Mario Kart Theme

Below is an overview of our first theme in Year 4 this year, Mario Kart. It shows how we blended learning platform activities and free websites with established teaching techniques.

Initial Medium Term Planning using MindMeister:

We started by playing Mario Kart on the Wii, the class were clearly enthusiastic and it gave a chance for some learners to instantly change their hierarchy as some were already familiar with the game and others that they would usually look up to were asking them for help. They were instructed to consider the levels in which they were racing (with direction towards Bowser’s Castle and other fantasy, fiery style levels). This led to our shared writing and guided writing on fantasy settings.

As part of the learner’s planning they used Wordle to create a record of their vocabulary suggestions, which were used during the other writing focused sessions.

During this time learner’s use of graphics was also developed by creating a collage of Mario Kart images which were then manipulated using selection tools, subsequently focusing on layout. At this point we introduced our new learning platform, Studywiz. This allowed learners to learn about file types (Photoshop Elements files having a different purpose to jpeg files) and uploading. Using Studywiz’s gallery tool, learner’s then viewed each others work, rating and leaving comments on them.

Moving from setting to character, we then continued to develop vocabulary skills starting by the learner’s creating their own new characters in line drawings, pastels and paint. As with the settings, through shared writing and guided writing their character descriptions were then developed. Learners were asked to create a description of an existing character which they created through a discussion forum on Studywiz, partially at home. The theme had just started to drag and enthusiasm was waning so we introduced a fictional character that could have been through drama but it was decided to use a Studywiz chat room to introduce the character (the CEO of Nintendo, ‘Winston Baracass’). He managed to single handedly invigorate the entire class to continue and push forward in their learning. In the conversation Winston explained to the class that he wanted to create a Mario Theme Park and needed their help. Together Winston and the class decided they needed to create a map of the park, a new Kart design to feature on the main rollercoaster and a press release persuading people to visit. Whilst the learners were suspicious it was me who was actually Winston, they completely went with it (slightly helped by me having IE and Firefox open and part of the chat, with me being in the chat in one, Winston in the other — so they had a brief conversation between each other). After the learner’s ideas were shared the chat ended and the class decided on the success criterea for each of the items Winston wanted to see (e.g. overhead perspective, a key for the map).

A fresh approach at this point was also sought in improving existing writing rather than more of the same shared and guided writing. Etherpad was therefore used to create groups of learner’s developing and improving each other’s character descriptions. It was expected that there would be disagreements and ‘fallings out’ between groups as their work got deleted by each other. This was discussed before hand and there were only one or two isolated incidents which were completely plausible as learners started to improve the improvements. There were also a couple of technical issues with disconnections, so it was important that these issues were overcome by learners in the classroom. Now that this tool has been introduced to the class it would probably be best used as a tool outside the classroom, allowing opportunities to work collaboratively on a piece of writing that they could then use or take further in school.

Science could have also run alongside these objectives/activities but it was decided to block this towards the end of the theme and it will tie in well due to its focus on forces.

Overall, the theme has been extremely successful at introducing Year 4 in a fun and interesting way to learners. There has been several comments by parents on the enthusiasm of their children, homework and additional effort has been high (learners saying they are going to create their own maps or character descriptions at home on top of what is being asked from school). The use of Wordle, Etherpad and Studywiz has allowed for several collaborative opportunities that would not have been possible using traditional methods alone. The level of vocabulary learners have come out with in general has been thoughtful and imaginative, however a small minority have missed the focus and objectives, instead focusing on Kart racing and character speech, despite repeated discussions. If the unit is going to be used again it is important to gain the focus of these few learners and also push others further in their understanding of why they should develop their use of adverbs and other word choice (i.e. author intent and adding reader interest). This would further enhance word choice and effectiveness in their writing.

Image courtesy of Weeviraporn.

Below is an overview of our first theme in Year 4 this year, Mario Kart. It shows how we blended learning platform activities and free websites with established teaching techniques.

Initial Medium Term Planning using MindMeister:

We started by playing Mario Kart on the Wii, the class were clearly enthusiastic and it gave a chance for some learners to instantly change their hierarchy as some were already familiar with the game and others that they would usually look up to were asking them for help. They were instructed to consider the levels in which they were racing (with direction towards Bowser’s Castle and other fantasy, fiery style levels). This led to our shared writing and guided writing on fantasy settings.

As part of the learner’s planning they used Wordle to create a record of their vocabulary suggestions, which were used during the other writing focused sessions.

During this time learner’s use of graphics was also developed by creating a collage of Mario Kart images which were then manipulated using selection tools, subsequently focusing on layout. At this point we introduced our new learning platform, Studywiz. This allowed learners to learn about file types (Photoshop Elements files having a different purpose to jpeg files) and uploading. Using Studywiz’s gallery tool, learner’s then viewed each others work, rating and leaving comments on them.

Moving from setting to character, we then continued to develop vocabulary skills starting by the learner’s creating their own new characters in line drawings, pastels and paint. As with the settings, through shared writing and guided writing their character descriptions were then developed. Learners were asked to create a description of an existing character which they created through a discussion forum on Studywiz, partially at home.

The theme had just started to drag and enthusiasm was waning so we introduced a fictional character that could have been through drama but it was decided to use a Studywiz chat room to introduce the character (the CEO of Nintendo, ‘Winston Baracass’). He managed to single handedly invigorate the entire class to continue and push forward in their learning. In the conversation Winston explained to the class that he wanted to create a Mario Theme Park and needed their help. Together Winston and the class decided they needed to create a map of the park, a new Kart design to feature on the main rollercoaster and a press release persuading people to visit. Whilst the learners were suspicious it was me who was actually Winston, they completely went with it (slightly helped by me having IE and Firefox open and part of the chat, with me being in the chat in one, Winston in the other — so they had a brief conversation between each other). After the learner’s ideas were shared the chat ended and the class decided on the success criterea for each of the items Winston wanted to see (e.g. overhead perspective, a key for the map).

A fresh approach at this point was also sought in improving existing writing rather than more of the same shared and guided writing. Etherpad was therefore used to create groups of learner’s developing and improving each other’s character descriptions. It was expected that there would be disagreements and ‘fallings out’ between groups as their work got deleted by each other. This was discussed before hand and there were only one or two isolated incidents which were completely plausible as learners started to improve the improvements. There were also a couple of technical issues with disconnections, so it was important that these issues were overcome by learners in the classroom. Now that this tool has been introduced to the class it would probably be best used as a tool outside the classroom, allowing opportunities to work collaboratively on a piece of writing that they could then use or take further in school.

Science could have also run alongside these objectives/activities but it was decided to block this towards the end of the theme and it will tie in well due to its focus on forces.

Overall, the theme has been extremely successful at introducing Year 4 in a fun and interesting way to learners. There has been several comments by parents on the enthusiasm of their children, homework and additional effort has been high (learners saying they are going to create their own maps or character descriptions at home on top of what is being asked from school). The use of Wordle, Etherpad and Studywiz has allowed for several collaborative opportunities that would not have been possible using traditional methods alone. The level of vocabulary learners have come out with in general has been thoughtful and imaginative, however a small minority have missed the focus and objectives, instead focusing on Kart racing and character speech, despite repeated discussions. If the unit is going to be used again it is important to gain the focus of these few learners and also push others further in their understanding of why they should develop their use of adverbs and other word choice (i.e. author intent and adding reader interest). This would further enhance word choice and effectiveness in their writing.


Originally published at primarypete.net on September 26, 2009.