Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crafting a Narrative

As I mentioned in my last post about A Themed Year, I am creating a class narrative that will be revealed/developed throughout the school year. This summer I will write out a detailed outline of the world, major characters, major and minor events, and some of the history of the fictional world. This will be a lot of work, and I am already feeling like it may be too much.

The reason for the narrative is simple: I want a thread that links all of our learning. I want some aspect of the course that weaves in and out of everything we read, write, communicate, or create. By wrapping the assignments, homework, quizzes, tests, and projects we work on in a layer of narrative I am hoping that I can help the students make more connections and build more understanding. This is already done when teachers speak about cross-curricular education, but when I only see my students for English it can be difficult for them to see or make those connections.

I want the narrative to be fun, engaging, and something that the kids remember. Some of the narrative wrapping will be light, because I have to get to that material. The books the students will be reading, for instance, aren't in line with my theme. However, I have come up with ways to integrate and merge the two narratives. I'll post about those as I make them.

Onto the narrative itself. As of right now I am only working on a themed narrative for my grade 8 English students. I want to do one for the 9s and 10s, but I'll take it one step at a time. I chose a fantasy theme for the grade 8 class. For no reason other than role playing games are commonly based on fantasy source material. Some of my grade 8s this year play games like World of Warcraft too.

So how will I use this theme? I am going to break my year into 5 units (chapters) of study. The first unit will essentially be a detailed introduction to the year and the themed narrative. Students will do things like create a character profile on Edmodo, learn about the XP and BP system (more on that later), and read/listen to stories about world. I will give the students information through stories about the world, tasks that involve learning more about a character or a place, and through the projects they complete. One of the first projects will be to create a family history for their character. I will cover the writing process here, and the students will spend a good chunk of time getting involved as their character.

After they have worked as their own character, I will introduce the concept of guilds (class groupings decided by me). At this point I would like to incorporate a Tribes system. I want to focus a lot on positive social interaction next year, and I think this will be one of the best ways to do it. If I can start the year off right by building these positive relationships than perhaps the pervasive narrative will have more meaning. Students will be able to earn badges for guild work as well.

Each task will have a layer of story attached in some way. The more story elements I add, the more my students will be engaged. The more tasks they complete, the more XP (marks, essentially) and badges they can accrue. It might very well be a tall order to try and narrativise the entire years curriculum, assignments, and assessments, but if I can get the kids to buy into it I think it could be beneficial for them in the long run.

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