Kodudes - Pedagogy

Introduction

Some children, particularly boys, become less and less motivated to read and write as they progress through primary school. More worryingly, reading and writing reluctance is a well documented national issue.  research link
 
The Kodudes project has been carefully structured to try and address this issue - through the use of engaging media and technologies, and a robust structure and educational pedagogy.

Overview

 The project has been structured around a pedagogically sound approach to developing children's narrative understanding and creativity in writing (as expounded amongst others by literacy expert Pie Corbett).

The diagram below shows how we are approaching the overall structure of the sessions, which span four key phases. The second, third and fourth phases could each exist as valid writing opportunities in their own right, as long as children are sufficiently versed in the skills and knowledge required by the preceding phase(s).

However we were keen to take a group of children through all the stages adapting their Kodu files to grow into more sophisticated pieces as the children's growth in skill, knowledge, understanding and confidence took place.

Familarisation: This short phase establishes the context and 'rules of engagement' with the project. It involves an informal pupil interview to gauge attitudes to school, reading, writing, gaming, media as well as some assessment of mindset bias.

Retelling: This phase covers several of the 90 - 120 minute project sessions. The focus is around a quality retelling of the chosen narrative based on the each of the key narrative points setting & trigger event > complication > climax > resolution > conclusion.  (see 'Narrative Schema' below).

Adaptation: Following the familarisation of the narrative in 'retelling', the next phase, again covering several sessions,  focuses on adapting the narrative in a creative way. With Premier Stories this will involve the children branching their Kodu story at a given point(s) away from their narrative retelling, exploring an alternative and original plot line of their own devising, based on a key decision point in the original story.

Invention: The most ambitious stage is invention, where the children working with their own Kodu schema, develop an original 'film' narrative, combining all the skills they have achieved in writing, coding, logical thinking and media understanding.

Narrative schema

Children are often asked to write their own stories in school. In the early years of school (Key Stage 1) pupils are encouraged to write stories with a simple Beginning > Middle > End structure.

Further up the school (Key Stage 2) pupils are expected to write stories with more complex plots and narrative structures - such 'elements' as Trigger > Complication > Climax > Resolution are used to extend understanding of how to plan and create more sophisticated stories. But one of the problems with this is that it's quite abstract.

The Kodu environment makes it possible to represent this abstract concept in a concrete way,  helping children to visualise story plots and consolidate their understanding of them.

See below - this screenshot from Kodu shows part of the focus 3D story schema


Pupils working with this story schema (in conjunction with studying the movie and text-based versions of a focus story) can construct a retelling of a story within the engaging Kodu environment. Stories can then be 'experienced' by a reader when they are run in play mode.

3D story scenes that punctuate the story retelling

Importantly for the Kodues project, the Kodu environment  (with story schema) affords the integration of other story-based elements - so as well as key narrative points containing the typed narrative, story 'scenes' can be modelled in Kodu using the land tools and some simple coding. These 3D story scenes can have elements of interactivity to them, further enhancing the 'reader experience' and of course, the writer's experience and motivation to write.


A scene from a pupil's re-telling of Monsters Vs Aliens


A 'crater' scene from a story re-telling

A note about hardware - Keyboard vs Controller

We are using the latest PC release (from http://fuse.microsoft.com)  and whilst this has keyboard support (and cleverly switches between the keyboard and controller) we have found that the controller feels the more natural way to interact with the environment and makes the working more fluid too. Also, and the controller is a key element for our target age group, the controller has kudos and currency with the children - and this really does make a difference to how the program is perceived

This is not so say that keyboard is not appropriate - just that we feel the controller is the preferred method and offers a more ergonomic experience - the children navigate with it almost without a thought whilst the keyboard by its nature isn't so ergonomic and requires more cognitive load.