Role Playing Teaching (Part 4: Games From Distant Worlds)

koata beach

One of the things that have set me on the quest of finding Holy Grail of the RPG in TEFL is the tedious environment of the coursebook-oriented curriculum. After years of using the same scheme of lessons, of omnipresent PPP model (slowly trying to include elements of TBT) occasionally interrupted by games, role-plays and authentic materials, I’ve started to dream of a course where changes would be part of its curriculum. Hence my idea of joining RPGs with TEFL – a match made in R’lyeh and blessed by Cthulhu’s tentacles.

What gives RPGs such allure is certainly its variety – declaring actions (as acting out is not really a necessity), following the plot and building a story is similar everywhere, differences are in the worlds – and those are aplenty.

Today I want to share some examples of the environments and systems you may enjoy with your students. You may take your students to the adventure in the Wild West followed by a crime story a’la film noir in an urban fantasy setting… So, the environments I can recommend to each and every teacher are:

Fantasy

Probably the first thing that springs to your mind after you hear “Role Playing Games” – thanks to the most popular RPG in the world, namely Dungeons and Dragons.  Fantasy worlds full of magic, adventures and heroes. If you’re into ever-popular Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you may choose The One Ring. If you prefer a grim world of perilous adventure – here’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Do you love Terry Pratchett? choose Discworld RPG, and have fun! I would recommend these settings for those who actually are familiar with the concept of RPG, as one of possible problems may be convincing people that they are not only having fun, but also learning.

Science-fiction & the future

The logical step from fantasy – sci-fi. Now, there are many RPGs that happen in the future, but not all of them are true sci-fi, as there isn’t enough science in them to be called so. Eclipse Phase, Traveller and my favourite Blue Planet RPG have a truly sci-fi approach and may be awesome solutions for yet another environmentally-oriented classes on higher levels. If you’re teaching soldiers, go for CthulhuTech (future, mechs and Cthulhu, awesome!), if you prefer matrix-like world, go for Cyberpunk, or choose post-apocalyptic world as Neuroshima (Polish only, though you can play in English).

(Alternative) history

If you think fantasy or sci-fi is just too much for your students, you may try some historically accurate systems. As teachers of EFL, you may probably enjoy Pendragon, a system where you play a chivalrous knight in the arthurian realia. Aces & Eights may be a great solution of you’re into life in the alternative version of the Wild West. If you’re Polish who enjoys the history of their country, choose Dzikie Pola and enjoy the atmosphere of the Poland of old.

Non-human

Well, this may come as a surprise, but playing non-human characters may be a lot of fun! For more mature students I could recommend the World of Darkness universum, where you can play a vampire, a mage, a werewolf or a fae. Sounds too creepy? Think about something else – why not play an agile feline in Cats? Or maybe a heroic mouse in Mouse Guard? And we can’t forget of the game that at the moment is extremely popular among fellow gamer-parents who introduce their offspring to the world of role-playing games: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria!

Urban Fantasy

The last, but not the least – urban fantasy systems, the ones I would pick for everyone who hasn’t tried RPGs before. It’s close to our own world, but you can – can, not must! – add a bit of the unreal. Think of the X-files: you can live the adventures in Delta Green, even when you leave Cthulhu mythology out of the equatio (can’t think of a reason why, though). Speaking of Lovecraftian Mythos, you may pick Call of Cthulhu and choose any period of time you wish – from roaring twenties to modern times. If you’re not into Cthulhu – choose Dresden Files or Monster of the Week – I’m sure you’ll have fun.

I myself believe urban fantasy is the best start to show the potential of using RPGs in teaching EFL, as you can introduce regular situations people experience in the real world – business conversations, small talks, negotiations etc. with no element of fantasy or supernatural. Try to think of it as a prolonged role-play exercise where each student having the same character, only facing different situations.

I hope you’re getting the general idea of what RPGs are – next time I’ll show you how to create Players’ Characters and why it may be an English lesson itself.

Enjoy!

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Tell them what we’re doing! (guest note by Ewa Torebko)

Ready forSummer!

I met Ewa last August during Luiza’s Wójtowicz-Waga’s workshop where she shared her way of lesson planning and sharing it with her students. I found the idea just brilliant, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog, so that you have the opportunity to learn from the master herself.

Thank you ever so much, Ewa!

Tell them what you’re doing and why!

Should you inform your students what the objectives of your lesson are?

Should you sum up or ask them to sum up what has been done and what they have learnt?

Do students remember best the things from the beginning and from the end of the lesson?

Yes, yes, and yes!!!

How do you inform them? How do you sum up? Do you simply tell them, write it on the board, elicit it from them?

One day, I decided I needed a clear graphic system that would help me with presenting the objectives and summing up the lesson. I found some images online, I drew others, I printed them out and laminated them, and this is what I came up with:

Ewa Torebko

photo by Ewa Torebko

  • an ear – for listening activities,
  • a open book – for reading activities,
  • a mouth – for speaking activities,
  • a pen – for writing activities,
  • I  ❤  grammar – (surprisingly) for grammar tasks,
  • a pile of flashcards – for vocabulary work,
  • two stickmen with speech bubbles – for pairwork,
  • three stickmen with a thought bubble and a light bulb in it – for groupwork,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter B – for ‘matura’ exam tasks at the basic level,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter E – for extended level tasks,
  • E=mc2 – for eliminating mistakes by correcting them a lot (feedback sessions when students correct mistakes from their written work or speaking tasks – no name calling unless students feel the need to own up to their mistakes),
  • a jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing – for all kinds of Use of English tasks,
  • a spiral – for a variety of revision activities, big and small,
  • a question mark – for anything that does not fit in with the rest or because every teacher needs to be mysterious from time to time.

How does it work? I’ve got all the images stuck to the wall with blue tack and select them for a particular lesson either before the students arrive or before they unpack and settle in, or sometimes I select them as I go along while telling the students what we’re going to be doing in the lesson. I stick the chosen images together in the order I planned the activities and tell the students what the agenda is or I elicit it from them once they are familiar with the images and what they signify.

During the lesson I refer to the images from time to time so that the students have a sense of order and purpose.

At the end of the lesson, I recap the class with the help of the images or ideally, the students do for me, sometimes with some prompting required, at least in the beginning. If there was a reading task, what did they read about? What reading strategies did they employ? Why did they read before doing grammar tasks or speaking tasks? If there were speaking tasks, what were they? How many were there? How many partners did they have a chance to talk to? What did they talk about? What language functions did they use? What vocabulary was useful for getting their message across? If there were revision tasks, what did they revise, how, and why, etc.

Did we do all the activities that had been planned? Did we do them in the order planned? If not, why? Perhaps some activities proved more challenging than anticipated? Why were they difficult? Did the teacher decide to skip certain activities and/or extend some of them? Why? How much were the students responsible for the changes?

How about not presenting the images at the beginning of the lesson and asking the students to recall the activities at the end of it? You might tell them it will be required of them or not. If you do, you will certainly have their attention.

Sometimes I sneakily mix the images up when the students are not looking and ask them to reorder them at the end of the lesson. Other times, I go even further and remove them completely so that the students have to recreate all the activities in the correct order.

If you want, you could ask the students to plan the lesson using the images, making sure they justify their order. How about asking your students to come up with their own images? Perhaps there is something they would like to add? Something that is unique and understood only by you and that particular group of students?

I find the images are useful for explaining your methodology, raising students’ awareness of what is happening in the classroom and why. They give us an opportunity to ask the students why they think the teacher planned certain activities and/or used particular methods, how useful they find them and why.

I also believe the images ensure that the students leave our lesson with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of closure – they help them realise the lesson was geared towards improving certain skills, expanding a particular set of vocabulary or preparing them for very specific exam tasks. Hopefully, when asked by a parent about what they did in class, they will be able to say more than just: “exercises” or “games”.

A final piece of advice: don’t be a slave to the images. I find them extremely useful with new groups that are going through the beginning stages of group development. They help with classroom management, establishing rapport and presenting your expertise as a teacher. With time, however, I tend not to use the images in every lesson because it can become tedious and repetitive. Sometimes you need to shake things up and add colour and variety to your classes.

Give it a try and make it your own! I highly recommend this method. It has helped me a lot since I implemented it. Apart from having all the benefits for the students that I mentioned above, it made me think more deeply about what I was doing in class and why. Isn’t conscious competence what we as teachers are trying to achieve?

 

7 Free Online Courses in January

7 free online courses

How are you in 2018? After my winter break I’m ready to rock! To my organised self it’s a double charm when the beginning of the year matches the beginning of the week (which in my case is on Monday). The New Year, as always, brings new challenges, new opportunities and new things we can learn – and I’m quite excited about all this!

Here’s my monthly bulletin on seven courses I could recommend for teachers, DoSes and educators in general. We’re taking January resolutions seriously, so most of the courses have their starting dates, no lazy self-pacement this month!

1 How to Succeed at: Writing Applications by the University of Sheffield

Start: 8th January

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people who are ready for a big change in their lives – both teachers and students

This course has been designed and developed by experts from The Careers Service at the University of Sheffield to help people write successful applications, whether they are applying for jobs or planning to study at university or college. When you complete this course you may go straight to How to Succeed at: Interviews (starting on the 29th of January) and then follow with How to Succeed in the Global Workplace which was produced in collaboration with The British Council.

2 Academic Discussions in English by University of California, Irvine

Start: 1st January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: students preparing to start university education, people who want to practice and improve discussion skills

In this class you will learn not only about different types of conversations you will encounter in academic settings, but you will also discover some strategies helping you understand other people’s meaning and helping you express yourself effectively. In the paid version, the curriculum includes recording several videos of oneself for peer feedback, however free users have access to all instructional videos and handouts.

3 Supporting English Learners: Resources for Leaders by Stanford University

Start: self-paced

Duration: self-paced

For whom: teachers, educators, DoSes

This course provides a set of resources designed to support educational leaders in driving educational change for English learners and guide you through a process of examining existing system around TEFL as well as help developing a plan to encourage shift practices. The overall goal is for participating educators to better understand students of ESL in their context and use what they learn to design a better system where students may achieve more.

4 Becoming a Confident Trainer by TAFE SA

Start: 8th January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom:  educators, trainers

The course focuses on more practical aspects of training and facilitation like: practical techniques, approaches, hints and suggestions that you may apply to your own training environment. Confidence as a trainer comes from the awareness that you are well prepared in your topic, but it is also understanding that an effective trainer is someone who presents in a professional manner, is an effective communicator and has developed the awareness of the learning needs of their learner group.

5 Young People and Their Mental Health by University of Groningen and University of Cambridge

Start: 15th January

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom:  parents, caregivers, teachers and medical professionals but mainly young people aged over 14 wanting to know more about mental health

The course is designed primarily for young people as mental health problems often develop during the teenage period. It may be really useful for teenagers to know how to recognise common mental health problems, know how they arise, what can be done to prevent them and what should be done when one actually suffers from them. Naturally, it may be only useful for adults to take this course as well, as it may help us develop not only the knowledge, but also ways of communicating with teenagers.

6 Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains by University System of Georgia

Start: 1st January

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom:  anyone and everyone interested in cybersecurity

This course is designed to introduce the more and more important issue of cybersecurity. You will gain access to materials that address governance and risk management, compliance, business continuity and disaster recovery, cryptography, software development security, access control, network security, security architecture, security operations, and physical and environmental security. You do not need prior experience in IT security to do well in this course. All you need is a willingness to learn.

7 Leadership Through Social Influence by Northwestern University

Start: 8th January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom:  people interested in persuasive influence situations

Well, that’s a bit tricky course – I think there are two types of people who might find is useful – those who want to use persuasive approach… and those who want to recognise and defend against it (as it is, in its crudest meaning, manipulation). The broad goal is to provide learners with not only an extensive persuasion tool kit, but also with an understanding of how different tools are useful in different situations. For some, such knowledge may be interesting to use, for everyone – to study.

And, last but not least, a course that is not really free, but may be of use, especially for our students:

Writing Better Emails by the British Council

Start: 29th January

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom:  for all working professionals, especially young people, CEFR level B1 and above

Cost: $59

It isn’t very often that we have time to cover professional e-mail writing during our EFL courses – I know that some of my students would be more than happy to practise this skill at home, especially that they feel like practising in-class writing is a waste of time. This online course develops planning, organising, writing and editing skills, to enable students to write more effective and efficient emails and is an interesting option to recommend to your students.

I hope the courses I’ve chosen will help you pick something interesting to study this month – I’ll probably pick the one for Confident Trainers.

Enjoy and see you online!

New Year, New Me? 5 ideas on how to make 2018 more organised

New Year, New Me_5 ideas how to make 2018 more organised

I love creativity and spontaneity – but I believe the best way to exercise a sensible amount of beneficial chaos is to put it first within a framework of a well-organised plan. Today I want to share some of the ideas I’ve practised in 2017 which made my life considerably easier. The reason I chose to write about my personal experiences is due to my work as a teacher trainer – the longer I work with new teachers, the more noticeable it is to me that a lot of teaching-oriented problems stem from poor time management.

After some sessions with my fellow teachers I’ve decided to write down the ideas I use to make my life less chaotic, as it gives me the frameworks of work, development, relaxation and still leaves some time to actually do nothing. Now, according to what some people claim, I may be overly organised, so you don’t really have to follow all my quirks… Like, I’ve been writing lesson plans for each and every class ever since I started teaching (which makes a frightening number of 15 years) – and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. To make things worse, I have three separate diaries: one for work, one for daily planning and one for planning my time to chill out.

And I’m beginning to understand that the last one
is actually the most important…

So even if you’re not into organising your life to the point of planning time to do some planning, you may as well enjoy the confessions of a ridiculously organised teacher!

1 Plan your lessons

I already shared my tactics when it comes to planning lessons here, so just to let you know – I still follow my favourite KISS rule (known either as Keep It Short and Simple, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, choose your own version) and I’m always sure to leave some space for so-called wow activities, be they a new quizziz game, a funny role-play, an interesting boardgame or a new brainstorm idea. I usually come up with wow activities while taking a morning shower, so that’s the area I’m not planning beforehand.

It takes me 30 minutes a month for each group.

2 Plan your daily routine

…and be sure to add half an hour more on the activities you plan to cover! If a workout is supposed to take me 15 minutes (thanks, Mel B.!), I usually plan it for half an hour (preparing for the exercises, going to get some water… you know, delays happen to lazy teachers). I planned to write a blog post in an hour? Yeah, more like three days would sound realistic. I also plan my outfits for the whole week on Friday because I can’t make up my mind right before I leave, so it saves my time.

I also plan dinners for the whole week which is really sensible as you can remember to include some healthy food even if you’re dying for three pizzas a week…

It takes me 30-40 minutes a week. And a week of dying for pizza.

3 Plan your work

Here, I need to divide my prepping into planning for DoS-oriented activities – something I usually do within my working hours and it’s a monthly and weekly schedule of planned duties with a lot of blanks to perform all those save-the-world-now activities that are the joy of being a DoS…

Someone get me a cape, or better a chimichanga
as I’m rather a Deadpool kind of superhero…

The other part is connected with this blog, my FB fanpage, Instagram and plans to start my own webpage, plan some proper workshops and set the whole process of conquering the world in motion. Looking for inspirations and sharing funny bits surprisingly takes time.

It takes me up to 2-3 hours a week.

4 Plan your development

Have your planned your CPD in 2018 yet? I’ve already enrolled in a couple of courses, I’m definitely planning to join IATEFL Poland in Wroclaw in September, thinking of publishing some articles in professional magazines, considering passing DELTA… yeah, well, I certainly have things to do – especially with all those awesome free online courses I share with you every month. Naturally, the only way you can study properly without losing your mind is careful organisation.

This year is the first one I’m planning not only attending courses, but offering some webinars and online meetings on my own… which requires some additional planning, of course. But one thing is certain – if you don’t plan things sensibly, you may end up lost in a world full of webinars, workshops, programs and scholarships!

5 Plan your time off

Last, but not least – time to relax! If you’re focused on teaching, learning, developing, creating etc. it may be quite difficult to make yourself stop and chill out. Now, you may have some rest either by enjoying a quiet evening in (you know, blanket, hot cocoa and a great book) or by climbing snowy mountains – whichever is your preferred way (I believe we all like experiencing a bit of both), it’s very important to plan it – not only because you’ll have something to help you survive even the worst day at work, but you’ll make sure no-one disturbs you then… no essays to correct, no parents to talk to – nothing!

That’s my favourite part to plan – theoretically it doesn’t take much time, but oh, all those pleasant plans I make…

Next week I’m going to celebrate winter holidays (I’ve planned a lot of relaxing!), so the next blog post will be on the 2nd of January – I’ll share some great free courses to enhance that New-Year-Resolutionary mood! Should you miss me, do not hesitate to follow my FB page or my Instagram account, as I will share there various ideas, tips and inspirations.

See you next year 🙂

 

What school leaders need to know…

is thiswhatwe needto know-

… About Digital Technologies and Social Media – it’s a book by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehmann written with many authorities on the topic on educational technology. Published in 2012 is an interesting read and a source of inspiration.

First of all you may sensibly ask whether a five year old paper book is not obsolete – after all, technological advance speeds up rather frighteningly. My answer is simple: of course, parts of the book are sometimes ridiculous (using RSS readers in the classroom sounds like history, doesn’t it?), but even though some ideas seem rather old-fashioned, it doesn’t mean the whole publication is a waste – quite contrary.

A series of articles touches various aspects of using digital solutions in the classroom, from blogging to online course managing systems. You can read about wikis, webinars, videos, social bookmarking or online mind mapping – but the best thing is that each article focuses not only on a digital tool, but also on its application in the classroom.

For example, the first article (Blogs by Kristin Hokanson and Christian Long) not only explains what blogs are and what is their educational rationale, but also introduces the Alice Project which turned out to be more than encouraging children to write a blog. We can read about technical steps and framing the whole process as well as after-project reflections – I found this really inspirational, because there’s nothing better than learning from someone else’s experience.

Apart from personal experience, each chapter mentions some potential uses of various tools that may still be useful – like a lot of ways you may use open source software, a full list of ideas on how to use digital videos to make your classes more interesting, etc.

Moreover, you can find tips that will make you think before you decide to implement a particular digital solution – like the three Rs, vital when it comes to including instructional video games in the class (repetition, reward and reason, useful not only in this case).

One of the things that caught my eye, however, was not connected to digital technology as a useful tool – it is a matter of responsibility, something we should teach our students along with technological solutions. We are going to read about responsible blogging, free open source software, protecting the school image etc.

To sum up, while I found some parts of the book a little bit outdated, the majority of the articles shed new light on some of the digital tools I’ve been using for a while. If you want to read a book that gives you a moment of reflection on your technological approach – that’s a great book for you.

You may also consider this book a nice gift for a fellow teacher (or a principal) who is not really up to date with technological tools in the classroom – quite often teachers feel awkward to start with a new solution, especially when they realise their students have a far greater knowledge on this topic. This book may be a good start on a journey, pointing out some basics and guiding through more problematic issues connected with using technology (responsibility, classroom management etc.).

Enjoy!

What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media

Scott McLeod (Editor), Chris Lehmann (Editor), David F. Warlick (Foreword by)
ISBN: 978-1-118-02224-5
224 pages
November 2011, Jossey-Bass

7 free online courses in December

7free onlinecoursesin December

Today, I feel pretty much like Santa, bringing you a fresh batch of free online courses you may enjoy during the December break, so that “New Year, New Me” spirit will have a solid background of December-learning. This time I’ve focused more on self-paced courses, as with the holidays preparation on our heads, we may be too busy to seriously focus on learning.

1 Teaching for Success: Practices for English Language Teaching by the British Council

Start: flexible

Duration: each course takes 4 weeks

This program is more than a mere course – it consists of three courses that can be taken in any order, and will equip you with the tools you need to take responsibility for your own CPD. Each course will look at four professional practices, explain their importance and offer a range of practical advice and suggestions in three areas: Lessons and Teaching, Learning and Learners, The Classroom and the World. Recommended for fresh teachers, but also those who want to connect with teaching buddies around the world.

2 Game Theory by Stanford University, The University of British Columbia

Start: 4th of December

Duration: 8 weeks

Game theory is getting more and more popular in everyday life – and the course will provide the basics: representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modelling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more. The good thing is that this course is designed for beginners, so no extensive knowledge of maths is required (you should be familiar with basic probability theory though, and some very light calculus would be helpful).

3 Working in Teams: A Practical Guide by the University of Queensland

Start: self-paced

Duration: 4 weeks

This course is an introduction to teamwork skills that will help you improve your own performance and that of your team. It covers why teams are important, the roles of individuals in a team, systems and processes for effective teamwork and communication, and methods for addressing team conflict. I would recommend it to everyone who manages classrooms to improve teamwork, as throughout the course you will be provided with a range of tools and templates that you will be able to use with any team.

4 Blended Learning series by Relay Graduate School of Education

Start: self-paced

Duration: flexible

This, again, is more than a course – a set of four modules that will teach you about blended and personalised learning as a whole. You’ll learn the how and why of “blended” and how blended/personalised learning is changing the face of teaching and learning. You’ll leave this course with four blended “recipes” you can implement in your classroom immediately. You’ll leave this course knowing why your blended practice should be grounded in instructional challenges/student needs and how you can leverage technology to address those challenges, so you can teach each student in a more personalised manner.

5 21st Century Learning by Grainne Conole

Start: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will introduce you to 21st century learning tools and practices. You will examine how they can facilitate learning and teaching, and evaluate your own digital literacies, create your own personal learning environment, find open educational resources, explore virtual worlds and more. Recommended to fresh teachers or those who feel the pressure of using technology in the classroom but are somewhat shy to start.

6 Educational Technology by Georgia Tech

Start: self-paced

Duration: 16 weeks

This is a proper university course (you can read its detailed description and requirements here) for those who want to focus on educational technology for real – maybe in order to help with their MA or PhD, maybe because this is something they want to do in their lives. This class is built on a number of pedagogical strategies, including project-based learning, authenticity, and apprenticeship. The ultimate goal, supported by these strategies, is that through this class you will make an actual contribution to the field of educational research, and start a project that could be continued even after the semester is over.

7 The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture by Smithsonian

Start: self-paced

Duration: 6 weeks

Can you imagine a course with Stan Lee as one of instructors? Well – here we are! You’ll learn about how cultural myths, world events, and personal experiences shaped the first superheroes, you will apply these frameworks to create your own superhero– or you can choose to do a deeper analysis on existing comic book heroes. At last, fans, students and seekers of knowledge have the opportunity to enrol in the ultimate comic book course – so this may be a great idea not only for you, but also for your students of EFL!

I guess I found something I want to study this month…

I hope you’ll feel inspired and together we’ll have fun picking the best course of the month!

Enjoy!

Role-Playing Teaching (Part 3: Being a teacher and being a Game Master)

THE NEW YOU

In my previous articles (Why people play games and What are RPGs) I briefly described a phenomenon of Role-Playing Games and shared the reasons for which people play games – and enjoy it. Today, I want to demonstrate similarities between teaching and playing RPGs which will help me prove why RPGs can be the ultimate answer to Game-Based Learning approach.

By the end of the article you will realise you not only already played a RPG, but you unknowingly took a role of a Game Master!

Game Master is the person who holds the strings, who’s behind the curtain, who’s – that’s my favourite comparison – a Merlin to the group of new knights of the Round Table… and that’s exactly who a teacher is, at least to my mind: a person who sets goals and makes students reach them, but only by encouragement, not by direct passing them the Holy Grail of knowledge.

I will try to show you seven aspects actually making teacher a Game Master:

Set-up

Just like a GM before a session (a meeting where people partake in an RPG adveture), you need to pick a set-up, a theme and general idea for a lesson. You choose the areas your students will roam in pursuit of their goal (e.g. understanding the beauty of Present Perfect), and you decide on the goal itself by determining a lesson aim.

Preparation

As Gail Godwin said, good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre. It’s exactly the same with game-mastering. You need to prepare stages of the lesson/session along with some props, like music, handouts, multimedia tools etc. We want the participants, be they players or students, to have fun, enjoy and – yes, why not? – admire the adventure we’ve planned for them.

Yes, I know there are GMs who don’t use any props, but then there are teachers who love Dogme approach, so things even out.

Team building

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forth. It’s important in RPGs where you usually create a team of heroes embarking on the same quest (and yes, there are games for one player only, just like 1-2-1 classes), but creating a relationship with fellow students is also vital in a classroom environment. And while not all teachers find team building as their responsibility, having a proper team to teach is way funnier and more pleasant – and RPGs may teach you how to make people cooperate.

Rules

Role-Playing Games are designed to have fun with friends, but since one of the main characteristics of games is a clearly stated set of rules understood and accepted by all participants, there must be someone to impose the rules, interpret them and make players act accordingly. Isn’t it just like a teacher in a classroom full of enthusiastic students who have fun until the first disagreement?

And believe me, naughty teenagers can be little angels compared to adult RPG players – I’ve seen friendships ruined over an unfortunate interpretation of rules.

Compromise

Both in a classroom environment and in an RPG session there are certain misunderstandings that are bound to happen sooner or later. An adult player may sulk after an unlucky dice-roll just like a little pupil who’s failed his first test. We have arguments between students, accusations of cheating, various moods affecting the whole lesson – and it’s surprisingly similar during an adventure. It’s a teacher, or a GM, who has to smooth things out and teach what the compromise is.

Help

I’ve already said that my favourite parallel of a teacher’s (or Game Master’s, to be honest) role is the one of Merlin. He is the one to set things in motion, picture the Holy Grail as the ultimate goal and suggest the idea of the Round Table Knighthood. But he doesn’t participate in the quests himself – he occasionally helps those in need, but mostly he’s behind the curtain, glad to observe the adventure unfold and only sometimes enjoying an episodic role.

I feel compelled to write a separate article on this simile as actually this is the concept that made me think of teaching as yet another RPG setting. But for now, let me clarify this: wise as we may be, we only show the goal, never lead the way.

Fun

Role-Playing Games are designed to have fun, and playing them should be fun not only for the players, but also for the Game Master. Just like teaching – although most students don’t find it overly exciting. As you see – there are so many things a teacher and a game master have in common that actual incorporating RPGs into our lessons will not change much in our approach to educational process itself, but it may be a huge change to our students, who will find it way easier to enjoy their lessons.

Sounds good? Great – because in my next article I’ll show you how to start!