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Stories: Choose Your Own Adventure

2014/07/17

Did you ever read those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books which began in the 1970's? Looking back they were a kind of forerunners to the inter-linking nature of the internet, and probably inspired some video games from the 80's. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series ended in 1998, but the gamebook genre is still alive, and evolving.

There are numerous gamebook apps and websites, but what about using them for TESL? What better way to test a student's comprehension than to see if they can escape an imploding moon, or get the gold deep from under a dragon? The core concept of a gamebook is to give the power for directing a story to the reader, which is very similar to student-centered education; adapting outcomes depending on input from the participant. Of course guiding your students through an interactive adventure is one thing. But there is a larger world of possibility if you could give your students the ability to develop their own interactive stories, and receive feedback and affirmation from publishing their work online.

I gave it a shot, and learned a few things along the way. For my elementary students I had to make sure the writing was very concise and used vocabulary that I knew they were familiar with or that I could explain easily. (i.e. "Monsters attack Tokyo! What do you do?" 'I run away!' or 'I fight!") I tried to stick with 3 words in length for the sentences. The students enjoyed the interactivity, and discovering the outcomes to their decisions, and it gave a lot of value to their ability with English, and to see the effects in real-time.

Helping them to create their own stories was more of a challenge. I stuck with the 3-word sentence goal, and supplied them with a choice list of vocabulary for subjects, verbs, and objects to populate their stories. But a great deal of scaffolding was required for the stories to reach fruition. In the end, I found that rather than having branching stories, it was more effective to have a single theme that had multiple choices in how exactly the reader wanted to represent themselves in the narrative. For instance, what weapon to choose, who to help, what to make, and in so doing the tone of the story changes quite a bit, even if the ending is basically the same. 

We created our stories using Google Forms, which meant that we could host the stories online, and receive feedback from parents and classmates, so we could reflect and discuss the results as well. In the end, we didn't end up with anything like those olf classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories. But more a fusion of something like a multiple choice personality test and a traditional gamebook.

If you'd like to learn more about using Google Drive to create online forms, check out this link:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G7xUe2IQNALsoqZe7uKofyPRu7O2ligqoVckjRNpOa4/edit

In the end, I felt this was a great new ways to engage students and affirm and reward their English abilities!

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