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Gamebooks, sometimes informally called Choose You Own Adventure (CYOA) stories due to the popular series, allow readers to interact with stories by letting them guide the storyline through their choices. For example, you could be reading about an alien who is getting away onto his spaceship. From here, you could decide to either pursue the alien or let him escape. Either choice has its own set of consequences, and can alter the rest of the story line.
These stories are often considered motivating, and can lead readers to read a story multiple times to explore different possible storylines and endings. Traditionally, writing these stories and printing them could be complicated; luckily, several web tools have made this process a lot easier. Some of these tools include ChooseYourStory, CYOCYOA, inklewriter, and Twine. Each of these tools has its own pros and cons.
One idea for language learning is to design gamebooks in your students’ target language. There could be several reasons for this, such as to teach targeted vocabulary, illustrate culture, promote extensive reading, etc. If you chose to, you could follow up with students to make sure they completed the story by having them give a summary of it. You could also have them read the story again while making different choices, and then report the impact that their choices had on the outcome. Just as an example regarding culture, you could have a story about meeting natives from the target country. In one main version of the story, the student could be rude or less than sensitive to the natives; in the other version the student could be understanding and interculturally competent. These two main storylines could then be used to illustrate the effects of your actions during study abroad.
The remainder of this blog post will explore the web tool Twine a little more in depth. This tool can be downloaded onto Mac or PC computers, and presents a very straightforward interface for designing gamebooks.
Here is a screenshot of Twine, during the story-making process:
As you can see, you can enter the story that you want within boxes, and create links within the boxes to sequential boxes. Arrows let you know where the story is going, and if you have any broken links. Specific instructions about using Twine can be found in the Twine and Twee site documentation, or the blog here is also helpful.
I created an html file out of this Twine CYOA story, which you can read here to see how everything comes together.
Also, note that if you are creating a story using Twine for a right-to-left language such as Hebrew or Arabic, you can use html tags within the story to view these scripts properly (ex.<code><HTML><p DIR=”RTL” align=”right”>האיש ההוא!!!</p></HTML></code>, leaving out the code tags)
This tool can be very easy at a certain level, but complicated on another level, so definitely look up additional helps if needed. As you may have guessed, you can also use Twine to create games if you have the technical know-how. Let me know if you have any comments or questions!
One possible way to learn more of a foreign language or culture is to listen to songs in that target language. Some language teachers play songs in classrooms with accompanying lyrics; this is also a great idea for personal language study. This blog post will present one tool for setting lyrics to display with music, for those who use iTunes. This tool, called Cover Version, is a plug-in for iTunes that can display song lyrics during song play using the iTunes visualizer. Here is a screenshot of the tool in action (you can click on the image to enlarge it):
This is a song in Hebrew that I own in iTunes, and this tool allows me to play the song and view the lyrics simultaneously (note that this picture is customized to my settings—you can also display the cover art with the lyrics, change the font, etc). I will go over the steps required to use this plug-in:
Now just hit “OK” to add the lyrics, and that is it! Now whenever you play this song, you can open the visualizer by either going to View > Show Visualizer or using a shortcut on your keyboard (command + T for Mac, or control + T for PC). Remember that you can change the preferences for how these lyrics are displayed in the visualizer. Instructions on changing these preferences can be found on the Cover Version download site.
This is just one way to display lyrics during song play, so that they are easily viewable from your computer or an overhead projector. Do you know of any other such tools, perhaps with different strengths? Do you know of any such tools with karaoke-like functionality? If so, comment below!