As you may already know, I'm a teacher. I teacher a grade 4/5/6 split of 23 (female) students. It is unusual, but we make it work. We are in an open concept area that has 4 classes; which has kinda spoiled us, since we are 25 (including teachers) in 4 rooms. One room is ours, one is for French, one is our daily physical activity room, with a t.v. and wii, and the last is unused right now.
We have started the tradition of class parties being centred around gaming. For our holiday party we had three gaming areas: the DPA room was for students wanting to play wii, the main classroom was for students wanting to game on -teacher approved- gaming websites, and the French room was reserved for Minecraft*. We celebrated in the afternoon after we exchanged our library books -reading over the holidays is important after all I felt very much like a kindergarten teacher, asking each student where they were planning to start their gaming. Students were free to move between areas as they wanted, but since there was a cap on the amount of students who could play Minecraft, (I only have 9 accounts) I wanted to make sure we didn't have an issues straight off.
My principal stopped by in the middle of our gaming party and was pretty stunned to see how focused all the students were at there areas. In the last hours of school, before a break, one seldom expects to see a class not bouncing off the walls. From someone looking in it looked like a very relaxed, boring, class party, but my students loved it. I wish I had taken pictures of how they organized themselves in each area because they were are slightly different. In the wii area, the girls made a semi circle around the ones who's turn it was to handle the controller, and they all participated together; they even kept the volume down to a respectful level. There was only one conflict and it was resolved amicably before I could even get there. The Minecraft group sat together around one of the French room tables to help each other, and random game players lounged on the carpet area of the main classroom in a group, where they could still talk to each other. A couple of students choose to play apart from the large groups, but they would go in and out, maintaining some social interaction. I occasionally wandered the different areas to check in, but the Minecraft area needed the most attention since they were all n00bs.
I found it really interesting to see and hear students at the different areas. On a whole they didn't get very loud, even at the wii Just Dance area. The girls were are very focused on what they were playing, and most of the talk was centred around the task they were doing. Sure I had a couple of girls who got a bit silly, but on the whole, it was pretty amazing to see the focused determination that they had while playing. And if you asked any one of the students, they would tell you they had a great time. I wish I could see them that focused and engaged in everything we do.
The first gaming party we had was to celebrate Halloween, and I wasn't sure how it would go over, but I now see that this will probably be the pattern of every class party for the rest of the year. I love it, not just because need for classroom management was very low, but also because whether they knew it or not, they were actually learning and practicing many skills too. From communication and problem solving skills, to dance, to Mathematics skills, they were all doing something I could at least make an anecdotal comment on, and if I had thought about it, I might have been able to create a simple skills checklist to see if they apply skills taught in class while playing. But it was a party, so I was more concerned about playing with my students than assessing them. Maybe next time.
*At our first gaming party there was a board game centre as well but there was no interest in tabletop gaming this time.