Games for Inclusion in a Mainstream school
Our target group contained seven children, three boys and four girls aged between 10-11 years old. The group all presented as SEN children with significant barriers to learning surrounding both their reading and writing.
One of the main outcomes which we focused to improve upon was the children’s struggle to begin their writing and finding appropriate and interesting vocabulary when forming their ideas.
Many of the children in the group are registered as dyslexic and all have dyslexic tendencies. These tendencies present as having trouble with the sequencing of ideas and the writing of imagined scenarios, particularly in areas such as story writing. Other areas of challenge that the children face include:
- the putting of their thoughts into words;
- short attention spans which results in children losing their train of thought;
- the making of key word notes in the planning stage of their work;
- managing deadlines to complete their writing;
- fatigue surrounding the task as a result of the extra concentration and energy needed to meet both the literacy and non-literacy requirements; and
- limitations in working memory
Many of the boys in the group also present with disruptive, attention seeking behaviour during extended writing sessions. This stems from their barriers and in some cases their other registered disabilities such ADHD.
The writing from the children in this group tends to be limited in content and disjointed in terms of its chronological organisation.
Description of learning prior to the project start
During this project, we focused on the children’s ability to write extended pieces of imagined stories. The pieces of work focused on several lesson objective projects:
- An imagined recount of themselves as a refugee in an inflatable life raft making their way to another country by sea.
- A ghost story taking place at Calshot spit (where their residential trip took place).
- An imagined recount from a day in life of a WW2 solider.
Using the visual programming tool, KODU, the children in the targeted group were given the opportunity to ‘plan’ the settings for their writing by designing them using the KODU tool. They were given an opportunity to research their settings online and then sculpt their environments using the KODU programme. The children then used a screen grabbing tool to create a PowerPoint presentation using several angles of their environment. They were the given opportunity to label different aspects of their 3D environments -using online thesauruses – within their presentations. This provided those children within the target group a significant resource from which to draw their ideas from.
Description of student during the project:
During the project student’s engagement was higher than normal, with a significant improvement in children’s ability to stay on task for longer periods of time. Whereas normally, children in this group would be able to sustain their engagement (in planning and writing) for no more than 15 minutes at a time, children demonstrated that they remain on task for more than 35 minutes.
Children were able to better communicate their ideas and plans to peers as well as to supporting adults, once they had completed their 3D planning. Children took advantage of the ‘tracking/roaming tool’ within the KODU programme and were able use it to identify a series of events that they would describe in their writing i.e. first of all they were out at sea and then later on they were moving up the beach and inland.
Once the children had completed their mapping they were more confident and willing to begin their writing and showed greater levels of determination in completing their set task. As well as an increased productivity, the descriptive quality of the writing seemed to improve as well with children labelling their environment using their own lexicon first and then modifying using online tools later.
During and after the project the following changes were noted in the children’s attitudes and work:
- Increase in overall engagement in their writing
- Increase in time spent on task
- Increase in the volume of work produced
- Reduction in the time it took to settle down to the writing task
- Reduction in support required to help children form their work
- Improvement in children’s ability to link, chronologically, as series of events and ideas
- Improvement in the levels of description and atmosphere in children’s writing
Description of learning after the project including any related outcomes:
Through several independent pieces of writing, children demonstrated that using gaming tools such as KODU, improved their work and attitude significantly. The child lead nature of the project meant that children felt they had greater ownership of their learning and were better able to formulate there unique ideas when supported by this program.
We found that those children who presented with word finding and sequencing issues had their barriers significantly reduced and the overall time it took them to produce work- to high standard- was significantly reduced.
Using the programs roaming tool – in combination with PowerPoint – also provided the children with simple and effective way to plan the sequencing of their ideas with a greater level of annotated setting descriptions.
We also found that children’s over all engagement with their writing improved as they had a solid, visual foundation from which to plan their work. We have seen that children specific barriers are reduced, productivity and engagement increased and time off task and adult time spent supporting reduced.
Story telling is a powerful motivator but writing skills are the most difficult to achieve without careful planning and structuring the material.
This visual way of producing backgrounds introduced structure and sequence which are important elements in writing. Also, by creating the game first the story and writing come as a bonus- very much like needing to arrive at a destination and learning to bike/drive or swim if faster than walk.
There is an element of competiton as well as fun which enhances the experience and the more difficult skills is decomposed and demystified.