Whew! We just finished our first ever Character Workshop Day with our 9th grade students. It was fun, but exhausting! Here’s a rundown of what CWD is and how it all went down.
The Origins of Character Workshop Day
One of our goals this year is to make our freshman experience more interesting, cross-curricular, and exciting, all while integrating hands-on, critical thinking activities. Character Workshop Day is one of these activities that integrates mathematics and English.
During Character Workshop Day, students designed their own RPG (role playing game) character and played an RPG card game called Dragon’s March.
Getting Everything Ready
Mrs. Grebe, our 9th grade mathematics teacher, taught students the mathematics behind creating a RPG character with various strengths and weaknesses. I won’t even begin to try to explain it all here. I’m not a math person. Essentially, students each chose a class (Magic, Melee, or Rogue) for their characters, and after rolling the dice, allocated their points to their stats for Stamina, Attack, or Damage.
In English class, I introduced students to Freytag’s pyramid, the hero’s journey, and the idea of origin stories.
The Day Of
The first event of the day was a guest speaker from EA. He spoke to the students about the mathematics behind game mechanics and development. (Side note: do you know why Mario has a mustache? Because when they originally created him you couldn’t tell his nose from his mouth. So they added a mustache to make it more clear.) He gave the students a chance to ask questions about games and his job.
After our speaker left, all the students headed to the gym for team scouting (imagine scouting for fantasy football). Each pre-assigned captain had to recruit a team of 8 from the other students. After separating the students into their character classes, we let the captains go recruit their teams. (This actually happened twice. The first time was our way of seeing what they would do. Since we weren’t happy with how things worked, we did a quick revamp and re-recruiting. It was much better the second time.)
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Once the teams were together, they had to write their team’s origin story. They used a collaborative Google Doc to tell the story of how their team met and learned to work together (think of The Avengers – the story of how Iron Man, Hawk Eye, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Captain American learned to work as a team).
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After lunch, students reassembled at our Multi-Purpose Room. We had preset the tables with game boards, dragon cards, and dragon tokens. Student brought their character stat sheets, their game logs, and their RPG Dice apps. After a rough couple of minutes, we realized that student didn’t really remember how to play, so we did a refresher. This helped tremendously. Students had about 1 1/2 hours to try and beat the dragon. We also included some unexpected weather events (that gave the players or the dragon an advantage). Surprisingly, we actually had a couple teams push their dragon all the way back to the cliffs in the allotted playing time.
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Once students were done playing, and after a quick break, we had the students reflect on their learning by answering questions about their team formation, makeup, and game play. They had to really think about how each character’s stat impacted the team as a whole, and they had to think about how the characters’ classes impacted their ability to fight the dragon. It should be very interesting to read their reflections!
Although there were some rough spots and some things we will definitely change for next time, Character Workshop Day is a keeper! Not only did it have the students doing lots of math (and enjoying it) and English, but it was great for team building because students had to work with others whom they didn’t usually work with.
Next time we’re playing with the idea of seeing if the students can tour EA in the morning, and then do game play and origin story writing in the afternoon. We’re planning on pushing it back a few weeks to give more time for character creation, game play explanation, and some demo rounds.
The Gaming Club (which I sponsor) will help us make a demo video to show students how to play. And, one student had a great suggestion: play one round together before having everyone play the game in teams.
There are definitely other things we’ll tweak and change based on student feedback; however, overall everything turned out really well!