Using Kinectimals to Support Play in the Early Years Classroom

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I would like to introduce to you Marc Faulder who is currently a newly qualified teacher working in Foundation 2 at my school. Last week I challenged Marc to attend TeachMeet Midlands and present about his brilliant work he is doing with the XBox Kinect and the game Kinectimals. He did a great job with his presentation and has followed it up with a guest blog post explaining his ideas. I hope that soon I will be linking back Marc’s own blog where he can continue to share his ideas and classroom work. Over to Marc…

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My blog post follows on neatly from the themes discussed by Tom Barrett in his work with Nintendo Wii’s Endless Ocean. I took on the challenge of introducing Games Based Learning to my Reception class, and to myself! I used an X Box Kinect because game play without a controller seemed ideal for Foundation Stage children. After a 2 – 3 week project on animal homes using Kinectimals as a stimulus, I have reflected on the impact that Games Based Learning had on children’s enquiry. My reflection is structured around four themes; organisation, planning, supported play and Kinect sensitivity. I hope that the successes, difficulties and solutions I found help with any Games Based Learning planning in your classroom.

Organisation

  • Originally game play happened in a whole class
  • In twenty minutes only 4 children had a turn: class lost interest
  • Moved X Box to a separate classroom, and groups played on Kinectimals on a large screen TV.

  • When returning to the classroom, the whole class discussed progress each group had made in the game – sometimes through role play which was effective.

Planning

  • Originally my planning was very structured.
  • I should have given children more time to explore game play, like you might give children time to explore a new book.
  • When planning group activities on Kinectimals, I planned for specific events in the game.
  • I found that not all groups would unlock that part of the game, or they would choose to explore another part of the game.
  • Planning became much more open ended and child lead.
  • I attached questions relevant to any aspect of game play – what is this place like? Which animals live here?
  • This kind of planning required more resourcing.
  • As well as game play, children in the group engaged with objects and artefacts that might be found in that environment on Kinectimals: shells, sand, logs, leaves, pine cones…

Supporting Children’s Play

  • Back in the classroom, children would recreate game play through their child initiated play.
  • They made the water tray a rock pool home
  • They fed our Tigger teddy or lion puppet carrots and water – as that is what their Kinectimal ate in the game.
  • Children used the resources from the group time in their own activities
  • Writing became incidental; they wanted to write ideas down from the game to share in the classroom

Kinect Sensitivity

  • The camera was sensitive enough to recognise large scale movements the same as small scale movements – any sized kick or throw would give the same response in the game
  • But the camera isn’t sensitive enough to prevent adults from intervening.
  • If a child was struggling to play the game, I could crouch behind them and either move their arms for them or use my hands to model the actions required
  • Transition between players was mostly seamless. Players can step in and out of the cameras viewpoint and the X Box would continue the activity that was being played.
  • There is also a swap player function during game play, but we never had to use this.

Final Reflection

Games Based Learning isn’t about playing on the game every day, for long periods of time. I’ve realised that the game is used to inspire children’s interest and is a great format to let children take control of planning and learning. As game play doesn’t occur at the pace I played it, I had to be much more open with my planning and support learning through children’s interests. I have learned so much about my teaching and children’s learning through games.

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    You did really well presenting at TeachMeet. Your points were well presented and if people just take one of your many useful tips away it’s definitely worth it!
    I had never thought of using small groups for gaming. Nor considered that a game on a IWB might be more difficult for small children to control. We’re just about to use Night at the Museum in Year 4 next term. I think I’ll allow an explore session and pencil out my first week of planning these holidays rather than really structure it. For more details visit http://www.bugfreegames.com

  • Ejasprey

    imaginative and inspiring and yet so simple. I can’t believe you’re an NQT Marc! I can only hope my daughter’s Reception teacher will make learning this exciting and varied in September. I’ll be sharing this with the leaders of the EY PGCE and degree and Bath Spa University and their students, so many thanks and please keep going.

  • Nicki (@kiwiteacheruk)

    Marc
    You did really well presenting at TeachMeet. Your points were well presented and if people just take one of your many useful tips away it’s definitely worth it!
    I had never thought of using small groups for gaming. Nor considered that a game on a IWB might be more difficult for small children to control. We’re just about to use Night at the Museum in Year 4 next term. I think I’ll allow an explore session and pencil out my first week of planning these holidays rather than really structure it.
    Great helpful advice!
    Nicki

  • Emma Dawson

    Thanks Marc for sharing your experiences – very brave for never having been to a teachmeet before! You make some really valid points and it’s really making me consider how I might structure (or de-structure!) our next topic using African Safari on the Wii to allow the children to explore at their own rate and really benefit from it. Thank you!

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  • Marc Faulder

    Great news, please let me know how you get on!

    I looked at animal homes through the game. A few children thought that tigers lived in woodlands and on beaches though. Intact one was convinced that a giraffe lived in the woods near school!! Be sure to tell them that the animal is visiting the habitat the same as we are, or reinforce the story format of the game – it’s fiction! I think because the interactions are so real to them they forget the island is pretend…that’s a lovely advantage of the way the kinect works though.

  • Marc Faulder

    As I look back at my plans, I realise that exploring a game is just as important as exploring a new text type, or genre of music. When I plan for a new story, it’s obvious that the first week should be getting to know the sequence, characters and the language features. I can’t believe I skipped this out when I introduced gaming?! Getting to know how the game works and what the game is about is important.

    I guess if I’d planned this in, the children would have directed my planning much earlier on in the topic. Nonetheless, I got there in the end!!

    As for working in groups, game play was much more focused and personal to the children playing. They seemed to ‘own’ the parts of the game they unlocked and were proud to share it with their peers. I’d recommend this format to anyone considering games based learning.

    However, I’m not writing off whole class game play. I directed game play with the whole class at the end of the unit to get children talking about how to care for their kinectimal; this was to inform list writing. The class appeared much more ready to observe as a whole class now that they had all had a few turns in small groups.

  • http://tweecher.wordpress.com Claire Lotriet (OhLottie)

    I think you raise a great point about allowing time to explore and not being afraid to let the experience be more open ended and child-led. I tried out Myst last year in literacy (year 4) and I think, as you also pointed out, that my planning was actually too structured. I’m going to go back to it again this year, but I’m going to allow much more ‘free time’ for exploration. I also think moving the game to another room and getting smaller groups to work on it rather than having whole class teaching all the time is also something I need to consider! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jen Deyenberg

    I’m just looking to start with Kinnectimals with my new P1 class in Scotland, the ideas you’ve presented here are fantastic, and measured with tips on what works and what doesn’t work.

    Thank-you for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/PCampbell91 Paul Campbell

    This is absolutely fantastic! I’ve been really interested in finding out more about games based learning, teaching and assessment. This was a brilliant, contextualised example, with tonnes of good tips! I really like how you’ve shared your reflections and evaluations and the various stages of introducing this to your class. I’m intrigued now how easy it would be to introduce similar approaches into schools who do not yet appreciate the value of games based learning, and also the different games, and consoles that could be used. I really like how responsive the whole process was to the children’s reactions and needs, also how child-centred and led the whole ‘project’ was. It all lends itself so well to the principles behind early years education – principles and approaches that could and should be extended across the stages of the primary school! I’m intrigued now to see how games based learning is also used in the upper primary school, how this relates to how it’s done in the early years, and then hopefully in the future be able to test some of these out. Thanks for the stimulus!

    I’m very glad my next class is in the early stages of the primary school – here’s hoping the school encourages some sort of games based learning! Thanks heaps for sharing, it’s been really helpful!

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  • Nicki A

    I love this idea and the possibilities are endless. Learning through play and having fun is absolutely key. Huge well done to Marc for presenting. I would never have guessed that you hadn’t presented at a teachmeet before! My head is buzzing with possibilities of how this could be used in the classroom for older children. I only wish Kinects were around when I taught in FS! Thanks for sharing!