Breaking Out

This week my classes focused on wrapping up our first unit of Games and Writing and we also completed our study of various game domains (card/board games, party games, electronic games, and escape games). Exploring a variety of games and types of games was important to helping my students prepare for future assignments and further our understanding of the shifting demands of writing as well as gaming — plus playing together gave us a great opportunity to build class community as the class began.

There was a tremendous contrast between this week’s class and the previous classes. Learning and teaching new games required interactions as did much of the game play (which is not dissimilar to the noise that is often found in a writing workshop). Last week’s class involved a lot of questions and answers as students requested helped from their peers as they detonated bombs, shifted blocks, fed fish, and built things. But this week students plugged in their headphones and bent intently over their devices as they searched for the clues necessary to unlock the digital breakout I’d created for them. I was unprepared for the silence.

I may write more thoroughly about digital breakouts in the future, but I had a lot of fun creating my first and it was not as difficult as I feared. Also, I think there is a lot of potential offered by breakout games for introduction of new material as well as review. I chose material that could contribute to the work we are doing in class – possibly even the essays they are currently working on so this activity was definitely a twofer. Students were highly engaged. As some students who missed class have not yet completed the challenge I don’t want to share it yet but Escape From Denmark was my model. If you are interested in creating your own, there is also a template and still more examples that might be useful. My scenario was pretty simple:

All the games have been taken hostage and you must find the clues necessary to convince these very unPLAYful kidnappers to free the games! Fortunately they are huge fans of NPR’s Guy Raz so we will use that against them…

I drew all my clues from the TED Radio Hour focused on “Play” and asked students to find a letter lock, a number lock, a date lock, a map lock and another letter lock.

Now my students are putting the finishing touches on their first piece of writing where they are exploring a range of interesting topics from the connection between role-playing games and cognitive development in children to the ways that games can help elderly dementia patients as well as other papers delving into a host of social and emotional benefits of gaming. However, as they finalize those pieces we are already thinking ahead toward our analysis of a game as we explore three important questions:

  1. What makes a game worth playing (again?)
  2. Can games be/make an argument?
  3. What games are worthy of analysis?

What questions do you have about the ways I am using games to inspire and teach writing?


Author: Deanna Mascle
#TeachingWriting and leading #NWP site @ Morehead State (KY): Passionate about #AuthenticWriting, #DeeperLearning, #PBL, #Ungrading, and #HyperDocs.

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