Mechanics

No, don’t worry. Industrial lubrication isn’t required, neither is a working knowledge of mechanical engineering.

A rag might be useful, though.

I wanted to mention some details, regarding how we do this RPGing, in a teaching situation.

Of course, the bulk of our sessions is spent gaming. It’s kind of a necessity. But, there are elements that incorporate and give time to the facets of language learning that are important.

We deal with vocabulary in the usual ways; when a word comes up, it is recorded and kept for later. At the end of the scenario, we then go back to the words and “play” with them, using a variety of activities; crosswords (for definitions), wordsearches (for recognition) and usage/grammar exercises (e.g. put two words together and come up with a sentence for context).

Writing is dealt with largely through Character Generation (usually biographies for each character) and regular ‘journal’ entries, so players can develop their characters and give their perspective on events. I usually award experience points, when this is done effectively.

Speaking and listening happen constantly, just through the nature of the games. However, a lot of speech is generated by the actions of the group and a good amount of discussion is required between them, particular in terms of problem solving and planning. This is especially so when a N.P.C. (Non-Playing Character, like Judge Kasper in “Firefight”) is in action. Of course, I (as the G.M.) have to play various other roles, as we move through the scenario, so that’s where another level of speaking/listening comes in (being a Native Speaker and sometimes requiring the group to react quickly).

Indeed, it’s speaking that represents ‘the point’ – any language learning serves a goal, which is the “natural” use of the language, in given, every-day situations.

Now, as an experienced EFL/ESL teacher I am well-aware that some students “hide” from their speaking duties, behind other students or answers, such as “I don’t know“. Polish learners are no different. Teenagers and children have less of an issue, because of their access to technology and just being more open to other tongues. However, this is not so true of adults, as most have experienced a “traditional” education, where English was taught through grammar. Thus, many have very good knowledge of this, but much less ability to speak (an over-use of grammar teaches “perfection”, which is a double-edged sword, promoting proper speech, but disrupting it at the same time).

So, to RPG as an aspect of language teaching, we have to find ways around this…

Those of you who have read Part-Two of this blog will have seen the photo of the group on Titan. Well, not actually on Titan, but from the board-map. In the top left corner, you’ll see “Caller Rotation“, with a number of minutes next to it. This is the main speaking strategy employed – the ‘Caller‘, who becomes the spokesman for the group, speaking to the G.M. when certain communications have to be made, playing N.P.Cs where necessary, making any final decisions and/or promoting discussion amongst the group, for a given period of time. From our ‘Judge Dredd – Judgement Day’ example, after 9 minutes (in the case of the photo) the ‘caller’ dons the badge (see below) and takes on the task, until their 9 minutes has elapsed and the badge/role is rotated to the next player. Meaning, no player can avoid speaking. If they are not quick or thorough enough, penalties (for example, a D6 or D10 loss of experience points) can be meted out.

(the caller’s badge for Cthulhu, ‘Screamer’ being much more apt)

And, that’s how some of the major mechanics work. It’s not all about gaming. As a teacher first, I have a responsibility to teach. However, “good” teachers develop ways of working and attempt “new” things, in order to provide a “better” learning experience. It just so happens, that having played various games over the last year, both with teens and adults, RPGs may provide a way of language teaching, which is as satisfying for the learner as it is for the teacher.

We shall see. Season 2018/19 is just around the corner and a “new” group will hopefully present itself.

The only question then is, where do we start?

Mega-City One? Cthulhu?

Or, somewhere else..?

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