The game, Sight Word Slam, was developed through a need for students to practice sight word recognition without a teacher present. The New South Wales English syllabus presents two main outcomes which this game is designed to reach;
- “Draws on an increasing range of skills and strategies to fluently read, view and comprehend a range of texts on less familiar topics in different media and technologies – EN1-4A (NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), 2016).
- “Uses a variety of strategies, including knowledge of sight words and letter–sound correspondences, to spell familiar words – EN1-5A (NESA, 2016)”
- “Composes texts using letters of consistent size and slope and uses digital technologies – EN1-3A (NESA, 2016)”
Although sight word slam was designed for Stage 1 students it can also meet the kindergarten outcomes stated below;
- “Demonstrates developing skills in using letters, simple sound blends and some sight words to represent known words when spelling – Ene-5A (NESA, 2016)”
The game could also be used within Stage 2 for students that are working below stage level.
Needs of the User
Prensky & Berry discuss student reading at length in their article about whether students that are “digital natives” think differently to adults who are “digital immigrants (Prensky & Berry, 2001).” Prensky states that students who are digital natives are not thinking in a linear style and their brain is being developed in a game or web-based process style (Prensky & Berry, 2001). Teachers have always taught students to read but developing these strategies in a game based manner could be the key to lock in student’s interest and attention. Students have a variety of needs; Sight Word Slam utilises a range of sight words with increasing difficulty based on the PM reader collection.
Game Design to Meet the Needs of the User
The game is designed with key principals in mind both from a teaching perspective and a game based perspective. According to Burgun, there are a series of rules game designers should follow to have an effective game design (Burgun, 2012). These are
- Easy to use and Learn;
- Efficient (Burgun, 2012).
Sight Word Slam is useful as it suits a need for teachers to practice sight words with multiple students at one time. The problem within the classroom environment is faced by many students are the are asked how they can meet the various needs of students in front of them. The game is beautiful in terms of the game rule sets that underpin the mechanics of the game (Burgun, 2012). The ability for students to pass through levels based on their ability to get more than 5 sight words correct allows for self monitoring. The lack of a timer on the game also gives students to practice their decoding skills which would be worked on with the teacher in small groups. Due Sight Word Slam being designed for young students it is imperative that the game is easy to play and learn. The game flows seamlessly into multiple levels allowing students to feel at ease with the rules. Additionally, the game follows the simple ‘click to next’ function to allow students to proceed through the game.
Whitton describes the 10 characteristics of effective games as:
- Rules; and
- Safety (Whitton, 2009).
Sight Word Slam displays an effective use of these game mechanics and highlights their use to meet the needs of the intended audience. Competition is used throughout the game through a traditional sporting format. The use of the score variable also means a competitive aspect is present. The increase in challenging words as the game progresses demonstrates a challenge to students not only in how the game is presented; the balls becoming quicker; but also in the learning objective students are meeting. While the game as minimal aspects of exploration and fantasy Sight Word Slam was not intended to be a narrative game. The use of voice over throughout the game ensures students have a clear understanding of the aim and objective of the game and the interactivity is changed when students chose different options. For example, when a student clicks on a basketball that does not contain the correct spelling of a sight word the game switch to a different background, resets the score to zero and gives the student a different word to attempt. As mentioned previously the score is kept to give students a definite outcome which is measurable. The game is a single player game and has set rules. As the audience for the game is Stage 1 these rules were not explicitly written in the game format but could be clear after level one. Students are safe in the game as scratch does not require you to sign up to play a game that has been made prior.
Burgun, K. (2012). Game design theory: A new philosophy for understanding games: CRC Press.
NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). (2016). English K-10 Syllabus. Retrieved from http://syllabus.nesa.nsw.edu.au/english/english- k10/content/875/
Prensky, M., & Berry, B. D. (2001). Do they really think differently. On the horizon, 9(6), 1-9.
Whitton, N. (2009). Learning with Digital Games : A Practical Guide to Engaging Students in Higher Education. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Taylor & Francis Group.