Listening to a student reader and gamer

Last week was my first meeting with R-the student I am tutoring this summer. All year when I have worked with R he has been motivated partially with the allure of playing a game on my iPad for the last minutes of the period.  These are not any games but the kind that are long and complicated and, to me, essentially undoable. (I buy them thinking I will break the code but I am quickly frustrated and never finish.) Both are beautiful and their complexity bogles my mind. So it was with some selfishness that I turned to using them as motivators. The first game is called “The Room” and it has many followers. R spent his measly 5 to 10 minutes every other day working through the labrinthyne game with extraordinary patience and deliberation. I was impressed by his ability to decipher obtuse clues, to rethink his strategy and pay attention to the smallest details. Shortly before the end of the year he finished “Room” (I wish I could say with my help but alas…..) so I found a new one, one that I have actually tried some years ago on a different platform. The game is “Myst” and it has been reconstituted as an IOS (iPad) game. R jumped right in  finding it a little more challenging but he was not to be stopped. R and I have continued with this “motivator” in our nascent summer tutorials. So at the end of our last session he was working his way through the clues with me observing at his side. 
What I heard and actually started keeping notes on was his verbalization of his strategies. These included-this is the truth, with no input from me- the following:
  • Asking questions, all kinds of questions, not directed at me. ( Why did they put that door there? What is the reason for this? I wonder if….?)He was asking questions of the creator (not the big one), asking about the clues, asking about his own strategies?
  • Making predictions. (I bet if I click on this then move that key…., This is probably going to get me……., That key might go here., etc.)
  • Making connections. (This will open that door I saw before. This is like the other game because….,)
  • Assessing his progress (which the game does pretty well anyways). He kept track in his head the kinds of moves he made that were productive and those that were not.

I was amazed to hear this from a student who does not consider himself a good reader. So I asked him if he knew that he was using these strategies and, of course, he did not. I went over them with him, making the link to reading strategies. Now we have some common language to talk about strategies as we read Sherman Alexie ( I am tired of writing the whole title.) This obviously connects with the 10 questions but more on that later.

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