Sean Fay Wolfe is a freshman English major at the University of Rhode Island, which is not news-worthy unless you consider the fact that he is also already a published author.
Wolfe is like a lot of us here at LearningWorks for Kids; he loves and is inspired by video games, especially Minecraft. You might think playing Minecraft and creative writing are in totally separate worlds, but Wolfe found the open gamescape to be a great setting for a story. His first fan fiction story, The Elementia Chronicles: Quest for Justice was picked up by publisher HarperCollins as part one of a trilogy of young adult books. Still a student himself, Wolfe has captured national media attention and been invited to speak at schools and events.
For many students, writing can be a real drag. Kids tend to be especially bored by academic writing, because assignments tend to be argumentative and informative rather than creative and exploratory. Though the former are important writing skills to learn, kids tend to be far more engaged when they are writing about their own interests.
The good news is that regardless of all the pressures teachers face — between standardized test prep, grading, and student growth objectives, among others — many of them find ways to assign creative writing projects or integrate creative challenges into technical writing assignments. We here at LearningWorks for Kids were inspired by Sean Fay Wolfe and came up with a few ideas for writing prompts inspired by video games and other forms of digital entertainment.
Flash Fiction Have your students write short stories using elements of a favorite video game. Whether it’s the setting (as with Wolfe’s Minecraft books), or a character like Sonic the Hedgehog, kids will have to think about what life would be like in that game or from a character’s point of view.
Back Story Journaling is not only great for metacognition, it’s also a more casual assignment that’s good for kids who need writing practice but have trouble turning off their inner critic. Writing journal entries from a fictional character’s perspective can also help with the social aspect of self-awareness. How does Luigi feel about playing second fiddle to his brother Mario? What’s it like to be a creeper in Minecraft? Does Princess Peach get sick of needing to be rescued all the time? Why are Angry Birds so angry?
Zoom In For argumentative or persuasive pieces, allow students to pick topics they are interested in. They can then conduct research and synthesize information about something in which they’re already invested, be it Minecraft, LEGO or professional wrestling.
Quest to Convince Have students write persuasive letters to their parents or teachers arguing for something they want (i.e. less homework, more screen time, etc.). This is great rhetoric practice, as they will need to think about tone, audience, and even their medium. Challenge them to negotiate with deals like, “for 30 more minutes of screen time on the weekends, I’ll start washing the dishes after dinner every night.”
It may be that one of the most inspiring writing prompts is to share Sean Fay Wolfe’s story and background with your students. Seeing examples of creative kids who write about a game they all know about (and probably play) is cool enough, but his success can also inspire. Connecting writing assignments to subjects kids relate to and care about can bring their pencils to the paper and fingers to the keyboard willingly, and make them more likely to write in their own free time in the future.
Featured image: Flickr user virtusincertus