Sample D&D Lesson Plans

Unit: Dungeons & Dragons

Focused Literary Studies 11

Lesson 1: Introduction to TRPGs and D&D

Learning Standard: By the end of this lesson, students will be able to define Tabletop Roleplaying Game, comment on its narrative function, and understand a basic history of the genre and D&D.

 

Competencies:

  • Recognize an increasing range of text structures and how they contribute to meaning
  • Recognize personal, social, and cultural contexts, as well as values and perspectives in texts, including race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, place
  • Recognize and appreciate how various forms, structures, and features of texts reflect a variety of purposes, audiences, and messages

 

Materials:

___________________________________________________________________________

Structure:

20-25 minutes Anticipatory set: Stranger Things D&D video clip

-no context given first: who here has played D&D?

-what are the stereotypes of someone who plays D&D? Why?

-contrast with images from Dark Dungeons (anti-game propaganda): what are the

stereotypes here? how are they different?

25 minutes PowerPoint lecture & discussion

-history of TRPGs – elements of the genre

-history of D&D

20-25 minutes brainstorming Think-Pair-Share

-complete Venn Diagrams: “text” vs “TRPG”

-sharing: large Venn Diagram on the chalkboard to fill in

5 minutes wrap-up

-index cards: write a question you have about TRPGs/D&D and/or write something

D&D has in common with a “text”

If extra time: Adventure Time episode “Dungeon”

-as students watch, they write down things they notice that we discussed during think-pair-share (how does this episode bring together the TRPG & story genres? does it rely on any stereotypes we discussed?) — hand in their notes at end instead of index card

 

[next class: creating characters]

 


Unit: Dungeons & Dragons

Focused Literary Studies 11

Lesson 2: D&D Character Creation

Learning Standard: By the end of this lesson, students will have created their D&D character and reflected on why they made particular characterization choices

 

Competencies:

  • Construct meaningful personal connections between self, text, and world
  • Use writing and design processes to plan, develop, and create engaging and meaningful literary, imaginative, and informational texts for a variety of purposes and audiences
  • Recognize personal, social, and cultural contexts, as well as values and perspectives in texts, including race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, place

Materials:

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Structure:

5 minutes review of last class

-key elements of D&D/TRPG

10 minutes PowerPoint/ modeling character creation

-explanation of process; rolling abilities on document cam (or showing groups of

students)

20 minutes choosing race, class, determining ability scores

-option to do this with dice or online

-groups of 2-3, sharing dice and helping each other (teacher circulates)

10 minutes presentation/ modeling character description (alignment, ideals, bonds, flaws,

background)

-one example of pre-written character — read aloud and explain the different aspects

-co-create a character on document camera as a class

30 minutes writing character description (alignment, ideals, bonds, flaws, background)

-individual writing exercise (on paper or devices)

-hand in characters & descriptions for review

5 minutes wrap-up

-option to share character name and something about him/her/it with the class

 

 

[next class: forming parties, choosing quests, looking at DM introduction]


Unit: Dungeons & Dragons

Focused Literary Studies 11

Lesson 3: D&D Gameplay Introduction

Learning Standard: By the end of this lesson, students will students will know their role in their D&D party, will have a basic understanding of the quest their party will be on, and will have started their D&D reflection journaling

Competencies:

  •  Recognize an increasing range of text structures and how they contribute to meaning
  • Recognize personal, social, and cultural contexts, as well as values and perspectives in texts, including race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, place
  • Select and apply an appropriate spoken language format for an intended purpose
  • Transform ideas and information to create original texts, using new or unfamiliar genres, forms, structures, and styles

Materials:

  • D&D manuals
  • D&D dice
  • character sheets & descriptions (handed back from last class)
  • paper and pens for D&D reflections (added to new D&D section of ongoing portfolio)

 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

Structure:

10 minutes review from last day

-hand back character sheets and descriptions (with formative feedback/questions)

10 minutes editing time

-chance to edit characters based on feedback (creating more well-rounded characters: what is your character’s background? what do they like doing? what makes them uncomfortable? etc.)

15 minutes explaining & modeling gameplay and dividing into parties, choosing DMs

-pre-arranged parties chosen by teacher

-DMs volunteer (if some students already have experience)

35 minutes beginning gameplay

-DM provides setting & beginning of quest

-groups of students begin their games; teacher circulates to help

10 minutes written reflection

-what do you think of D&D so far? What do you like or not like?

-what stands out about the DM’s opening dialogue?

-who are the members of your party? How does your character fit within your party?

 

 

[next class: gameplay immersion]

 


 

Explanation

This series of three lesson plans occurs at the beginning of a unit on Tabletop Role Playing Games (TRPGs) with the text Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) at its focus. The primary aims of the unit (as listed more specifically under the “competencies” headings in each lesson) are to guide students to rethink narrative structure from the inside of a story, to develop students’ inter- and intra-personal skills (learning to communicate in various modes and reflect upon their own identities), and to recognize the different contexts and perspectives of texts. To reach these objectives, students must become fully immersed within the game several times over the course of the unit. Bloom’s Taxonomy tells us that students must be able to know and understand something before developing the ability to analyze and evaluate it (Bloom, 1956); therefore, students must become comfortable with the conventions of Dungeons & Dragons before being expected to think critically about the game and their relationship to it. Because this genre will likely be unfamiliar to many students, I have supplemented the unit with plenty of scaffolding: we begin with an exploration of the history of the TRPG genre and D&D, using guiding questions to encourage students to think about D&D (and other TRPGs) as texts worthy of study. It is essential for students to realize the narrative potential of TRPGs prior to engaging in gameplay, at which point they will be asked to reflect upon their experiences. Without a solid foundation for understanding the game as a text, it would be a challenge for their later reflections to go beyond surface-level analysis.

One of the primary affordances of D&D and other TRPGs is that it engages students in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains of learning. Getting students involved within the story grants them a chance to metacognitively analyze the narrative, and directly involving them in the plot development allows them to feel a personal connection to their characters and the events that befall them. Furthermore, actions like dice rolls and even acting like their characters encourage students to connect to the game on a physical level. Providing student with the above scaffolding will help them to realize the various ways they are becoming immersed in a text and reflect upon those experiences.

These lessons show the beginning of my gradual release of responsibility for this unit. In Lesson One, the teacher explicitly gets students to consider the purpose of the unit in general and shows them examples of narratives that use D&D as an embedded text (such as Stranger Things, Dark Dungeons, and Adventure Time); by showing students ways this game is included within written and televised narratives, the lesson introduces them to this new genre via a familiar one, providing a framework for understanding.

Lesson Two, on character creation, necessarily includes a great deal of teacher modeling: the teacher slowly walks the students through the process of creating a D&D character verbally while showing the physical process simultaneously. If the school has technology to support a digital projection of this process (such as a document camera), the teacher may use it in order to teach to the whole class at once; however, if this is not possible, the teacher may present to small groups of students and move more directly into guided practice, showing students through demonstration and allowing them to try their own creations with teacher input. For this lesson, the teacher must be intimately familiar with the process of creating a D&D character, as they must be able to model both the creation of character traits and the creation of a character description. In regards to the character description, the lesson includes modeling (i.e. showing students a pre-written description and explaining it), guided practice (i.e. creating a short description as a class, involving students in the process by using their input), and independent practice (i.e. getting students to create their own characters).

Lesson Three, on beginning gameplay, leads students into the world of D&D. Again, this process is modeled by the teacher (and, if there are experienced TRPGers in the class, these students may help model). The teacher should have pre-selected groups of students to form into parties with one Dungeon Master per party. Pre-selecting groups is especially helpful if some students have had previous experience playing D&D, as these students may provide student-led guided practice within the game. In later lessons, students will move further and further into independent practice, requiring less support as they become familiar with the conventions of gameplay. For lessons wherein students are primarily playing the game together (such as the latter half of Lesson Three), there should be time provided at the end of class for them to complete a reflection on their experience, providing guiding reflective questions and always moving their thinking up to a higher cognitive level.

This unit is easily adaptable to different learning exceptionalities, as it involves various ways of learning and representing knowledge. The reflections may be handwritten or typed, or even spoken into a tape recorder. Because only one participant per party (the DM) needs to read, the unit is user-friendly for those students who have reading difficulties. At the same time, the verbal interactions encouraged by gameplay should help to develop the communication skills of both native English speakers and English Language Learners. Using TRPGs (an expanded notion of text) as narrative in the English classroom levels the playing field for students, as it is unlikely that a large amount of students will be overly familiar with the genre; therefore, the majority of students should be comfortable with the gradual progression from teacher modeling to independent practice over the course of the unit.

 

References:

Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of

            educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York ; Toronto: Longmans,

Green.

 

 

 

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An Exploration of D&D and TRPGs

Introduction

In February, I posted a blog entry in which I proposed using the Tabletop Role-Playing Game (TRPG) Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) as a text in English Language Arts classes. You can view the post in its entirety here, but for those who may not want to do that, I’ll briefly introduce the text before proceeding.

Dungeons & Dragons is the world’s first fantasy role-playing game, introduced in 1974 by creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (What Is D&D?, 2017). Players create and enact characters who will navigate the world of a story together. This world is narrated by a Dungeon Master (DM), who provides narrative cues, asks players what actions they will take (framed as the question “What do you do?”), and reveals the results of actions. When a player wants to initiate an action, he or she typically must make a dice roll to see whether that action was successful, adding an element of chance and unpredictability to the storyline. Characters may die throughout the narrative, but players may create new characters and therefore stay involved. Whether or not the party “succeeds” in their quest or mission, there are no losers, for a story is created and experienced regardless.

In this post, I will expand upon my exploration of the Tabletop Role Playing Game genre, turning to research that has been conducted about the genre or its players. I will be focusing primarily on Dungeons & Dragons, but my comments should be generally applicable to other Role Playing Games, such as video games, other Tabletop Role-Playing Games, and even murder mystery parties.

 

Scholarly Discussion

Although it may seem like a niche area, Tabletop Role-Playing Games have actually been the subject of academic study since the 1980s, and so a wide (and quickly expanding) body of research about the genre exists. D&D has been around for a fairly long time, but is still being talked about in new ways in academia and other mediums like podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs. In June of 2016, I attended a talk at the University of Victoria’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute in which Anastasia Salter discussed D&D as a feminist space for gaming, as it allows for female characters that are agents and that transcend typical boundaries often placed on women in static texts. She also revealed that the game did not begin as this inclusive, showing the audience evidence of a “harlot” encounter that was written into the game early on. This lecture was one of the first things that really piqued my interest in Dungeons & Dragons as a topic for research and a potential teaching material. If one could bring gender studies into D&D, what else could be brought in? Below, I summarize some of the recent research on D&D and TRPGs that effectively outlines the chief affordances I believe such a game could have in an English Language Arts classroom.

Jennifer Grouling Cover (2010) explores the narrative and social structure of TRPGs, looking at the genre as a cross-disciplinary entity that engages with narrative, linguistic, cultural, and writing studies (p. 6-7). Grouling Cover (2010) emphasizes the interactivity of D&D, noting that “there are different endings depending on the actions of the players” and that the players can “add to the world and story that surrounds them” (p. 30). The open-ended nature of the question posed by the DM (“what do you do?”) allows the narrative to progress uninfluenced by the Dungeon Master, and even though players can make decisions, the outcomes of their choices are still determined by dice rolls (Grouling Cover, 2010, p. 31). Furthermore, the collaborative nature of Dungeons & Dragons allows players to explore multiple narrative directions, diverging from a single, linear storyline (Grouling Cover, 2010, p. 32). Grouling Cover (2010) proposes a model for TRPGs that outlines the different frames and levels of narrativity that players become engaged in throughout a session (p. 95). The highest level of narrative engagement is within the world of the “narrative frame” (i.e. the world of the story, including DM narration and character speech). Below that is the “game frame” (i.e. the aspects of gameplay, including dice rolls and suggested actions), and lastly, the “social frame” (i.e. the moments when players interact with each other, such as when they negotiate rules, comment on the game, or simply engage in conversation) (Grouling Cover, 2010, p. 94). For Grouling (2010), D&D is an innovative way for people to engage with story: “Spatial, temporal, and emotional immersion work together in the TRPG to give the player a narrative experience” (p. 107).

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While Grouling Cover primarily focuses on the narrative interactivity of D&D, Sarah Lynne Bowman (2010) focuses on the social interactivity of RPGs in general, arguing that RPGs give players the change to develop “personal, interpersonal, cultural, cognitive, and professional skills” (p. 179). Bowman (2010) brings up the social stigmas surrounding RPGs, noting that many players have self-identified as being societal “misfits” who have found friendship through fantasy gaming (p. 68). Bowman argues that RPGs aid in empathy training, as the games cause players to enact and interact with character-types with whom they may not normally relate; thus, players gain the opportunity to see through new perspectives and may begin to apply this skill to their lives (2010, p. 59). RPGs may also aid in developing skills for problem solving in social contexts, as each character must navigate conflicts and overcome obstacles collaboratively (Bowman, 2010, p. 104). If players can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each party member, including themselves, they can work together to negotiate challenges more effectively (Bowman, 2010, p. 116). Bowman (2010) ends by discussing RPGs and their role in identity exploration, arguing that RPGs are a venue in which players can “‘try on different hats’ of selfhood” free of societal judgements (p. 127).

C. Wright, D. E. Weissglass, and V. Casey (2017) argue along with Bowman that Role-Playing Games like D&D may aid in social development. Wright, Weissglass, and Casey (2017) recently conducted a study which has suggested that imaginative role-play can promote the moral development of players when social and/or moral dilemmas are built into the gameplay (p. 1). Their study stands out due to their inclusion of two control groups who did not engage in gameplay and did not show any growth in moral development (in contrast with the players of RPGs, who demonstrated great growth in their moral development) (Wright, Weissglass, & Casey, 2017, p. 1).

The final bit of RPG discussion that I will include in this post considers RPGs as instructional tools for life. In a heartwarming colloquium lecture geared towards the parents of RPGers, Ulrich A. K. Betz (2011) highlights several “business and management principles” that RPGs can teach both children and adults (p. E117). These principles are as follows:

  1. To be successful you need a team – it is very difficult to succeed alone
  2. To be successful you need diversity – we do not need to be the same
  3. To be successful, you need to agree on the fundamentals – we need to share the same values and visions
  4. Work can be fun – as long as it is not an obsession
  5. Learn and grow – what is impossible today will be possible tomorrow
  6. Manage your downside risk – things will happen that nobody (or at least you) did not foresee
  7. You can make a difference; you can change the world

Like the other scholars I have discussed above, Betz (2011) focuses on the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that players have the opportunity to develop while participating in fantasy role-play. The lessons he sees embedded in the gameplay are collaboration and communication, problem solving, self-regulation, and growth of self-efficacy. And, by pointing out that RPGs can help children as well as adults, Betz draws attention to the enduring nature of these skills and how they connect to lifelong learning.

 

Conclusion

Even a cursory glance into the body of research about TRPGs reveals a few key themes. In this post, I have picked out 3 studied benefits that D&D could have in an English Language Arts classroom. TRPGs could add value to an English classroom by encouraging the following in students:

  1. Rethinking narrative structures: divisions between authorship and readership are broken down and narrative becomes interactive. Players can have direct effects on storyline and therefore can become engaged in more meaningful ways, actively contributing rather than passively absorbing material. Because multiple players can pursue diverging plots, students/players can observe the creation of a complex, non-linear narrative.
  2. Practicing interpersonal skills: Students/players must collaborate with each other and communicate if they wish to be successful in gameplay. The multiplayer nature of D&D (and most TRPGs) encourages players to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, taking advantage of characters’ assets and compensating for weaknesses. Because players enter different perspectives, TRPGs can be an effective way to teach empathy.
  3. Developing intrapersonal skills: By allowing students to “become” characters, TRPGs provide opportunities to explore different identities and “try out” different worldviews, ethics, beliefs, and so on in a non-judgmental context. In their attempts to work towards certain targets, players develop skills like goal-setting, self-reflection, and self-moderation.

What stands out to me the most about much of the research is that the benefits that researchers are finding apply in a cross-disciplinary way; skills are developed within the space of an RPG and carried forward into the players’ lives. The benefits also largely connect to BC’s new curriculum, hitting on all of the core competencies that BC Education wishes to foster in its students (i.e. communication, creative thinking, critical thinking, positive personal & cultural identity, personal awareness & responsibility, and social responsibility) (Core Competencies, 2016). This text form would work especially well in an English Language Arts class due to its affordances in narrative engagement; however, TRPGs could be used in any classroom that wishes to develop those core competencies in students.

Although a mere gameplay description cannot capture the many, many nuances and interactions of a session of D&D, I’d like to conclude my post by rooting the above themes within the game itself. D&D’s current story (Storm King’s Thunder, 2017) is described as follows on their website:

“Hill giants are stealing all the grain and livestock they can while stone giants have been scouring settlements that have been around forever. Fire giants are press-ganging the smallfolk into the desert, while frost giant longships have been pillaging along the Sword Coast. Even the elusive cloud giants have been witnessed, their wondrous floating cities appearing above Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate. Where is the storm giant King Hekaton, who is tasked with keeping order among the giants?

The humans, dwarves, elves, and other small folk of the Sword Coast will be crushed underfoot from the onslaught of these giant foes. The only chance at survival is for the small folk to work together to investigate this invasion and harness the power of rune magic, the giants’ weapon against their ancient enemy the dragons. The only way the people of Faerun can restore order is to use the giants’ own power against them.”

Even in this brief description, one can begin to see the themes that emerge in the research that has been done on TRPGs and D&D. The collaborative nature of the game is highlighted (the “small folk” must “work together”), along with critical thinking skills (“to investigate”), creative thinking skills (how can they begin to restore order?) and intrapersonal skills (what is my character’s place in this conflict? what can I do to help?). And, of course, it is an engaging narrative that the students can enter and help shape.

In this post, I have only covered a fraction of the discussions that have happened and are happening about D&D and TRPGs; however, it is clear that much research exists that argues for these games as learning tools. And I, for one, am very excited to bring D&D into my classroom one day.


References:

Betz, U. A. K. (2011). What fantasy role-playing games can teach your children (or even you). British Journal of Educational Technology 42(6).

Bowman, S. L. (2010). The functions of role-playing games: how participants create community, solve problems, and explore identity. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

Devilla, J. (2008). The “Random Harlot Table” from the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. Global Nerdy. Retrieved from http://www.globalnerdy.com/2008/03/05/the-random-harlot-table-from-the-original-dungeon-masters-guide/

Grouling Cover, J. (2010). The creation of narrative in tabletop role-playing games. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.

Storm King’s Thunder. (2017). Dungeons & Dragons. Retrieved from http://dnd.wizards.com/dungeons-and-dragons/story/storm-kings-thunder

Wright. J. C., Weissglass, D. E., and Casey, V. (2017). Imaginative role-playing as a medium for moral development: Dungeons & Dragons provides moral training. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 1-31.

Selecting a Non-Standard Text for English Language Arts Classes

Introduction

The new English curriculum being implemented in British Columbia, in its broad approach to learning, allows teachers to become more experimental in their teaching methods and materials. Teachers can use whichever texts they desire in order to reach the prescribed learning standards for each grade level. Many English Language Arts classes have challenged the notion of “text” prior to this curriculum, already; even when I was in high school, I can recall my Language Arts teachers using videos, songs, and advertisements as well as the more standard novels, plays, and poetry. And, even though I am a huge fan of the “typical” texts that one might look at in an English class, I have always found it refreshing to depart from the norm. Why limit yourself to written text when there is a whole world out there to interpret and learn from? In this post, I will clarify what I mean by “text” and discuss the process of selecting a text for the new English Language Arts curriculum, looking at Learning Standards, Learning Domains, and different classroom contexts. Finally, I will justify my own text selection, Dungeons and Dragons, as having a place in English Language Arts classrooms.

 

What is a “text”?

If you were randomly asked to name a text, you would most likely name the title of a work that falls under the standard definition of the term, which is this:

“The wording of anything written or printed; the structure formed by the words in their order; the very words, phrases, and sentences as written.” (“text”, Oxford English Dictionary).

The Oxford English Dictionary (O.E.D.) simply identifies text as something that is written, and therefore encompasses the novels, plays, and poetry that are so common in English classrooms. What if we were to play with this definition, though? Suppose a text was understood on broader terms, such as “something that is read,” shifting the focus from what it is to how we interact with it. Rather than simply relating to writing, the verb “to read” is defined by the O.E.D. as “to consider, interpret, [or] discern.” Text, then, could be understood as “something that is considered, interpreted, or discerned.” When we use a definition like this, shifting focus from what a text looks like to how we interact with it, the options for textual study become endless. The new B.C. English Curriculum takes a similarly broad approach to text, defining it as “all forms of oral, written, visual, and digital communication.”

 

Selecting an Alternative Text: the Whats, Whys, and Hows

Firstly, I want to be clear: I find nothing inherently wrong with using standard forms of text in high school classrooms, and I plan to use several of them; however, I do see something wrong with refusing to use new forms of text simply to avoid stepping outside of what is comfortable. If we expect our students to move beyond their comfort zones as they are learning, we, as teachers, should be willing to do the same.

Educational Psychology shows us that students will be more likely to retain information that they experience, and the more “codes” the information is presented in (for example, combining a visual code with an auditory one, and so on), the higher that likelihood of retention becomes. Research also tells us that student engagement increases when teaching resources are varied. It would seem apt, then, to vary the kinds of text types we ask students to analyze in the English Language Arts classroom, departing from a 100% written text-based model. Further than this, I argue that by pushing the boundaries of what we consider as text, we can more effectively teach our students. Below, I will summarize a few textual and educational theories before talking about them in relation to the new English curriculum and briefly explaining how I have used these theories to identify an “alternative” text that I hope to use in my own classroom one day.

In Louise Rosenblatt’s 1988 transactional theory of reading and writing, Rosenblatt argues that reading is not merely a passive activity but that it involves a transaction between text and reader; when a reader becomes involved with a text, he or she “composes” an “interpreted meaning” (Rosenblatt 2): “Every reading act is an event, a transaction involving a particular reader and a particular configuration of marks on a page,[1] and occurring at a particular time in a particular context” (4). Readers bring their own experiences to a text and form meaning based on several factors that are external to the text itself. Therefore, shifting the context of reading will shift a reader’s interpretation of the text.

This notion of transaction between reader and text becomes even more salient when considering Linda Hutcheon’s work Theory of Adaptation, in which she argues that there are three different modes of engagement with text: Telling, Showing, and Interacting.[2] The first mode, Telling, involves reading the written word (e.g. novels, poems, etc.). The Showing mode involves a viewer who watches and hears a text (e.g. viewing a play, watching a film, etc.). Finally, the Interacting mode involves the actual physical participation of the reader; he or she must be involved in the text in a corporeal way (e.g. games, fieldtrips, etc.).[3] Related to the above is Bloom’s taxonomy, which divides learning into three separate domains: cognitive (i.e. content knowledge and intellect), affective (i.e. attitude and emotions), and psychomotor (i.e. physical movement and motor skills).[4]

If one considers these different types of engagement and different domains of learning, one can begin to see where a “typical” English classroom may have some gaps for its students. Specifically, English classes tend to miss the Interactive mode of engagement and the psychomotor domain of learning, too often asking students to read written texts while sitting in desks. More innovative teachers may arrange for students to attend a play, or even act one out as a class, allowing their students to engage with a text physically; however, these experiences seem to be in the minority.

One challenge that teachers may encounter in the next few years is that certain competencies in the new English Language Arts curriculum simply cannot be reached with traditional, written texts. For the purpose of this blog post, I will refer specifically at the English 12 documents; however, my comments here should be applicable to the 10-12 draft English curricula. Written texts cannot teach about oral storytelling and cannot teach about things like multimodal texts, two competencies that feature in the new curriculum. Furthermore, learning contexts are playing heavily into today’s classrooms, with personalized learning being a necessary strategy in order to accommodate diverse learners, learning exceptionalities, and students’ interests. Written texts may not be the best medium to engage with the highest amount of students.

 

My Chosen Text: Dungeons & Dragons

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Image from “Dungeons & Dragons” Wikipedia page

Based on these gaps in engagement levels and curricular standards, the text type I have chosen to explore this term is Dungeons and Dragons. An alternative text that addresses the psychomotor domain and interactive mode of engagement seems a necessary inclusion, and the benefits of bringing something like Dungeons and Dragons into an English classroom are numerous. Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game in which players become characters and work together (or against each other) to accomplish particular missions in a fantasy world. Characters develop as the game goes on, and outcomes of their decisions are determined by rolling dice. Firstly, even the official D&D website acknowledges the story-based nature of the game, stating, “The core of D&D is storytelling. You and your friends tell a story together, guiding your heroes through quests for treasure, battles with deadly foes, daring rescues, courtly intrigue, and much more.” Every storyline is narrated by a Dungeon Master, and each is unique because of the spur-of-the-moment decisions and dice rolls.

Using Dungeons & Dragons (or games like it) as a text in English challenges students to reconsider what “text” is, directly supporting the competency “Recognize an increasing range of text structures and how they contribute to meaning.” Using an alternative text like this shows the multimodality of stories and gets students to think about how stories may exist in different contexts and for different audiences. Because the story evolves in real time and plot develops as a direct result of students’ decisions, the game can support competencies that have to do with personal connections to text. Interpersonal skills like communication, support, and understanding are put at the forefront of roleplaying games: students will be forced to develop oral language skills and be able to respectfully communicate with one another. They can physically enact characters and engage with plot in an interactive way, supporting experiential learning and understanding text from the inside (rather than as a passive observer). And, perhaps most obviously, using a text that incorporates gameplay encourages students to enjoy stories.

I have included three charts (Learning Domains, Text Features, and Course Content) to outline some of the many, many affordances that Dungeons & Dragons could have in an English Language Arts classroom.

 

LEARNING DOMAINS: AFFORDANCES OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS:
COGNITIVE -construction of plot

-creation of characters

-integration of some math (numbers on dice)

-accessible to diverse learners (not all written)

-metacognitive process of seeing a story being created in real time

-problem solving

AFFECTIVE -personal investment in characters

-real feeling of risk, loss, thrill

-reacting to events

-can take on emotions & attitude of character (& experiment feeling emotions they may not normally feel)

PSYCHOMOTOR -rolling of dice (to simulate risk)

-speaking aloud

-students acting in character to their comfort level

-navigating challenges of the storyline

-seeing other students acting as characters

 

TEXT FEATURES: AFFORDANCES OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS:
CONTENT -quest can be personalized to a particular topic

-character development

-plot development

-process of playing the game addresses several competencies (see “Course Content” chart below)

 

FORMAT -oral language

-character charts

-handbook

-different roles (Dungeon Master, player characters, non-player characters)

UTILITY -accessibility of format

-franchise has multiple means of engagement (game, novels, video games, podcasts, articles, videos)

-character charts (graphic organizer for character creation)

STYLE -engaging storylines

-level can be adjusted to the specific learners

-communication and cooperation between players

 

COURSE CONTENT: AFFORDANCES OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS:
“BIG IDEAS” “The exploration of text and story deepens our understanding of diverse, complex ideas about identity, others, and the world”

-“People understand text differently depending on their worldviews and perspectives”

LEARNING STANDARDS/ CURRICULAR COMPETENCIES -“Read for enjoyment”

-“Recognize and appreciate … oral tradition”

-“Apply appropriate strategies in a variety of contexts to comprehend … texts”

-“Recognize and appreciate how various forms, structures, and features of texts reflect a variety of purposes, audiences, and messages”

-“Recognize how language constructs personal, social, and cultural identity”

-“Construct meaningful personal connections between self, text, and world”

-“Respond to text in personal, creative, and critical ways”

-“Recognize an increasing range of text structures and how they contribute to meaning”

-“Demonstrate speaking and listening skills”

-“Respectfully exchange ideas and viewpoints from diverse perspectives to build shared understanding and extend meaning”

-“Presentation techniques”; “Oral language strategies”

-“Elements of … texts”

CORE (CROSS-CURRICULAR) COMPETENCIES -Communication

-Creative Thinking

-Critical Thinking

-Positive Personal Identity

-Personal Awareness and Responsibility

 

Conclusion

Many of the goals of English Language Arts classes could arguably be reached without turning to a single piece of writing; however, the reverse cannot be true. We are living in a time where the curricular standards for English Language Arts have somewhat outgrown written texts. Because of learning standards that tie to things like oral storytelling and multimodal literacies, teachers must be ready to bring alternative text types into their classes. While I have focused on Dungeons and Dragons in this post, other interactive text types (such as Murder Mysteries, Choose Your Own Adventures, Video Games, etc.) may fulfill similar learning standards.

 

[1] Here, Rosenblatt speaks specifically about written forms of text.

[2] http://www.imageandnarrative.be/inarchive/house_text_museum/peeters.htm

[3] http://adaptations.wikia.com/wiki/Linda_Hutcheon,_A_Theory_of_Adaptation_(2006)

[4] http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/assessment/domains.html

Putting Myself Out There

Hello! This is my first post in the second term, and for it, I will briefly reintroduce myself and rearticulate my goals for teaching. I have introduced myself in a couple ways on this blog: specifically, through a video and through a podcast. As I haven’t yet really introduced myself in writing (and seeing as I am a pre-service English teacher), a written account of my own educational history and goals seems apt.

 

My Educational History

I have always loved school because I have always loved learning. I’m sure this love of learning was partially instilled by the schoolteachers I have had from a young age. Largely, though, I have my parents to thank for teaching me that education is a privilege and for encouraging me to take my learning further than the classroom. If I found a math concept too easy, my mom would give me additional, more challenging math problems to complete, and if I was beyond my class in reading (as was often the case, being an eager reader), we would go to the library to get new novels. Concepts came fairly easily to me, as did the ability to focus. I recognize now how fortunate I am that my experience in public education was so positive and that I had certain advantages that helped me be successful. [1]

After graduating high school, I attended MacEwan University in Edmonton (my hometown) for my B.A. in English. I took the English Honours program, which basically just meant that I majored and minored in English. The program also required that I write a thesis, which involved proposing a project, choosing a supervising committee, and presenting and defending the paper at the end of the term. I titled my project “‘Shade to Shade Will Come Too Drowsily’: Pain, Opium, Melancholy, and the Poetical Character in Keats,” looking at John Keats’s letters and poetry in conjunction with Romantic views of pain and painkilling. I really love Romantic poetry. In high school, though, I disliked every poetry unit. My university career remedied that by varying the types of poems I was reading, by supporting readings with poetic theory, and by allowing students to come to their own conclusions about the poetry we were assigned. I’m grateful for having to go through the process of completing a thesis, which helped prepare me for the next big step in my education: my Masters degree.

When I began my M.A. at the University of Victoria, I thought that I would either continue focusing on British Romantic Poetry or shift my focus to contemporary Canadian Literature. Neither of these turned out to be true; I ended up concentrating in Medieval and Early Modern Studies and wrote my Masters Essay on a Latin text from the 1070s, titling my project “A Space of Resistance: Body, Landscape, and Identity in the Gesta Herwardi.” My change in area of study occurred both because I enjoy thinking and writing about medieval texts and also because I have always had stellar teachers in my medieval literature classes. At UVic, my teachers facilitated thoughtful and meaningful discussions about the texts and included a focus on experiential learning: we had the opportunity to work directly with medieval and early modern manuscripts. There’s something about being able to see, touch, and smell a centuries-old document that really changed me as a learner. I wasn’t just studying history and literature; I was holding it. In my last semester, I was able to work with my professor and a peer to produce a transcription of a medieval calendar, which is new work that will soon be shared with the academic community. My medieval literature teachers have become models for me as I embark on my own teaching journey. They have taught me about hands-on learning, about collaboration, about the value of working towards a real-life goal, and about creating the right amount of challenge for each individual.

 

My Goals as a Teacher

Sometimes I struggle to explain what I like to do outside of school, simply because I truly feel passionate about my education. I identify as a lifelong learner, and I hope that my passion for learning will be transferred to my students. Several times throughout the Education Post Degree Professional Program, my peers and I have been asked to reflect upon and articulate why we are going into the teaching profession. My primary reason has always been that I want to instill a love of learning, of reading, and of communicating in my students. I hope to create a classroom that gives my students equal opportunities for success by varying the ways I teach, creating a nonjudgmental space for students to exchange ideas, and allowing for different forms of assessment. I aim to foster a space where learning is fun and doesn’t stop at the walls of my classroom… I hope to teach my students skills and competencies that they can carry forward in their lives and begin to self-direct their own learning.

More and more, I am realizing how important it is for teachers to connect with students as human beings. It sounds basic, but the human aspect of the teacher-student relationship seems (to me) to make all the difference. During my high school observations last semester, whenever I asked a student, “what makes a good teacher?,” he or she would reply with an answer like “approachability,” “a sense of humour,” “they get to know you as a person,” and so on. None of the students said something like “they are extremely knowledgeable in their subject.” Most students value the social aspects of learning, and for some students, school may be the only place that has the potential for positive social interaction. I believe that this kind of relationship can’t truly begin unless the teacher is willing to share something real about him or herself with students. If you expect your students to put themselves out there, you must be willing to, as well. I want to share my own learning journey with my students, revealing struggles to show that mistakes are okay, demonstrating practicality of skills, and sharing my passions. I want to put myself out there.

Further to this, in order to individualize learning for students, you must get to know your students as individuals. For English, this means getting to know some of their passions, the text types they prefer, their areas of strength, and areas in need of development. I hope to form meaningful, professional relationships with all of my students so that I can better understand how they will learn best and what kinds of supports I should use in and out of class. As written above, I was very fortunate to have a smooth and positive experience in my education, and that positivity lead to my continuation of my schooling (a continuation that is still ongoing and is shaping my future career); my biggest wish is to help my students – ALL of my students – to have a positive experience so they might also become lifelong learners, whether that learning occurs in a school or out in the world.

 

[1] Specifically, my advantages include my race, neurotypicality, family situation, and economic status.