Critical Thinking through Play: Choose Your Own Adventure

Critical Thinking through Play: Choose Your Own Adventure

The fork in the road
Photo “The fork in the road” by i_yudai.

As a child, I loved “choose your own adventure” books. I remember my teacher reading them to my class, and allowing us to vote about each decision to choose our own ending to the story. As I became a teenager, teen magazines published quizzes about dating and peer pressure in a similar format. I think the format is appealing because it allows readers to have some autonomy over the plot of the book, and allows readers to model risks without having to suffer any real-life consequences.  This leads to positive emotions like independence and satisfaction, and if the reader chooses the “best” ending, can also lead to a sense of accomplishment.  (Positive emotions and accomplishment are important aspects of motivation in any environment.  For more information about this, see my previous post on the PERMA model.)

Last week I came across an article about immigration at Mother Jones titled “Think You Can Beat the Immigration Maze?” The simple quiz allows players to choose a scenario and follow the steps to obtaining a legal green card for US immigration.  At once I was struck with the powerful implications of the article for games, learning, and literacy.

As a history teacher who focuses heavily on current events, I was impressed at the learning possibilities using the article as it is.  Students can assume multiple identities and simulate the immigration process.  This is a powerful tool for teaching about the real challenges and consequences of immigration policy as it stands now.  Asking students to work through the quiz, and then discuss or write about immigration law, could be an excellent lesson plan for classes about civics and government, or for classes studying the history of immigration in the U.S.

However, I think the best part of this resource is the link Mother Jones includes toward the bottom of the article:

“Want to build your own Choose Your Own Adventure game? Check out our free, open-source tool here!. ” 

The link takes users to a github site with the code from the quiz.  This is fantastic, because as much as students can learn from playing games, they can always learn more from creating games.  Imagine the potential in a history class!  Students could create their own Choose Your Own Adventure scenarios for historical events.  This would be a great assessment to have students demonstrate their understanding of multiple perspectives about the same event.  It would also be an excellent assessment for scientific processes that have many steps (Carbon Cycle?)  or mathematical problems that can be solved multiple ways.  A simpler tool to use with a similar outcome would be Google forms, in which students can link questions to the next question based on the answer users give.

My colleague Tim, from the Coalition for Gameful Learning, had another great insight.  He immediately saw the potential for writing prompts using the game.  Tim teaches fourth grade, and many of his students enjoy Choose Your Own Ending type books.  Tim thought students could elaborate on each option and write their own book about immigration.

So whether your students are ready for html, Google Docs, or just plain old paper and crayons – the playful critical thinking opportunities for Choose Your Own Ending games are endless.  What ideas do you have for having students consume or create Choose Your Own Ending scenarios?


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