What is gamification?
And how can it be used within a drama context when working with students who speak English as a Foreign Language?
Will this group of 8 – 13 year olds be able to create and perform an interactive, immersive theatre performance?
These questions were playing on my mind as I prepared to return to Zorka Summer Camp, to work with CLASS Study and Language School for the fourth time. I was slightly nervous, returning to the same location, same brief to create a piece of theatre, in English with Russian students, some of whom have been to the camp more times than I have. How do I keep the project fresh, exciting and engaging?
I am really interested in the idea of ‘gamification’ and learning from, rather than resisting, the growing dependency on technology and fast-paced entertainment, how can we keep students engaged?
This year, the entire camp day had an integral game and story. On the first day, students were introduced to their mysterious leader, Verlock, who communicated with them via technology only. They divided into 4 ‘nations’ and had opportunities earn ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ for winning challenges / good behaviour and ‘fines’ for misbehaving. It was amazing to see how much these slips of paper with a printed symbol mattered to them. Introducing competition was really effective at keeping them engaged. This provided a perfect platform for the drama sessions.
I set my students, aged 8 – 13 years the challenge of creating a dynamic and interesting quest that audience members would have to participate in, as part of their performance. The quest should be linked, and ideally, progress their story in some way. Initially I faced a lot of confused faces. There was the usual panic feeling and I started to wonder if I could pull this off, or if the task was too difficult.
EN-gage Theatre Arts strives to create performances with students, taking lead from their ideas, strengths and skills so that young people take ownership of their performance. When we don’t get this right, and fail to inspire the students to create their own stories, we lose the fun, and the joy of drama. That’s when it can start to feel like school. Had I done this with this project? Had I totally disengaged the students with a seemingly impossible challenge?
To help the students along I designed a quest they could play – I created a minefield on that one team member had to travel through, blindfolded, being directed by their team members. And suddenly, they understood, and started to come up with quests, challenges and storylines that were beyond my imagination. I was so impressed by the level and depth of the work these 8 – 13 year old students created.
The idea of becoming a ‘game-master’ was really engaging for them, and they began to add many levels to their ideas. One group created 3 alternative endings to their story and allowed audience members to vote on the ending they would see. It was a real pleasure to see the interactive, immersive theatre quests they created and I am excited to see what else gamification can teach EN-gage Theatre Arts.