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Karen Dikson
BY Karen Dikson

How to Gamify Writing for Children with Special Needs

Writing essays, short stories, and other kinds of content is a necessary aspect of education. Your child has to learn how to express opinions in writing. This is a process that requires tons of patience and persistence from both sides. Your child will be bored, and you’ll be nervous when you don’t see fast progress. If your child has special needs that make things like language processing and organization of thoughts challenging, it can be even harder to raise enthusiasm for hitting the pencil and paper or keyboard.

Is there a way to make this process easier for both the parent and the child? Well, if you’ve been exploring trends in education, you may have come across the buzzword gamification. What it means for you is that you can take something that highly motivates your child — video games — and use it to liven up something that’s difficult and frustrating for your child — in this case, writing.

The goal is to make the task challenging in a good way. You want your child to have fun while achieving important milestones. With gamification, you can capture and hold the child’s interest.

Gamification of Writing: How to Do It

Let’s think for a moment. What elements does a video game have?

• Visual appeal
• Challenges
• Levels
• Badges and achievements
• Immediate feedback
• Fun

When you incorporate some of these elements into a lesson, you’re gamifying the learning process. Fortunately, gamifying writing is easier than you might think. I’ll give you some strategies that have worked for me and my students, and I hope you’ll benefit from them, too.

Set Some Guidelines

Every game has rules. Of course, your child can and should participate in the creation of the design. Ask your young writer: What do you want to write about? What inspired you today? Was it something you saw or an idea you had?

Take that inspiration as the foundation of your game. If, for example, the highlight of your child’s day was watching a cartoon, you can set a goal: write a story for a new episode.

A goal is a good start, but it’s not enough. You need levels, too. The draft will be level one. From there, your child will progress through the next levels: introduction, body, conclusion, and editing/proofreading.

Badges give a feeling of accomplishment and inspire your child to keep going. You can make your own badges — although of course, you should inspire your kid to design them.

Don’t think about negative points as a punishment for a mistake. As in all video games, your child should get second and third chances. It’s okay to fail in a challenge. The point is to keep trying. That’s what makes one a better writer: practice.

Give Instant Feedback

In a game setting, players always know how they are doing. When they make a mistake, they see it. The writing process should work in a similar manner. When your child makes a grammar or spelling mistake, make it visible. Take your child back to that sentence, so he or she can improve it before keeping on with playing the game.

Play a Little Every Day

Why are video games so addictive? When you start playing one, you think about it all day, and you can’t wait to spend some time with it again. It would be great to achieve that effect with gamified writing, wouldn’t it?

If you listen to kids and design a game they like, they will definitely want to play it. Then, you can think of new levels and new challenges every day.

Don’t force your child to do this. You don’t want to turn it into a proper lecture. Remember: it’s just a game, so put limits to it. Play a little every day, so your child won’t get bored.

What About the Visual Aspect? There Are Tools for That

What’s a video game without characters and visuals? There are two ways to implement this feature into the writing process:

• Inspire your child to draw the characters of the story, or
• Use online tools with impressive design.

If you decide to explore online tools, here are two you can try:

Habitica

This is a habit-building app. It’s attractive for all ages. The characters, rewards, and punishments keep you focused on developing a beneficial habit. You’ll set a goal to write a bit every day, and the app will help you track the progress. Your kid will love the characters that make life look like a game.

Written? Kitten!

Set a word count goal, and this tool will show a cute kitten when your kid reaches it. For cat lovers, that may be even better than a badge!


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Karen Dikson

Written on July 21, 2017 by:

Karen Dikson is a tech-savvy teacher and consultant at academic writing service Bestessays.com.au. Her works have been published on HuffPost and other educational resources. She enjoys helping her students achieve their most ambitious goals. Follow Karen on Twitter.
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