Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cut the Rope...for Higher Level Language!

Several 'game' style apps can be excellent for higher level language, verbal reasoning, and answering how/why questions when used selectively (short amounts at the end of a session) and appropriately.  Games that involve logic, such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, can have great therapeutic value...not in the gaming sense, but in the use of critical thinking skills.
For the majority of the session, I target other higher level language goals, such as identifying main ideas in stories and making predictions/inferences, etc.  We might listen to a story, which is followed by comprehension questions.  The students often do not realize that therapy isn't ending with that activity!

Cut the Rope:  ($1.99)
I begin by starting the app, which starts with a door bell ringing and a mysterious package arriving.  I ask, "What do you think is inside?" The students make their predictions. Of course, it's a cute little alien, but I say, "look at that frog!"  Most students will tell me it is NOT a frog.  "Why isn't it a frog? Why do you think it's an alien?" The alien of course wants to eat candy, which we also discuss..."Why would an alien want candy?"  We also talk about the directions and strategy behind the game.  Essentially, you need to cut a variety of ropes to allow the candy to fall in his mouth. I use this game with a partner (either another student or myself).  We take turns cutting ropes...so it takes teamwork to finish a level. Prior to starting, we discuss our strategy and plan. As you progress through the levels, there are additional tricks...the candy can shoot out of a stocking or fly upwards in a bubble.  These are great opportunities to discuss cause/effect...the bubble causes the candy to float upward, the stocking causes the candy to 'teleport'.  I alway make sure to make some mistakes...which can lead to great discussions about positive comments to team members!
What about social skills?
I have also used this game as a follow-up to a social skills activity.  The student must use 'whole body listening'.  I point to a rope and the student will indicate with head nods yes/no (if that is the rope that I should cut).  We then switch roles and the student points while I nod my head yes/no. We also use this game for coordinating actions...you can cut 2 ropes at one time, so we practice trying both ropes.

There is a wide array of games similar to Cut the Rope.  Angry Birds, priced at $4.99, is one of the most popular games in the app market and can be used in the same manner as Cut the Rope.  Each bird has a different function and appearance, which can be used to target comparing/contrasting, identifying functions, and explaining how each bird should be used and why. The other great value in using these games as a supplement is that the students are often very eager to explain how to play these games to peers and family.
**Again, these games are used for a very minimal amount of time and as a conclusion to a more structured therapy lesson.  I always explain their value, what goals we were targeting, and the extent of their use.

P.S. Angry Birds is also available in Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio!  Angry Birds Rio ($2.99) has some fun differences:  monkeys instead of pigs (as the enemies), different settings/scenes, and a different plot (trying to free their Rio friends).  I like the scenes in all of the Angry Birds...great opportunity for talking about 'setting', vocabulary (dessert, warehouse, etc), and comparing/contrasting.

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