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Friday, October 21, 2016

Creating Self-Grading Quizzes with Google Forms and Administering Them Through Google Classroom

Here are two videos I created to show the teachers I work with the self-grading features of Google Forms. This makes a great option for a quick formative assessment.

This first video shows the basics of making a quiz with Google Forms. I focus more on the quiz aspect than the question creation steps. You'll notice I say that Gmail is not an option for students, but that's just because in our district we have it turned off.

This second video shows how you can assign that quiz to your class using Google Classroom. It also shows the steps for accessing the results and returning it.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Announcing My Game Design Project Packs

This week I went live with my game design project pack website. You can check it out at

The project packs are collections of resources that help students make fun, simple games based on your lessons. Some key features are:
  • Through group discussion and individual reflection, students will explore the class content in order to apply its themes to a simple, novel game.
  • Creative teachers and students can use the project in many subjects, but they work best as creative projects for social studies and language arts.
  • The games are non-digital, so you won't lose class time while students learn to program a computer.
  • All resources are created in Google Apps, so it's easy to assign and students can collaborate on the games.
  • The project is very flexible. Teachers can focus on the game design process as much or as little as they want.
Right now I have two project packs, both of which appeared on this blog in two series of posts. I plan to add at least two other packs by the end of the month.

Another part of the site I'm excited about is this page designed for students. It offers several resources for those who want to dig deeper into game design.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Game Design Exploration 2 - Reflection on Re-Designing Love Letter

This final stage of the project can be the most important, as it requires students to reflect upon what they learned about the lesson topic for your course as well as game design. In it each student Students will complete the document at the link below. 

Do not give students the document until they worked through Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the activity. That means they should have created a game based on the Love Letter game, tested it and played at least one game created by another group before they try to answer the questions. 

If you modified the activity in Parts 1 - 3 of the project, you might have to change the questions in the document to fit what your students experienced. Also, change the references to "the course topic" so they ask about the specific topic students studied in your class.

Through reflection, students should gain deeper insights from the activity. Their responses also provide you with a look at what they've learned about the lesson topic. That can be used to guide followup instruction or class discussion.

The reflection questions in the document come in three parts:
  • The activity itself
  • The game design process
  • The lesson topic and how they connected elements of it to their game theme

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Game Design Exploration 2 - Printing and Testing the Games

This is the third part in a game design exploration based on the game Love Letter*. The activity would work well in any language arts or social studies class.

Be sure to see the previous posts in the series:

In this stage, students will test the games. They might play their own game or just play each other's games. You could even incorporate revisions and further playtesting. It all depends on how much time you want them to spend on this. Details follow below.

Note that this post draws heavily from what I wrote in the playtesting stage of my first game design exploration from last year.

Is everyone ready to proceed?

If a class is working through this design activity, at this point each group of students should have redesigned the Love Letter game to fit the lesson content. At the very least they should have done the following. (All of this is explained in the second post in this series.)
  • Chosen a theme for their game based on the topic studied in class
  • Created a title for their game
  • Written a short introduction about the game
  • Redesigned the cards and changed them on the template found in Part 2 of this series.

Optionally, the groups might have designed additional rules and components for their game.

Making the Cards

In the previous stage of this activity, students revised a template to create new cards based on the Love Letter game. Before they can test the games, they'll need to produce some cards they can actually play with. One way to do that is to print on card stock, but I've found it's easy to see through most card stock I've used over the years.

Whether it's a first draft or a late stage prototype, here's the method I've been using lately. 
  • Buy some card protector sleeves like these, found on Amazon.
  • Put an old playing card or some other game card in them that you won't need. This keeps them stiff enough to shuffle.
  • Print your cards on paper and cut the cards out. (Or for first drafts, you might just write them by hand on slips of paper.)
  • Slide those paper "cards" into the sleeves.
Here's a short video that I created for students that shows how I use this process with early and late stage prototypes.

If the groups added rules for additional cards or components, all of those pieces need to be printed and cut out or gathered as well.

Depending on how much time you want the class to devote to this playtesting experience, groups could make two or more copies of their game so multiple groups could play them at once.

The importance of playtesting and revision - the iterative process in game design

This testing and revision stage of the game design process is essential. It can be fun and rewarding or sometimes very frustrating! It's often the heart of the creation process and it will probably take more time than all other parts combined.

Being so important, students need to see it. With limited class time, though, it is likely you will use it in this activity only provide some exposure to the concepts and a chance to have fun with the designs. Tell students it is important when making any type of game, but remind them to really test and improve their game they'd need to work on it a lot outside of class.

Keeping that in mind, tweak the following outline and resources to fit your needs.

Groups test their own games

Game designers often play their own games first, just to see if the creations even work at all. At this stage, each group should play their game at least once.

After playing, students should discuss these questions:
  • Did the game work as we intended?
  • Did we find anything (good or bad) that we didn't expect?
  • How much do we think other groups will enjoy our game?
  • What changes could we make to improve the game?
Depending on how much time you have for this design exploration, students could rework their cards. Simple changes might be handwritten right on the cards. Significant changes might require students to actually alter the cards in the original Google Drawings they made in Part 2 of this activity.Of course, that would require them to print and cut out more components.

If time doesn't allow a students to make all the changes they want to, remind them that they can improve the game as much as they want on their own.

Groups test a game designed by another group

For this part of the activity, each group will play at least one other group's game. Ideally this will be "blind playtesting", meaning the groups will play the games without additional assistance from the game designers.

The game components should already be created by now. Game introductions and possibly new rules need to be printed (or shared through Google Drive) so groups have everything they need to learn and play the games.

Along with these materials, give each group a copy of this Game Playtesting Sheet. It provides questions for before and after playing the game. 

Additional considerations

  • Give the groups time in class to read and discuss the Game Playtesting Sheets that test groups filled out for their game.
  • Groups could test games from more than one group if possible.
  • Students could take their games home and have other people play them to get more opinions.
  • Have a class discussion (possibly virtually) at the end of this stage so you and the students can look for patterns on what worked best in the games.
  • It would be ideal to get test groups from a class that did not go through the design process themselves. In other words, they would likely be unfamiliar with Love Letter, so the whole experience would be new to them. This requires the designers to put a lot more work into their written rules.
In the next post (and final stage of the activity) students will reflect on their game designs and the design process.

*Love Letter was designed by Seiji Kanai and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. I have permission from the publisher to use their game as I have in this exploration. Please consider supporting them by buying a copy of the game that your students can play as they learn the basic rules.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Game Design Exploration 2 - Adding a New Theme to Love Letter

This is the second part of my game design exploration based on the game Love Letter*. Be sure you and your students are familiar with Part 1 before you work through the activity below.

In this second step, students will add a new theme to the simple, fun game Love Letter. The theme will be based on a topic you are studying in class. This will work best in a language arts or social studies class, but you could definitely use it in other classes too.

In applying the theme, students will discuss people, events and other elements of your course content.

What Is Theme in a Game?

Theme is what the game is about. Not all games have a strong theme, but many popular ones do. The theme of Risk is world conquest. The theme of Monopoly is making money in real estate.

If you're familiar with the original Love Letter, that theme was to deliver a love letter to the Princess.

See Part 2 of my first game design exploration for more examples of theme in games.

Examples of variations on the Love Letter game

Love Letter has been such a popular game across the world that it already has some new themes and other variations based on it. Here are a few you could show students in class. You can click on some of the images on the pages below to see the similarities and differences between versions:

Adding a New Theme to Love Letter

After discussing themes in games and looking at the different versions of Love Letter, it's time for students to add a new theme to the game. The theme will be based on the lesson topic they've studied in class. 

The special Game Design Planning Sheet linked below will guide them through the process. Here are some things to keep in mind before assigning the planning sheet:
  • The students will choose a theme that's related to your topic. The lesson might be about a book they just read, like The Odyssey, or maybe it will be about a historical event like The War of 1812. While they could use those entire topics as the theme, they also could choose a specific part of those topics. For example, they might focus on a climatic scene of the book or a particularly interesting battle of the war.
  • The planning sheet will require them to name each card as something from their theme and to rename the tokens. Though not necessarily required, the sheet also suggests they make other changes to the effects and rules.
  • The document has a link to the components for a very basic template of Love Letter cards. If students click it, they will get a copy of it as a Google Slides file. They can type their changes onto the cards (and they will print them in a later stage of the game).
  • There are optional ideas listed on the second page of the planning sheet for students who want to explore game design further. Use them as appropriate for the age of your students and the needs of this project.

In the next stage, we will look at how to make a playable copy of the new version of Love Letter. We'll also present some options for testing the games in class.

*Love Letter was designed by Seiji Kanai and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. I have permission from the publisher to use their game as I have in this exploration. Please consider supporting them by buying a copy of the game that your students can play as they learn the basic rules.