Kinectimals Inspiring Writing

This year was the forth time I have used Kinectimals with a class to inspire their writing. And this year staff in our unit said this was the best writing we have seen all year! So I thought I would share a few ways in which game play has inspired writing in my classroom.

Kinectimals

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This an X Box game and it is also an app game available for iPad. You adopt a tiger or a bear on an island called ‘Lumeria’ and meet a character called Bumble who has been looking after the animals since the explorers left many years ago. It is an adventure game where you lead your animals through different tasks and challenges, find treasures and discover new parts of the island. It’s also a virtual pet style game so it is self paced and children can navigate the island themselves, moving around the place instead of moving forward in game play. Graphically it’s stunning, very beautiful and the story is captivating.

Playing the Game

The game is physical. There are no controllers. On the X Box Kinect you are the controller. There is a motion sensor camera which tracks your movements. If you jump, the animal jumps, if you crawl, the animal crawls. This is very much an action and adventure game!

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It needs space though so I set this up on the group carpet area which is also our role play space. This game becomes our role play for the week. There space is sectioned off with 2 tables at a right angle with a treasure box full of writing materials linked to the game. As children are watching the game play, they are taking notes about the discoveries which are taking place. This feeds in to our discussions during the day, sharing what has happened in the adventure.

Learning Across The Areas

The game inspires conversation about discoveries, about how it works and about advice on how to score points. Some challenges collects points other challenges earn money. There’s a shop to spend the money on toys and food for your animal. There are count downs, timers and instructions displayed throughout the game. It has a wonderful map which we spend a lot of time looking at and comparing to other maps.

The greatest experience here is sharing, turn taking and negotiating. It’s a new experience for many children, but there’s 1 X Box and 46 children. We decide how best to take a turn, how many children can wait for a turn and how long a turn can take.

This year it was decided that 6 children can use the X Box at time. 1 playing, 5 recording whilst waiting. A 5 minute timer was left out which was used effectively. After a turn, every player moves down the chairs, freeing up a space for someone to join the table.

Impact on Writing

Children are inspired to write lists about what they will do with the animal when it’s their turn. They write in booklets which documents progress in the game. They label the maps and treasures that we find to display the progress in the game during the week.

Gross Motor, Fine Motor

The game obviously shows that children practise balancing, jumping, crawling, hand/eye coordination in a very different way to how we would traditionally teach these skills. It hooks children who don’t regularly choose to access outside areas where these skills take place. It also hooks children who find these skills difficult because it gives the skills a purpose as they score points. Whilst scoring points, these children who are less confident get a boost from their peers who are cheering them on.

This year I also used the Kinectimals app for iPad. It’s a small package of the game but it compliments the main game play. The apps give more children access to the animals but what I like about it is the way it works with multitouch gestures. Children are using their fingers to move the animal or get it to perform tricks. This is moving the gross motor skills from the X Box to fine motor skills on the iPad. Most of the gestures also link to letter formation (round, down, up) to perform different tasks.

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There are also some sequences to follow in strings of tricks which supports early computational thinking by following a set of given instructions to make something happen.

The Balance

I really enjoyed Kinectimals this year. I think finally I got the balance right between game play and writing opportunities. The game replaces a story book in this learning. The writing, and other areas of learning, needs to inform game-play before, during and after it has happened. Just like anything we do. If we hang washing out to dry on the line and check it during the day, learning happens before, during and after.

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