A key concept that’s important for students to learn is the importance of engaging with the text — not just being a passive reader.
There are obviously many effective instructional strategies to help them practice that lesson. One pretty explicit way is for them to have access to reading “choose your own adventure” stories where they are periodically given choices of what they want characters to do, and then participate in the construction of the story itself. The Goosebumps series of books is a well-known example of this genre. In the world of English Language Learner teaching, these kinds of stories are also called “Action Mazes.”
There are many other examples of “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories on the Web that are accessible to English Language Learners, and this “The Best…” list will share links to them. My students have always enjoyed reading these online versions.
In addition, writing these kinds of stories has the potential of being a fun and educational group writing activity for English Language Learners and other students. There are several free online tools out there now (and I share them in this post), though I haven’t been able to find an ideal one for use in class. I’ll also be sharing what — at this point — is the best way that I’ve come-up with to create one, and I’m also very interested in hearing about better ideas. I’m planning on experimenting with creating them during my ESL class during summer school.
This list is divided into two sections. The first one shares links to accessible online Choose Your Adventure stories for students to read (some also include animation with the text). The second shares ways teachers can work with students to write their own.
Here are my picks for The Best Places To Read & Write “Choose Your Own Adventure” Stories:
STORIES TO READ:
Castaway is both entertaining and accessible to Early Intermediate English Language Learners. You are stuck on a deserted island and have to get off.
The Caves of Mull was written by a group of students (using a wiki), and is accessible to Intermediate ELL’s. It’s filled with “death, destruction and treasure” (and fun).
In the Frontier Alaska game, you having a very hard time in a dog sled. It’s a “choose your own adventure” activity where you are regularly giving challenging scenarios and then have options on how to proceed.
A Seat At The Table is a “choose your own adventure” game related to hunger issues and is accessible to high Intermediate ELL’s. It’s from Oxfam.
Take A Walk is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game from World Vision. Players assume the role of the head of a Rwandan family, and have to make a variety of survival decisions. It would be accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.
“Centre Of The Cell” is a very engaging and accessible interactive simulation about the outbreak of a flu epidemic in London. Users have to make decisions about what actions should be taken to get the outbreak under control. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game — with potential “deadly” consequences.
Klondike: Rush For Gold is an online game from the Virtual Museum of Canada. It’s in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre, and the player puts him/herself in the position of being part of the Gold Rush frantically heading to the Yukon. It’s a nice game, though it’s not animated and has a fair amount of text. However, it should be accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.
The Medieval Game of Life is from the Museum of London. The player takes on the role of someone who lived in the Middle Ages and has to make various decisions along the way.
The Sydenham River is a “choose your own adventure” game about early settlers in Canada. You get the play the part of a couple coming from Europe. The language is fairly simple and is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.
Fairy Tales from Penguin Books (part of its “We Tell Stories” series) seems particularly well-suited to English Language Learners. It’s short, the language is accessible, and the reader actually helps “write” the story.
Niki’s Adventures, I can say with authority, is the only online video game starring a hummingbird. It’s from the Virtual Museum of Canada, and appears to be in the “choose your own adventure” genre. You’re given various options for actions Niki the Hummingbird can take, or responses he (maybe Niki is a she?) can make. It’s a fun language development activity for Early Intermediate English Language Learners.
National Geographic has its well-known Lewis and Clark Adventure, where the reader is a member of the Expedition.
The National Geographic has an equally well-known simulation where you the play the role of an escaped slave on The Underground Railroad.
It’s Your Story is a series of stories designed to teach about the law and abused women.
Against All Odds is an online game created by the United National refugee agency. In it, you play the role of a refugee in various scenarios. It’s probably accessible to high Intermediate English Language Learners.
In The Jamestown Online Adventure, you play the role of an early settler in…Jamestown.
Muck and Brass is a game from the BBC that puts you in the role of a city leader during the Industrial Revolution. You have to make decisions on how to respond to various problems that resulted from industrialization. The English is much more complex, if not arcane, than it has to be, but Intermediate English Language Learners should be able to understand it.
A company called Zap Dramatic creates many excellent “online negotiation games” and “interactive dramas” that use the “choose your own adventure” technique. The games are generally designed to teach negotiation skills. Their games, though, are probably only appropriate for high school students and above. They include:
Gangs, Guns & Knives Awareness has a British bent, and focuses on how young people can stay safe.
Play a “choose your own adventure” game when you pretend to be Thomas Edison. Click on “Inventing”.
Tales Of Twentieth Century London lets the user play the role of a child in….twentieth century London. It’s sort of a “choose your own adventure” interactive, and is quite engaging and well-designed, not to mention accessible to English Language Learners.
Over The Top is an exceptional online game from the Canadian War Museum that puts you in the role of a soldier in the trenches. It’s like a “choose your own adventure” game. It’s particularly accessible to English Language Learners because it provides audio support to the text.
A Dog’s Life is a simple choose your own adventure story from Scholastic. It’s about…a dog.
National Geographic has a simulation you can play called Border Agent Simulation. My initial reaction to the idea was pretty negative, but it appears like they handled it with a fair amount of sensitivity.
Man vs. The Wild is another game from the Discovery Network.
Connect With Haji Kamal is an intriguing game developed for the U.S. Army to help soldiers develop better skills at communicating across cultures.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a dragon, Choice of the Dragon is the game for you. You get to be one — as nice or as mean as you want!
Journey To The End of Coal is a pretty amazing documentary on coal-mining in China that uses a “choose your own adventure” method.
A. Pintura: Art Detective lets you try to identify who was the artist of a painting.
In The Crime Scene Game, players have to solve a crime.
The Lost Lunch Box is sort of a “choose your own adventure” game where players have a variety of choices to make. In the process, players have to answer math, science, and history challenges.
Be a good or bad dragon in Choice of the Dragon.
Mission US is a brand new site that will be providing interactive games to help students learn about United States history. It’s funded by the Corporation For Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment For The Humanities. Right now, it just has a couple of interactives online. It’s main one, For Crown Or Colony, is a very well designed “choose your own adventure” game (you have to register in order to play). The site also has a lot of supporting materials for teachers.
Flight To Freedom is a new game from Mission U.S.
The Curfew Game is from Channel 4 in Great Britain. It’s a “choose your own adventure” game that’s described by its creators as “a large-scale futuristic adventure with a political thriller theme of trust, privacy and liberty.”
Though I’m not sure about recommending the TV show “Breaking Bad” to students, they do have what seems to be an interesting “choose your own adventure” game on their site called “Breaking Bad: The Interrogation.”
Indus Trader is a new “Choose Your Own Adventure” game. It’s part of a new feature on the Indus Valley (which looks good, too, even though the videos aren’t accessible in the United States). The game doesn’t have a separate link, but it’s right on the top of the page.
Hunt for the Noor Stone Game is a “choose your own adventure” game that’s connected with PBS’ film on the comic series with 99 superheroes based on the 99 virtues of Allah.
Westward Trail is very similar to the famous Oregon Trail game. Its major advantage is that it’s actually online and can be easily played.
In Following The Footsteps, you are simulating an escaped slave on the Underground Railroad.
Addy’s Escape to Freedom is an American Girl adventure, also on the Underground Railroad.
It’s My Life is a “choose your own adventure” game from PBS.
Broken Co-Worker is an interesting “Choose Your Own Adventure” game where players are in the role of a bullied worker. It appears to be classroom appropriate, but I did not explore all the alternatives available.
Spent is a “choose your own adventure” type game where you play the role of a very low-income person.
The Cool School Game is a quasi-”Choose Your Own Adventure” series of games designed to help children learn social emotional skills.
Forensic Firsts from the Smithsonian Channel has a game where you need to stop a serial killer. It’s engaging, but probably not appropriate for the very young.
The Smithsonian has a relatively new “Choose Your Own Adventure” interactive where you play the role of a Tuskegee airman escorting bombers on a mission (scroll down to the bottom of the page).
The Washington Post has just used the genre for a very creative Choose Your Own Fiscal Cliff Adventure. You can even share it with friends after you create your own. It’s probably too challenging for most English Language Learners, but it certainly could be used as a model for creating ones that are not just stories.
A class in Ohio has unveiled a “choose your own adventure” game on The Underground Railroad. It looks good, though it appears you have download the Unity Web Player to play it. You can read more about the game in this newspaper article.
Quandary is a neat online game/choose your own adventure story that is can work well as a tool for English language development (see Digital Play for an ELL lesson plan) and/or as a way to deal with ethical questions (the site itself has lot of teaching ideas). You can play as a guest or register.
Breakaway is an online game where players are virtual members of a previously-all boys soccer team react to a girl joining it. The United Nations Population Fund helped create it. Here’s how it’s described:
Breakaway is a free online game intending to reduce violence against women across the globe. Players join a youth football (soccer) team and learn about being a team player on and off the field. They must build their relationships with their teammates between practices and matches, navigating the conflicts that arise when a girl finds a place on the team.
Depression Quest is an interactive text fiction game (or choose your own adventure) where the player plays the part of someone who is suffering from depression. I learned about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.
WRITING “CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE STORIES”:
After students have had an opportunity to try-out some of the stories in the first section, an obvious next step is to have them try writing their own.
Here are the options I know of right now that don’t necessarily put the work on a teacher to put it all together. However, they all have some drawbacks, including potential technical challenges to ELL’s:
The Writing.com site is one choice for having students write more complex Choose Your Own Adventure Stories. You can’t add graphics, and it’s a pretty cluttered site filled with ads, but it does seem pretty simple to use and it’s set-up to write these kinds of stories.
You can make your own stories by using the Quandary software program. Of course, it’s a bit problematic to download software to school computers, and I don’t think (but I may be wrong) you add graphics.
Protagonize is a free online website designed for people to write these kinds of stories. Next month they are adding the ability to create private groups where only those with invitations will be able to contribute writing (right now anyone can). It’s very easy to create the stories. However, there is some content not appropriate for classroom use available on the site. (It’s private group storytelling feature is now operational, and you can read about it at “Protagonize” Unveils Its Long-Awaited Feature (By Me, At Least) For Private Group Storytelling).
Here’s a VoiceThread created by young students as a “Choose Your Own Adventure Story.” I hadn’t really thought of VoiceThread as a tool for that task, but they pulled it off. If I was going to have my students make one, I’d suggest they make the “chapter numbers” bigger and bolder so they could be seen more easily (that comment will make sense if you watch the story).
Here are some instructions from Microsoft on how to use PowerPoint to create “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. It’s not accessible to ELL’s, but teachers can use it as a guide.
Kevin Hodgson has created a brilliant website where he shows how he teaches students to write “choose your own adventure” stories (which he calls “Threaded Adventures”) and provides examples of stories they have written.
That’s nice, but the brilliant part is that he does so in a “choose your own adventure” form!
Here are several links that describe how you can use Google Forms to create a Choose Your Own Adventure story:
Google Forms As A Choose Your Own Adventure Tool is from Bionic Teaching.
Page Navigation In Google Forms is from Google.
Using Google forms for a “Choose your own adventure” style story is by David Wees.
The new free web tool Inklewriter is, without a doubt, the easiest way to write a choose your own adventure story. You can read more about it at Gamasutra, New, free tools allow any novice to make an accessible text adventure.
You can download a simple outline students can use to plan a choose your own adventure story here.
I haven’t really spent much time trying out Hypertextopia, but I do like the fact that it provides a much more visual interface than other tools to create interactive fiction.
PowerPoint – Choose Your Own Adventure provides helpful advice on developing “choose your own adventure” stories.
VIDEO CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURES:
Drop The Weapons is a very intriguing “choose your own adventure” video developed by the London police to discourage people from carrying guns and knives.
Interrogation Room is a “choose your own adventure” interactive where you are questioning a suspect in a police station.
I posted other similar stories here.
The videos themselves are hosted on YouTube, so they’re unlikely to be able to be viewed from schools. But it’s pretty cool, nevertheless.
You can watch a tutorial on how to create these kinds of interactive YouTube videos here.
10 Incredible Interactive YouTube Videos is an impressive collection of “Choose Your Own Adventure” videos from Mashable. Since they’re all hosted at YouTube, and since only a few of them are really geared to any reading, they’re school use is limited. But their creativity might be able to inspire teachers and students who have more access to YouTube than, for example, we do at our district (teachers have access, but not students).
How to Make an Interactive Lesson Using Youtube is an excellent tutorial on how to make a Choose Your Own Adventure video on YouTube. It’s from the Knewton Ed Tech blog.
You can see quite a few other examples of interactive YouTube videos at The Best — And Easiest — Ways To Use YouTube If, Like Us, Only Teachers Have Access To It.
I, and I suspect many other teachers, really like having students read them, but can be intimidated by feeling that having students write them and/or create interactive videos is just too complicated for us to organize and for them to complete it successfully. Happily, I have recently found an excellent short video that shows clearly how easy it is to create one of these kinds of videos online. In addition, and, I think, more importantly, several times in the video they show a super-simple diagram that can be used by just about anybody to write one of these kinds of choose-your-own-adventure stories. The diagram is much clearer than others I’ve seen and used, and is remarkably effective and simple.
Be forewarned, the video itself shows countless unsuccessful attempts at humor, but it’s worth watching til the end:
I don’t think I recommend the Choose Your Own Adventure video discussed in this blog post titled The zombie apocalypse and its role in the ELT classroom, but it does give some excellent ideas on how to use these kinds of videos with English Language Learners.
Flixmaster is a new online video-editing tool (it’s still not open to the public, but I got an invitation pretty quickly after signing-up for one) that lets you easily create interactive videos. It looks like a great way to make a “Choose Your Own Adventure” video that doesn’t necessarily have to be hosted on YouTube.
Lou Lahana has created a very nice tutorial for his students on how to create an online Choose Your Own Adventure game with Google Forms.