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How to turn a game into a learning experience?

Diary submitted by Corina, Madrid, 2020

Incorporating Bloom’s taxonomy to lesson planning

How to turn a game into a learning experience?

My first day as a teacher was a Speaking Class that was based on a game called Moon Landing. Before the class I structured the order of the activity: at the beginning I will greet the class, introduce myself, talk a bit about my background and mention that I speak American English. The lesson was an hour long, so right after that, the game explanation will begin: 

You are a member of a space crew scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. However, due to mechanical difficulties, your own ship was forced to land at a spot 200 miles from the rendezvous point (…) 15 items are listed as being intact and undamaged after landing. Your task is to rank them in terms of their importance for your crew, to allow them to reach the rendezvous point.. 

I would ask them to individually start ranking the items. Then I would split the class in 2 or 3 groups, depending on the number of students and give them 15 minutes to discuss and rank the items together. Then I would show them the actual NASA ranking and proceed to score their guesses (the instructions include the score guide and if they succeed it will mean the space crew survived). After the score is given, the class will finish by discussing the activity.

The day of the class I welcomed everyone, did everything as planned, but as I introduced the game, I saw among the students a bunch of confused expressions. They were unfamiliar with the vocabulary. I paused, and started explaining one by one every item of the activity, asking them if they knew what it was, and to explain it to the rest. 

Once everyone understood the list of items, I proceeded to explain the ranking, and I asked them to individually start ranking the items. I gave them around 10 minutes and then I asked them to split in two groups to make a group ranking.

Everything was fine, everyone was into the exercise, participating, voicing their opinions, but a couple students were not participating. They didn’t understand what the rank was for. They didn’t understand that they were somewhat stranded and they needed to hike 200 miles with some items, and rank the items to know what to take and what to leave behind in order to survive. I re-explained, trying to use very simple vocabulary, over and over, until the students got it, and then we integrated them into their groups where they participated actively. 

At the end they had a good time and everyone was interested in the game, but I felt defeated, I knew there was a better way. 

For instance, a game like this could be done taking into consideration Bloom’s Taxonomy different levels of intellectual behavior to ensure a smooth increase of the cognitive process of the students. 

In 1956 Benjamin Bloom and a group of educational psychologists developed classification levels of intellectual behavior important during learning. The six levels within the cognitive domain progress from the simple recall of facts through to increasingly complex and abstract mental levels.

Those levels are divided in two groups: the lowest levels of intellectual behavior (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application) and the highest levels of intellectual behaviour (Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation).

If we start the Moon landing game with a brief warm up asking about the students knowledge about space, the moon, the solar system. The thought process will begin to activate, they will start remembering facts and previous knowledge they possess about the subject.

Once they understand that the game is based in outer space, and a Moon landing, we start the explanation: “You are a member of a space crew scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon”…

After the explanation we would start with some knowledge questions, this time based on the instructions,  such as:

  • Where is the space crew?
  • What is a mother ship? 
  • What happened to your ship?
  • How long do you have to travel to rendezvous with the mother ship?
  • What are the 15 items available?

After this you can follow up with some comprehension questions:

  • What is this activity about?
  • How does the ranking system work?

Now we can complete the lowest levels of intellectual behaviour by asking the students to use their knowledge in a creative way (application), with the following task:

  • Prioritize the items of the list from 1 to 15, 1 being  the most important.

Asking these kinds of questions and tasks will allow your students to gradually comprehend the information provided by you. By doing this you will avoid confused students in the middle or at the end of a lesson. 

By asking them to split into groups and discuss within the members of their groups what the item ranking should be, they will examine their lists and the situation given, entering this way the analysis stageand classifying the items taking in consideration everyone’s point of view, comparing them and finding a common ground. 

The next step would be to have a representative of every group and have them explain their decisions and priorities (synthesis)

The evaluation would be the last step of the activity. We will revise the NASA items list, compare it, follow the given score formula and see if the teams survived or not. 

At the end of the class we will open a brief discussion about the game and we will wrap it up by reviewing the discussion and some of the vocabulary learnt.

All this step by step transition will ensure the comprehension, active participation and learning of the students. It will give a friendly approach to any subject by slowly increasing the difficulty of the thought process and opening the students minds gradually. And will definitely turn a game in a knowledge engaging experience.

Sources

 1/ Knox, Grahame. Moon Landing. Page 1 https://insight.typepad.co.uk/moon_landing.pdf

 2/ Idem

3/ Solski, Ruth. Fairy Tales Using Bloom’s Taxonomy. On the Mark Press, 2008. https://books.google.es/books?id=HDIA5Wl7lfEC&pg=PA13&dq=blooms+taxonomy&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh8rK02ufoAhUGCRoKHeOIB60Q6AEIUjAF#v=onepage&q=blooms%20taxonomy&f=false

4/  Knox, Grahame. Moon Landing. Pages 1 to 5 https://insight.typepad.co.uk/moon_landing.pdf

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