Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gaming in the Classroom: More Thoughts on RPGs for ESL

I've been mulling over the RPGs-for-ESL thing some more. I've also been perusing this excellent stuff by Pete Figtree, who has been very helpful. So was everyone who commented on my last post, too. So thanks, and keep the suggestions coming!

Amount of Reading Needed to Play - I took a look at a few games recommended to me last time. Some are very cool, but a few would require a lot of ability to read, understand, and articulate fairly advanced English. The operative term is "ESL" - English as a Second Language. For some students, it's more like EFL - English as a Foreign Language. As interesting as, say, Lady Blackbird is, imagine reading that in your 1st-year Spanish class. It's a bit much, and my Japanese skills aren't equal to the task of translating or explaining bits they don't get.

My GM Skills - I also think I need to be familiar with the game end-to-end, and have real mastery of it. That argues for a stripped down D&D clone or GURPS Lite pared down by myself, or something home-brewed and easy to run (something I could give out for free.) That takes care of other systems I'm not deeply familiar with - even pretty straightforward ones like T&T. I'd like the only unknowns to be how it works in class not how it works, if you follow me.

Minimum Setup - I've been thinking that part of what I need is an role-playing activity that takes very little setup. I think I could do a dungeon, or a rescue-the-captured-children, or a find the pirate's treasure kind of game pretty easily. They'd take very little pre-game setup, especially given my tendency to run games with dungeons and/or pirates. I'd also be able to keep the motivations really simple, allowing the kids free rein to just do what they'd like to try.

Homework For Me

I also have to think more about:

- how to ensure it's an educational activity.


- the logistics of ensuring second-language speakers are able to play.

A lot of the rules stuff is more secondary. It's the structure of how to play, what I need to bring to the table, etc. that is trickier. I may have to try doing a very short adventure or set-piece that I can bust out and run at the end of one of the longer classes for slightly more advanced students, and see how it flies there. Then I can use the experience to see what else I can try. If I do that, the first part - ensuring it is educational, is simple. All I need to do is get them to speak and listen for a while, since the class I have in mind is all about improving their comfort and usage speaking.

I still need to sit down and outline just what I'd want to hand out, how many PCs I need, how to explain the idea, etc. but the discussion from last time really helped me get more thoughts more from "what if-" to "when I do this . . . "
Basically, I need to draw up a lesson plan, and figure out how long it'll take . . . and then try it.


  1. How many students are you trying to run the game for? On average, I guess, since it sounds like you have quite the variety of classes.

    1. The class I was going to try it out in is 3 kids, 7-9, but all comfortable trying to speak in English. But I have a one-on-one student I might be able to try it with, but it would need to be even shorter - maybe 15 minutes?


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