February 20, 2011

Only a Game – Lessons in Safer Internet for Children

I started a series of lessons with my sixth graders with the aim of teaching them to feel more comfortable using the Internet and preparing a short drama piece to present as our class contribution to the annual celebrations of our School Day in May.

I found this new activity for teachers on Childnet page and wrote to the authors to get the complete script because it looked just the right kind of material for my 12 – year – old girls and boys. I got it and started immediately working on it with my students.

The scene is very simple: two desks with computers and one big screen in the background. The main characters are two students who live in very different families and go to the same school.
Alex envies Jay because Jay has his new computer in his bedroom and can play whatever games he wants whenever he wants. Alex's parents are strict, his computer is in the front room and the parents decide when and how long he plays on it.
Jay's older friend Taylor persuades him to start playing a new “cool“ game pretending to be fourteen years old and he is soon in trouble when he realizes he has to disclose his personal information to claim the prize and various pop-up messages keep appearing on his screen. He is also in trouble at school because he didn't do some homework that he forgot about because of the game.

The drama comes with three lesson plans and I have already had two lessons with my students.
• In the first lesson we talked about their experience of using the Internet at school and at home, named their favorite games. It was very exciting to see how all students, even the weaker ones, wanted to share their thoughts and experience. Then we read the script and discussed what we learned from Jay's experience.
• The script is in English, it's a foreign language for my students and they'll need some time to learn their lines, but they are so excited they all applied for different roles of real or virtual characters.
Now we are at scene three when Jay starts playing the new “cool“game pretending to be older. Here we have to create our own setting, our own virtual characters that will appear on the stage, their appearance, costumes, background sounds of the game, too. The students are so excited I had to allow some more time for all group ideas to be presented and we'll decide next week on our scene, and, I hope, proceed to the following scenes.
• I hope everything will go smoothly, with only the learning of the language and proper pronunciation until the last scene. There isn't much text and the students understood and discussed it already.
Then in the last scene we have to create our own advice for Jay. I plan to use Childnet SMART rules again. My students are already familiar with the rules: S – safe, M – meet, A – accept, R – reliable, T – tell. I plan to use the Kidsmart presentation and remind them of the rules, have them work in pairs on every detail of Jay's problem and then present their advice to the group. Then we'll agree on all the individual sentences of our advice that go into our script. I also hope to have time to get students to write all the pieces of advice on big posters to keep on the walls.

• The final scene of the play is to be a rap song, possibly with dance. I'll leave it to the imagination of my students and correct only the language.

I'm very excited and can't wait to put our drama on stage. I've been even happier since a few parents reported having talked about the topic with their children because the child was very excited about our work at school and wanted to share the details with parents. It looks like it's going to be a success.

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