Using Mario Kart to improve writing skills

This week I tried using Mario Kart on the Wii to help my class apply the features of creating tension and a build up in their writing. It was predominantly a Speaking and Listening lesson, but they grasped what I was trying to get them to do really well so I gave them 20 minutes writing time at the end to write 3 short paragraphs including the features we had identified. Some of their work can be found below.

We started by playing a few rounds of the game, practising using the pause button to swap between drivers. They needed to be able to do this efficiently as I was going to be stopping and starting them a lot!. I only used one controller (on purpose) and the 10 minutes or so doing this got the general excitement out of their systems and we could move on to with a little more focus.

We then recapped how writers create tension in their writing, created a list of SC and then applied these to three parts of the Mario game; sitting on the start line, leaving the start line and describing an incident such as a crash. I created a “magpie” sheet for them, with 3 columns (setting/feelings/powerful verbs) on one side  and a boxed up version of a build up on the other. So as we played, and stopped very frequently we collected lots of words and phrases using a mixture of whole class sharing and paired discussion. It took a good 25 minutes to get about a third of a way around the first lap (which was all I had intended to do) before I free-played to the end of the race changing drivers frequently. I then modelled putting the collected words and phrases into the boxed writing frame to reinforce the idea of using paragraphs to organise writing.  At this point we watched the replay of the race we had just done in order to have a final grasp at any other language we might want to use and the children used their notes to practice orally creating an exciting commentary before we wrote down our final piece.

It worked well. Children could use their natural excitement and enthusiasm for the medium (and game) to apply literary features easily. The fact it is easy to swerve, bump and crash gives a ready made action packed disaster to build up to. My LAG created their own notes and we combined these into a very successful group piece with me only scribing. I copied this and stuck it in their book and asked them to continue for 10 minutes and the evidence of good independent follow on writing showed most of them had grasped the LO well.

We are moving on to use Myst next week to apply the same features to create a slower more descriptive detailed version of a build up.

Here are some examples of our writing.

Mario Kart Build Up (mp3)

I was waiting on the start line for the race to begin. My heart was pumping like the pistons on a train. I was getting nervous as the lights turned green. The crowd cheered as I zoomed to the first corner.
At the corner I dodged the cars to stay in the race. As I tried to dodge another car it went shooting into my path. SMASH! We hit wheels. Sparks flew everywhere. We both slowed down.
The kart was aiming to go around a corner up went up a steep hill and BANG! I hit the side near the crowd.
Edward V

I was waiting on the start line for the race to start. My heart was thumping. I was hot with sweat. The three seconds felt like hours.
Then we were off! Zooming around the first corner. Feeling fine so far.
I was coming to a tail speed bump, getting closer and closer. I went higher and higher to impress the crowd. Then I bumped on top. I lost control. BANG! I drove into the barrier.
Beatrice R

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