Taking a "Journey" with Visible Thinking

Updated: Jan 12


Each academic year I begin with taking inventory on what works and doesn't work for my students. They tell me what they struggle with in school, but they also share things they enjoy and how they learn best. Inevitably, each year the students indicate that they enjoy video games. Therefore, I correlate video games I've played and recorded into lesson plans for my students.

The story of Journey is told wordlessly through gameplay and using cutscenes. To begin, the character begins on a sand dune in a seemingly endless desert. In the far distance looms a large, foreboding mountain with a glowing crevice that splits its peak. As the character approaches the mountain, they find remnants of a once-thriving civilization, eroded by sand over time. Scattered throughout the ruins at the end of each area are stones at which the traveler rests; these stones give the traveler the vision of meeting a larger, white-robed figure in a circular room, with art on the walls describing the rise and fall of the civilization mirroring the player's journey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_(2012_video_game).

As an educator, I saw the perfect opportunity to create an educational experience based off this phenomenal game. As the game is very metaphorical and ambiguous, I felt it was perfect to implement Visible Thinking strategies, allowing the students to look deeply into such a unique gaming experience.

The basic premise for my 8 gameplay video clips was as follows:

Introduce Visible Thinking Strategy

Show the Gameplay Video

Complete Visible Thinking Activity

The final scene, to this day, is still one of the most beautiful and inspiring experiences I've ever had in playing a video game. Not to mention it makes you think long and hard about what this game is truly about. After watching this clip, as shown in the video above, the students completed their final Visible Thinking routine, shown below:

The final activity for the Journey Experience was a writing prompt. The students had three options to choose from, as shown below. Keep in mind, these phenomenal writings and thoughts are from my 6th graders. It goes to show when you motivate and inspire your students, the sky is the limit!

To read more on this concept, check out Chapter 28: Fun Isn't a Four-Letter Word, in my book, Teach4Endurance: Surviving the Swim, Bike, and Run in Today's Classroom.