*Disclaimer* I’ll keep this post a concise as possible. I’ve been meaning to blog more, post more, share more; but I find that I get caught up in wanting to make grandiose, well-polished posts. I’ll try to just say what I mean and hash the discrepancies in the comments should the need arise.
The Classroom Story.
So anyone who knows me or follows me on social media might know that I’ve been talking about, promoting, learning, and demonstrating this teaching style for a while now. What is it? Part role-playing, part game, part creative story-telling, part writing, collaborative, creative, and part-whatever you want it to be. Fun most of the time. Unsure plenty of the time. Very engaging for students and teacher. I’ll eventually post about what it really is, how I discovered it (not on my own), assessment practices, and why it works. For now I’ll just say it is a way to suck kids into what’s happening (engagement) and then gives them a context to do the curricular work you need.
So one of my grade eight ELA classes wrapped up the “Hobbit” classroom story we did today. My students made characters that were either human, hobbit, or dwarf. They made their own adventure groups that would then go forth into Middle-earth and try to retrieve Smaug’s hoard of treasure in the Lonely Mountain. We used the plot of The Hobbit as our own. There was trolls, goblins, shape-shifters, Gollum, mountains, wizards, forests, spiders, elves, dragons, potions, and other magical items and weapons. Yes, we became a class of nerds – and we loved it.
From the outset, the secret lesson (or “moral of the story”) I wanted the students to somehow understand was that gold and treasure (material goods) are not as important as the experiences you have. They learned this, yet I didn’t even have to teach it, it just happened!
Flashback to the beginning of the story/unit.
I told the students that the group/person with the most gold at the end wins. The groups then competed making a series of choices (battling monsters, completing quests) which earned them loot (little paper pieces of gold and other items). I should say that all the while students constantly writing from their character’s perspective in first-person. They got used to me saying, “it only counts if you write it down!”
Fast-forward, back to the present.
So in various groups, the students ended up killing Thorin & Co. inside the Lonely Mountain (oops!), stealing the Arkenstone to broker a peace between dwarves and elves, and then unleashed the dragon Smaug on everybody (with some casualties along the way). After defeating the dragon with an entertaining game of pin-the-black-arrow-to-the-dragon, Smaug was vanquished. Then, after writing their character’s epilogue, all students eagerly came up for a group picture in the front of class where they had their character journals and their gold. Then the coolest thing happened: they all decided to throw the gold in the air for a cool “make it rain!” shot. So little pieces of paper gold flew everywhere with the look of pure joy on all their faces. That was it, classroom story done.
But wait…I thought the person who accrued the most wealth is considered the winner? What happened to the most gold wins thing? Odd. They didn’t seem to care at all when they launched their treasure in the air. One student kind of mentioned it but didn’t really care. They all cleaned up the gold, handed it in, and felt good to have had “so much fun” during class. The students had fun, worked together, and shared a variety of experiences. The “winning” was an afterthought.
I think they learned the lesson.