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Lynn Endres


"The students' enthusiasm has surprised me," Lynn Endres told Education World. "My sixth grade French class is nine weeks long, and I use the video games as a capstone project. I just started doing it with my classes this fall and since then, one of the first things students ask me when a new quarter starts is if they will have the opportunity to make the video games."

A French teacher at Shanahan Middle School in Lewis Center, Ohio, Endres decided to have her students design video games to review their French skills in an effort to construct an activity that would be extremely relevant to the students. Not only do the students play and enjoy video games, but constructing the games requires them to become familiar with technology and use it as a tool for teaching and learning.

French-language students design a video review game.

The first step in the video game project is sharing examples of games that are like those that will be created by the class. Endres spends another class period discussing the requirements of the project, and such aspects of it as choice of content, pronunciation, mechanics, game choice, file management, creative thinking strategies, use of time and resources, and working well with a group. The students learn skills and functions used to process different data types and to make voice recordings and pictures to include in their games.

"The students then are allowed to choose a partner or a group of three and make an outline of the game that they would like to create," explained Endres. "I have three templates for them to choose from: Tetris, memory, and matching. Once they have chosen the format, they must complete a game proposal, which includes all the vocabulary they have chosen to use as well as the file types, such as sound, pictures, words. After their outlines have been approved, students begin working on the production of their game."

Laptops provided by a grant enable the students to work simultaneously in small groups.

A grant enabled Endres to purchase a projector so the students can see and play their games in a full class situation. She also used funds from the grant to buy additional laptops, microphones, and other audio-visual equipment that enable students to take original photos and record their voices for the games. Students have returned the investment by putting forth an unprecedented level of effort.

"Many of the students spend hours making visual aids to photograph and include in their video games," Endres reported. "Others spend a significant amount of time recording and re-recording their voices to get the perfect pronunciation for their games."

The high quality of the students' games is another indication of their effort. Other students have access to the games to review French concepts, and until Endres reveals the secret, they aren't aware that the games were made by their peers. Invariably, the players of the games are surprised and impressed. While the games are an excellent source of review in their production and in their use, they have been especially effective for a few unique students.

"I have a student who is cognitively delayed, and he used the games my previous students had made to review his numbers," says Endres. "He was able to count to forty-five orally in French, even though someone of his cognitive level might typically only count to about ten. I have several autistic students who benefit greatly from these games. Creating the games gives students a sense of efficacy because they know that they are making something that will be used to teach someone else and not just an assignment that will be graded and set on a shelf or tossed away."

The fact that students themselves have designed the games has generated more interest in them and encouraged other students to use the games. Endres believes that viewing the games created by other classes inspires her students to come up with even more original and professional products. She is amazed each quarter by the work produced by her classes.

Students participate in an interactive project that combines French practice and technology skills.

"When I use one of the student-designed video games as a resource for the whole class, there is a screen with the student author's name on it," Endres shared. "The students love to see the names of their friends or people they know. They are also excited by the possibility of other students using their games to learn. The students will tell the game authors that we used their game in class, and frequently the authors will stop by and let me know that they heard about it. It is very empowering for the students."

One game produced by two sixth grade girls stands out among the many created by Endres's students. The theme for the game is "animals," but instead of adopting the typical approach of matching a spelled French word to a picture, the girls chose to match the spoken French word for the animals with the sounds that the animals make.

"The laughter and enthusiasm that those two girls had while doing their school work was something that I'll always remember," recalled Endres. "You can hear their smiles in their video game."

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
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