[PARENTS & EDUCATORS] Teach Kids to Write Through Game Design

Teaching kids to write through game design | Readorium

It goes without saying that writing is good for kids. In addition to practicing an essential life-skill that’s used in all professional fields, kids gain a lot from writing: vocabulary and grammar, yes, but also empathy, self-discipline and self-expression. And it doesn’t really matter what they’re writing: humorous poetry, fantasy stories, journalistic accounts of their grandparents’ lives, descriptions of their time spent at school, anything they write is a potential source of fun and learning.

But how can parents and educators encourage children to write in an age where children are bombarded with new forms of media from all directions? Well, by embracing them! Film, comics, television and games can be rich, literary sources to stimulate kids’ (and adults’) minds. The American Libraries Association, for example, publishes an annual reading list of comics and graphic novels for kids. The New York Public Library runs the NYPL Arcade, a sort of “book discussion club for games”, where intellectual games are publicly discussed.

So if your kids really enjoy a particular TV show, why not get them to write a short script and film them acting it out on your smartphone? Or have them draw and script a side-plot for their favorite comic!

Games, in particular, are enjoying increasing attention as tools for education and artistic expression. And the good news is, there are tons of free tools out there to help kids make their own games.

Of particular note is the popular open-source tool Twine, originally created by Chris Klimas in 2009, and now maintained by an entire community of fans. Twine games are hybrid entities, interactive stories that straddle the line between “game” and “short story”. They’re like the Choose Your Own Adventure, games of the 80’s. Twine games/stories are all about reading and making choices (“You chance upon a wounded animal in the woods. Do you try and bandage its wound, or bring it some food?”), and the tool is very easy to learn, with a whole host of tutorials available on-line.

Teaching Kids to Write Through Game Design | Readorium

Twine is easy to use, with a graphical interface and minimal coding. Image Source: twinery.org.

Writing a Twine game, thus teaches kids a lot of writing, and a little game design. Kids will learn how to craft compelling stories, how to design plot structures, how to explore relatable characters, and also what makes for a good piece of interactive media. Advanced users can also begin to delve into the HTML/CSS and Javascript elements the tool supports, adding a layer of programming-literacy to what they learn.

Check out Twine at twinery.org.

Further Reading

Debate: Why American Students Can’t Write (The Atlantic)

http://www.theatlantic.com/debates/education

Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked, Henry Jenkins (gamesforchange.org)

http://www.gamesforchange.org/learn/reality-bytes-eight-myths-about-video-games-debunked/

Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All, Laura Hudson (New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/magazine/twine-the-video-game-technology-for-all.html?_r=0

Writing IF, Emily Short (Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling)

https://emshort.wordpress.com/how-to-play/writing-if/

Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.