Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling

5 Days of Video-Game Learning series: Video games that teach reading, writing and spelling skills

The adults in our family do all of our work – and most of our recreation – via laptop and phone.

My 80-year-old mom keeps up with friends and reading via her iPad.

While we don’t have the latest and greatest video-game systems, technology and especially gaming are a huge part of our lives. Is it any surprise that they’re a major part of our teenage daughter’s homeschooling experience as well?

We’re not just talking the standard “educational games” here. We firmly believe learning happens all the time, and we’ve had chances to discuss all sorts of concepts in popular games like the Assassin’s Creed series, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and more. We also believe in the value of apps for learning, in a traditional educational sense and beyond.

That’s why I took part in the iHomeschool Network’s “5 days of…” Hopscotch series with a look at 5 days of video-game learning.

Today, we’re talking about the ways some of our favorite video games have improved Ashar’s writing and spelling skills (not to mention her reading!)

Video games for reading, writing and spelling

When I sat down to write this post, I asked Ashar what video games she plays that she thinks involve the most reading or writing. An interesting thing happened – as she was giving me her list, she mixed in things like crosswords and other “traditional” games, not really distinguishing between “video games” and “not video games.”

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That really interested me – and kind of solidified an idea that I had going into this series and couldn’t quite put my finger on.

My thought is that the division between “video games” and other stuff is pretty artificial. I mentioned in the introduction to this series that it really bothers me to hear people set different time limits for “educational video games” versus “regular video games. And I think this gets to why – the medium is not the message. If Ashar is reading about pet care, the location (on a screen in Pet Vet, or in a book by National Geographic) is just the medium. She’s doing the work – and the message is still there!

With that in mind, here are the games we came up with that dealt most heavily with these language-arts-type skills.

  • Wheel of Fortune – Ashar plays this on her 3DS, and we’d love to have it for the Wii as well so we can play together! It’s helped her word-building and recognition skills immensely (as has watching the show) – she now understands how words are put together, and that picking random letters isn’t as useful as critically thinking about what combinations make the most sense. It sounds strange, maybe, but that was a skill she’d lacked. She never was able to sight-read words because she just didn’t know how to “guess” what made sense in context, and I think Wheel of Fortune has helped her start to see letters as part of words and words as part of phrases. (As a side note – she loves to play Jeopardy, too, and when I asked her, “Well, don’t you have to spell the answers right in that?” she told me that it’s multiple-choice – and that she wishes it wasn’t! Who knew?!)
  • Moshi Monsters – I mentioned when we talked about games that promote social skills that Ashar loves leaving notes for her friends (and getting them in return) in this web-based game. She quickly found out that she gets better notes in response when her messages are understandable, and she loves receiving messages with new words! The best example there? When she asked me, “What is SALUTATIONS?” Now she leaves “salutations” for all her friends. Influencing the world with one word of greeting. Or… something!
  • Pet Vet series – This was far and away the “reading” winner (in addition to being a key math game in an earlier part of this post series) – and in fact, as we talked about it, Ashar decided she wanted to play right now and sat down beside me to treat some animal diseases as I finished this post. She’s now deciphering words like “cornifications” and “antifungal.” All of the game interactions are text-based as well as visual and aural, which makes it great for a variety of types of learners, and playable (though not very easy) for even struggling readers.

The rest of the series

Sunday: Why “All my kids want to do is play video games!” isn’t such a bad thing (introduction)
Monday: Virtual friends, virtual art: Video games for social skills and creativity
Tuesday: Digital currency: Video games for math
Today: Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling
Thursday: Bringing the past to life: Video games for history and geography
Friday: Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

You can read all the posts here!

More five-day fun

This post is part of the iHomeschool network’s January 2013 “5 days of…” Hopscotch series.

You can see how some of my fellow bloggers are spending their five days here.

We’re sharing everything from tips and tricks for getting out of debt to using posterboard in your homeschool, from catapults to eating whole foods.

We sure are an eclectic group – I hope you’ll check out more!

And if you’re into the things we do in our family homeschool, check out my previous “5 days of…” series, 5 days of real-world math.

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6 thoughts on “Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling

  1. When both of my girls had a DS (Raven decided to sell hers later) they enjoyed the chat feature – they would chat to each other on their DS’s and that gave Denna a lot of practice with spelling and language!

    • That is one thing we haven’t figured out all the way yet, but Sarah wants to! She chats on her phone a lot and that has been amazing for her grammar and spelling. (So has Instagram… I kept telling her, “people will heart your pictures if they understand what it is!”)

  2. I just found your blog through Blog, She Wrote and I realize this is an old post, but still wanted to comment. My 7 yr old plays Roblox with my 11 yr old and some friends and cousins and that has really motivated him in reading and writing because he wants to be able to participate in the discussion going on in the game. Learning reading and writing while gaming has been way less stressful than fighting over reading a book or doing a spelling/writing program. He’s invested in learning as opposed to sitting by passively doing a lesson wondering when it will be over so he can get back to doing what he wants.

    On a different note, I have an 11 yr old son on the spectrum (aspegers/pdd-nos depending on who you talk to) and we’ve been hs’ ing for a couple of years now. I go back and forth between a curriculum and no formal curriculum (unschooling /project-based). This year we’re doing charlotte mason based curriculum because I freaked out and worried he wasn’t getting enough and often his projects centered around video games and was that enough, etc., etc. Anyway, he’s not taking to this new curriculum as I had hoped. My point is, reading your plans has given me new resolve that it’s not always about the subject matter, but the process of learning.

    • Oh, I’m so glad to hear that – and I totally get where you’re coming from; I have my “freak-out” moments too. But over time – and that’s the part I struggle with – the day-to-day gaming and what looks like “fun stuff” turns into a process that I can’t miss. But I have to remind myself to look at the process too! 🙂 Cheering you guys on.

  3. I absolutely love your entire blog! I can relate to everything you have written. I was searching google for information on working from home & homeschooling and found you. I was not planning on homeschooling but God had other plans…what initially was very dissapointing to me -that my kids were not going to have the same school experiences I enjoyed as a kid- ended up being the best situation that could be! Don’t get me wrong, some days are hard but I would not trade it! Thank you for all the time and effort you put into this blog, sharing your story.

    • Dee, I’m sorry I’m late saying so, but I just wanted to thank you so much for your kind words. I am so glad you found us and so glad it has been helpful to hear about our journey! I hope you’ll stay in touch… sending good thoughts your way!

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