Updated: Feb 28
"Saw my reflection and cried.
So little hope that I died."
(Angry Chair by Alice in Chains)
As with any teacher, I’m always looking to create new and innovative ways to reach my students, grasp their attention and motivate them in new and meaningful ways. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, I strive to expand the boundaries of what's considered "normal" in the classroom. One manner in which I have had great success in reaching my teenagers of the digital age are my video game and writing creations. I’ve had great success with . . .
My newest creation combines a multitude of thinking and writing activities, inspired by the wonderful video game Braid, created by the phenomenal game developer, Jonathon Blow. What looks at first glance as a simple platforming adventure, can be inferred to be about something much deeper (especially when the game’s five puzzles are completed.) This guide really gets the students to think on deep levels, as the game can be inferred to be dealing with a rough childhood, abuse, etc. in an abstract manner. Besides analyzing 17 video clips (embedded on my YouTube channel; the guide also comes with a multitude of interactive STEM writing and analysis activities. In the end, there are two high level activities to synthesize the entire experience: a differentiated writing activity and a song analysis correlation.
Time Lapse Quick View
Take a look below at an example of the unit guide:
Step 1: Watch Play Through Video
First the students watch the embedded play through video on my free YouTube channel.
Step 2: Review, Cut, Attach and Answer
The students then review and cut out the scaffolded STEM questions. Then they tape/glue to top only (see the gray line); this is where they fold up to creating a flap to lift up. Underneath the questions cutout flaps, the students reflect and provide their answers. This template is shown below:
Step 3: Complete Mentor Sentence Activity
During this step in the process, the students complete a mentor sentence activity with regards to the wonderfully written narrative text within Braid.
Step 4: Formative Assessment
The final step in the process is a simple formative assessment in regards to the Braid experience.
The Braid Experience in Action
The students analyze the correlating video clip with analytical thinking interactive question stems. Who says video games and education don't mix?
The Braid Experience in Action - Students Analyzing Challenges within the Game
One of the educational benefits within the Braid Experience is the opportunity for students to analyze problems I run into within the game. By utilizing their analytical thinking skills, my students actually teach me how to get past some obstacles within the game!
Bringing it All Together
There's no doubt that throughout the Braid Experience, my students have learned there's much more to this game than simply a platforming adventure. Some thoughts they've pondered as we've reached the precipice of our study include:
1. In the game’s epilogue, a quote is alluded to by J. Robert Oppenheimer on the birth of the atomic bomb. What could the atomic bomb be referring to?
2. One of the definitions for the word braid is to bind or confine.
3. What could the “princess” be a metaphor for? Possibly “happy ever after”?
4. In the final clip, it shows that what Tim was searching for was just out of reach. Why is this?
5. A braid is a hairstyle where the hair is “tied in knots”.
6. The game centers around finding puzzle pieces. You put puzzle pieces back “together”.
To begin the investigative process, the students listened and read the lyrics to the song Angry Chair, by Alice In Chains. They imagined that the lyrics were being said by a young Tim (from his childhood).
Next, the students worked in their learning groups to discuss some analysis questions I put together to foster discussion.
After the students offered their thoughts, with regards to the analysis questions, they were divided into station groups. To investigate the thematic depths of this game, I had my students break into stations to investigate more deeply some of the inner-workings of Braid, from a thematic level. Within these stations, the students worked with Microsoft OneNote, Augmented Reality, and Visible Learning techniques. The stations included:
A. Atomic - In the game’s epilogue, a quote is alluded to by J. Robert Oppenheimer on the birth of the atomic bomb. What could the atomic bomb be referring to? How could this be related to an abusive childhood?
B. Happily Ever After - How are some of the Disney Princesses' hopes and aspirations similar to a young child living in an abusive situation?
C. Just Out of Reach - Analyze the final clip of the gameplay. Is Tim (main character) ever able to obtain what he was looking for?
D. Symbolism - By watching the boss battle (from the game), infer what the true symbol is in the clip; what does it represent?
E. Play with a Braid - Create a braid utilizing PlayDoh; then analyze how the action of creating a braid can be correlated with child abuse.
F. Comfort Object - What importance do comfort objects pertain to a young child? Why are they needed?
G. Piece it Out - Put together the jigsaw puzzle; then analyze how your actions could be correlated with someone who grew up in an abusive home.
To read more on this concept, check out Chapter 10: Reach for Greatness, in my book, Teach4Endurance: Surviving the Swim, Bike, and Run in Today's Classroom.