reaction was "WOW!"
In today's lesson, we looked around the jungle area again, meeting another mangree who led us up into a wonderful tree house. We then went on a 'mangree roller coaster' (in the words of another pupil). Unfortunately, the sound on the laptop didn't work during this lesson. It's started working again now, so we might have to play this bit again quickly next week. ;-)
The children's activity was to combine their writing from yesterday's Literacy work with their art work to create a poster to teach others about the creatures on Myst. Again, their levels of motivation were extremely high and they produced some lovely work as a result.
Our report writing over the past two days also covered a lot of Science objectives... animal adaptations, habitats, food chains, and more. We didn't explicitly say that they were learning Science, but they did use a great deal of scientific vocabulary and concepts during these lessons. Myst isn't just a useful resource for Literacy!
As I said at the start of this post, the children's motivation for the game, and (more importantly) for their work, has gone through the roof this week. I didn't really think that this was possible, but the new environments and the amazing creatures have really captured their attention more than ever before.
My challenge now is to keep their interest during next week's adventures, when we will hopefully reach the end of the game.
I read online this week (although I can't remember where) that you shouldn't 'play the game' when using Myst in the classroom. Of course, it's perfectly possible to dip into different parts / locations and not even tell the children that they're using a game. In our lessons, we have been playing 'selected highlights' but working our way through from the beginning to the completion of the game. I've done this for two reasons:
- When we started using Myst III, we first looked around Tomahna and then met Catherine, Atrus and Saavedro. This was like the perfect action starter to the story, and the children were desperate to play through the rest of the game, until they found out the ending!
- In my experiences of using Myst III and IV, there are so many aspects of the game that can be used in the classroom (locations, characters, creatures, plot, puzzles...), all of which combine to really capture the children's attention. By 'playing the game' (rather than just looking at single locations, for example), they're also able to use many more skills, especially their prediction / inference / deduction skills as they can bring all of this knowledge of the game together. It's much more cross-curricular too... as you have seen we've covered Literacy, Problem Solving, Science and Art this week, all of which has been great fun for both teacher and pupils.
I don't think that how I'm using Myst in the classroom is necessarily the best way of doing things... these are simply my ideas for exploring the game to best meet the needs of my class. As Tim Rylands said in a tweet to me recently 'there are SO MANY ideas', but I hope that sharing my ideas like this is useful to others who want to bring these incredible worlds into their lessons.
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