Embracing the English language with RPGs

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When they first started out with me, many of my dyslexic students disliked reading difficult texts, or spelling phonetically complex words. For them, these tasks demanded more effort than they would of a person without dyslexia. Furthermore, it was demoralising to put in all that effort, only to be told that they had gotten the answer wrong.

Most of these students now enjoy reading books on their own (one devoured several of Roald Dahl’s stories within the span of a year). Some even bought notebooks to pen down short stories during their free time. At the beginning of 2017, a few of them approached me with their stories (some of which were collaborative efforts) to get my opinions on them.

Pretty amazing, huh? Bear in mind, these were students with dyslexia, whose reading and spelling ages lagged behind their chronological ages by 2-4 years when I first took them.

Might sound clichéd, but it was RPGs that did it

RPGs had a big part in motivating my students, allowing them to overcome many of dyslexia’s hurdles. These games straddled various genres, including science-fiction and fantasy.

Classroom activities are usually based on our gaming sessions. For example, I may use lore tomes or letters written by NPCs to teach reading comprehension; or, I may get students to pen down journal entries to reflect their characters’ thoughts.

After getting used to my style of classroom gamification, many of my students no longer shun classwork. Instead, they’re often hyper-motivated to read and write. There is a gratifying sense of accomplishment when they see both themselves AND their characters progressing.

A substitute for traditional rote learning?

The important thing is to strike a balance; most students will appreciate the lesson, when they realise they can play to have fun.

I’m all for gamification, but I also believe there’s a time and place for rote learning. Certain concepts can be difficult to gamify. Furthermore, educators are always constrained by time. In such cases, rote learning may be preferable.

At the same time, gamification almost always makes learning more interesting for students. The important thing is to strike a balance; most students will appreciate the lesson, when they realise they can play to have fun.

And when they’re self-motivated, that’s when you know they’ve hit a very significant milestone.

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Teacher Shaun

Teacher Shaun

...is a self-professed geek and lover of all things old-school. When he's not playing Fallout or Deus Ex for the nth time, he can be found sitting in front of his laptop hacking away at his keyboard, typing blog posts like this one. He also runs a little company called Swords & Stationery.
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