Myria Mallette (@MmeM27) is one of our French teachers who is busy learning, teaching and coding alongside her students. Recently she engaged a grade 8 student into creating this Zelda recreation to teach directions en francais.
When I saw it, my jaw dropped with richness of Geometry (and little taste of algebra). After all, we are learning about translations, reflections and rotations in math class.
I have blogged about Computation Thinking before so I won’t mention it here again other than it is an added layer of greatness when demonstrating learning.
If you are interested in seeing how this activity also fits intermediate Geometry, check out this post. I think the screenshots speak for themselves.
In this game, students have to follow the french instructions to traverse Link through the castle maze.
There is even a final boss….and the triforce!
Better yet – there was an end game cut scene! (Hmm, maybe it should be in French too – a next step.)
OK, so I am celebrating the awesomeness of a grade 8 student recreating a Zelda game from my youth. When you peel away the layers of this activity, it is quite rich. For assessment purposes, Mme Mallette is looking at the written French directions. I am going to piggy back this activity when we explore translations, reflections and rotations. Easy connections! Not to mention the problem solving, determination, collaboration etc. The Learning Skills…
And for what it’s worth, coding is new to Myria too.
Have a go at the game below. Click the green flag and press “space” to begin!
7 Responses for this post
This is awesome Brian. As I read it, I realized the amount of switching back and forth for the instructions. In other programmes, there might be an option to have the computer prompts in French (I’m thinking Bitstrips here), but having the combination of English coding and french instructions is quite powerful. There are so many conditional scripts here, the need to organize is built in. Almost makes me want to do a unit in French for next year.
You can run Scratch in many different languages. Change the default text at the bottom of the page – turns the “code” snippets into different languages.
Brian, it is very interesting to see what a student created here, and quite amazing to see the final product. I don’t know if you can answer these questions, but I did have some that came to mind.
– How was the thinking and learning (connected to French in this case) captured throughout the process?
– What other ways did students share their learning? (I’m always curious about “choice,” and I’d love to know more about the ones available here.)
– What impact did the creation of this French game have on their oral and written language skills? How was this a richer way to show French learning than other options? (I think we create games a lot in the classroom to show learning (myself included), but I’ve never seen anyone share how these games improve learning. If any data was collected, I’d love to hear more about it. I never would have thought of using coding in the French classroom, so this activity really intrigues me.)
Thanks Brian! Both you and Myria have given me a lot to think about!
Hi Aviva, thanks for the thoughtful questions. I hope that my response below answers them all. Sorry for the lengthiness of it, but it really got me thinking deeper about it and I hope that it truly captures the benefits I have seen.
I want to clarify that this specific task was part of something I wanted to test out in my classroom this year with my grade 8s. I have been really intrigued by the idea of genius hour and passion projects, as I find that drawing on student interest in any subject really can improve their engagement and learning. As we neared the end of the year with my grade 8s, we had just wrapped up a big ‘unit’ (for lack of Better term) and there was the awkward few weeks before their annual 3 day field trip, the week in between where focus is lacking and graduation. I decided that this would be the perfect time to explore the concept in my core French classroom.
This particular student enjoys coding and came to me with his idea of recreating the Zelda game. Together we developed the idea and discussed how we could relate it to French (which is where the directions came in). I have played a bit with Scratch, but definitely have not fully wrapped my head around its capacities. Because of the work this student chose to make, I have better understanding of where coding can fit in with my classroom in core French. To be honest, it is a learning process for me too, and I am interested in it, but am not an expert at all. I am learning with the students, and this is enabling me to find other practical uses along the way as well.
I love the creativity it allows my students to show. They create products that can be shared with a real world audience. I am interested in further exploring the idea of coding using the language settings set to French. I like the fact that I can have students create games that can be used by other students (in my school or around the world) to teach different concepts. For example, the Zelda game I could use with my younger students to help teach or reinforce the difference between left and right.
Now having seen a product, I would also be more inclined to include it as an option for students because I understand a bit better what they are capable of making. These are not the only type of activities that happen in my class. In fact, most of the focus in our room is on being able to speak the language. The idea is that if they can speak it, they can read it or write it.
I use similar projects for written or reading tasks, or for games that reinforce a learned concept. I did this similarly with Minecraft this year with my Grade 7s (see http://www.mmemallette.com where I blogged about it). There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into preparing students for these types of written tasks before we actually do them. The behind the scenes work is the process that I am capturing, there is planning that goes into these written tasks generally too to make the publishing aspect as efficient as possible. Technology should not take over the fact that my job is to teach French as a second language.
Because of this students willingness to take a risk to create something for French class, like I said earlier, I now have a bit better understanding. This student felt empowered because I trusted him to choose something that was of interest to him, and I found that he was therefore more engaged. I can use this as an example of what they could make in Scratch to show their understanding of directions and offer it as an option in addition to the other ‘projects’ they can choose from (Minecraft, Explain Everything, whatever they want essentially as long as there was a written portion showing me that they could write out detailed directions that met the success criteria). In the future I will also be willing to take a risk to offer this as a written task option for my students that want to show me their understanding of whatever particular learned concept they want through coding. If they have an idea, we discuss it and I encourage them to try it out. I am open to whatever, as long as it meets the agreed upon criteria.
I feel that these types of creation activities improve a student’s learning because students are given choice. They become excited about the project. I watched this student work through recesses, come in the next day and show me the progress made on the project at home the night before, for French class! Sometimes in Core French, that is a success alone. The same happened with our Minecraft project.
Also with regards to written output, the quantity and quality significantly improves because students know that I will be sharing their work with others, they don’t consider it as ‘work’, they have a problem that has to be solved now as opposed to a ‘written task’ to complete, and the feedback is better quality because it is ‘fun’ to play each others’ creations and the results from products are immediate and right in front of them (i.e. if you play the Zelda game and Link tells you ‘Prenez la porte à la gauche’; you take the door on the right and it disappears, the students can refer to their resources and have the discussion around whether or not gauche means left or right or if the person put the wrong direction in their game. Immediate results, immediate feedback. Much more concrete.
A kid will have difficulty learning any subject that isn’t of interest to them and in which they don’t see the purpose. My job is to help them see the benefits, create situations that are as authentic as possible for them to practice their language skills and help them build the necessary words and expressions needed in order to communicate their thoughts and opinions. I am always trying to find ways to do this that capture their interest.
Thank you Brian, Aviva and Myria for always challenging me to dig deeper. Myria: I love the way you so eloquently express the essence of an awesome FSL class. Choice, purpose and audience. In today’s world audience seems, perhaps, more obvious, but even long before we were all digitally connected, my students taught me the importance of this component. I was teaching Junior Core in a k-6 dual track immersion school. Year-end was approaching and my thoughts were similar to Myria’s at this time of year, so I asked my students to create games, in French, reflecting their knowledge, skills and/or interests. It was a very open-ended task: my only restriction was that no group could create the same game as another group (I was trying to avoid multiple sets of Concentration cards!). Their output was so impressive that we arranged to pair up with some primary immersion classes and arranged a “games” day. Everyone loved it. What’s more, it ended up bridging a great divide between the English and French tracks in the school. The following year we went on to create picture books and having reading buddies. The Core students felt validated. Having an audience proved to be a huge motivator,in addition to providing leadership opportunities and encourage risk-taking. That was all a long, long time ago and our tools have changed, but the essential factors, even in our digital world, are still very similar, I think, today. I am always so excited when my students lead me down unknown paths, and I know you are too!