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Well-played: A Game in the Making

We see our students as creators. Through design challenges, free builds, and inventions, our students learn that they are capable. They embody an “I can” attitude. Believing in themselves provides space to embrace mistakes and motivates them to try and try again.

This is exactly the mindset we encourage our students to bring to game development! Making a game is not easy. To gather experience about what makes a good game, the Kindergartners played lots and lots of games. Maybe you have games like these at home! Some of their favorites are Connect Four, Uno, Chutes and Ladders, Race to the Treasure, Sleeping Queens, and Candyland. They also enjoy our very own Kindergarten-made game from last year, Pantry Wars. While playing these games, there is so much learning taking place. Students learn about moving pieces on a game board, taking turns, gracefully losing, and using strategies to win!

While students play, stealthy assessment is taking place on the part of the educator. Observations of students playing and debriefing a game are the groundwork needed to help students create their own game.

  • Do students take turns? Do they know when it is their turn? (Temporal-numeracy)

  • Do they the move pieces on the game board with one-to-one correspondence? How do they organize their cards? (Spatial thinking)

  • Do they make predictions and notice patterns? What kinds of decisions do they make? Strategic or random? (Critical thinking)

  • How do they calculate the sum of their dice roll? (Mathematical reasoning)

  • How do they win or lose? (Citizenship, Social/Emotional)

  • Are they having fun?

After playing lots of games, the Kindergartners were ready to make their own! The first things to consider are “What do they care about?” and “How can they show learning in making and playing their game?” Kindergartners have been exploring size as a concept this fall, so they were interested in making a game in which size matters. They also wanted to use their 3D-printed dice to practice adding!

To explore how the size of the game and the number of players affects game play, Kindergartners invited their fifth grade buddies to try it out. Students play-tested with small and large game boards, and with two or four players. While debriefing the game, the fifth graders offered useful feedback! Some shared that the game was “fun” and had the “perfect amount of challenge and suspense”, while others suggested that “it was a little confusing at first” because there were “a lot of rules.”

After processing this feedback, Kindergartners made decisions collaboratively to iterate on their game. Then they began designing game pieces!

While discussing how to make stacking cubes, students played with measurement on Tinkercad. They determined the width of the big, middle, and small size cubes and began printing pieces!

With new game pieces, Kindergartners continued testing out new rules in attempt to keep the game both challenging and fun!

One student wisely noticed the problem-solving element when playing a game with a friend. She said, “When you play a game, you might have to work out some problems. You know how my friend trapped me? Then I trapped him. I wanted to cheer him up, but the purpose is to get to the other side, you know…?”

While play-testing and making iterations to this game, Kindergartners experienced a learning process, so unique and valuable to their growing identity as capable innovators! They created a game where they can practice counting and adding and where piece-size matters. They learned strategies about how to move most efficiently across the board. They also communicated with one another while playing the game and to make important decisions collaboratively.

This week at our first semester exhibition, Kindergartners will teach their game to their parents and share about the game development process! One student summarized her experience by saying, “it was challenging when we made the game. We had to think and get into it. It’s not something that you do really fast, like in one day.”

Process is everything here at Sycamore. We're excited about how our Kindergartners are embracing this idea and digging into their own processes for thinking and learning.

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