Project Members

Natonya Huggins, Melissa McDonald, Dan Menase, and Anthony Pellicone

Games are increasingly pervasive in today’s society. A large portion of modern children play games, and there has been a consistent effort over the past 20 years or so to integrate gaming and education (Lenhart et al., 2008; Klopfer, Osterweil & Salen, 2009). The idea is that kids like games, kids don’t like school, but maybe in combining the two you can transfer the fun of gaming in to the fun of learning. However, this isn’t easy (Cuban, Kirkpatrick & Peck, 2001). Challenges to this effort can best be summed up with the phrase ‘chocolate broccoli’. Imagine that you wanted to get your child to eat broccoli, which they hate, so you poured chocolate on it. Suddenly the chocolate is gross because it’s covering broccoli, and the broccoli has lost any nutrition value it may have had. The same thing can happen to educational games, sometimes called edutainment. The games themselves aren’t much fun, and the content that they impart to students isn’t of much worth, since it’s not terribly different from showing them flash cards or some other more direct method of skill and drill education. This approach to educational gaming is often called the ‘instructionist’ approach, since it uses games as a tool for instruction (Papert, 1998; Ito, 2006).

Another idea is that games are themselves effective learning environments (Gee, 2007). In fact, the very reason that digital games are so much fun for kids is that they provide an entertaining and streamlined learning environment. The act of getting better at a game until you master it has been called ‘the fun of learning’ (Koster, 2004). Apart from that, games offer children an opportunity to construct meaning for themselves. A game very rarely gives you a 30 minute lecture and then quizzes you on it – instead you learn by doing, create an unique character, and have a chance to fail with few consequences as you steadily master the skills that the game requires of you. This approach to educational gaming is often called the ‘constructivist’ approach (Lainema, 2008). In recent years, the widescale failure of the edutainment industry, and a desire to innovate in education, has lead to a serious game revolution, where game designers and educators are trying to make learning games have the same appeal as the latest, greatest, 3D shoot-em-up that your kids are probably playing in their free time (Charsky, 2010). However, these games too have their problems. It’s tough to design a good game, it’s tough to design a good classroom experience, and doing both at the same time is very challenging indeed. Strides are being made to designing good games for learning, but these can often be time consuming to integrate effectively, and conflict ideologically with school systems where the standardized test is king, and performance is often tied to meeting the goals of common core (Ke, 2010).

There is, however, a third way that games can be used in the classroom. What exactly goes into making a good game? Teamwork, for sure, since it’s rare that one designer is a coder, an artist, a game expert, and a writer. The ability to condense a lot information too, since a modern game is a complicated simulation, and getting the basics of this simulation to match reality is often a necessary step in creating a best seller. Systematic thinking is also necessary – it’s important to see your game as a system that has rules which need to be fun and compelling for your player (Shaffer, Squire, Halverson & Gee, 2005). All of these skills situate making games perfectly for the school library, where teaching these skills is vital (AASL, 2007). In essence, creating a game takes something that your kids are already interested in, and provides them a framework to use all of the skills you’ve taught them to create a product. This idea, where learning is best accomplished by actually making something in real life, is called the ‘constructionist’ approach (Kafai, 2006).

This is the approach that we’ll be using in this curriculum design.
Constructionist game based teaching isn’t without its challenges. One of the main challenges is that digital games take a lot of technical skill to produce. Therefore, our curriculum is based around designing a board game, which allows any student to make a product without having a lot of technical experience

The Topic and Standards

Common Core Standards

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6–12

Key Ideas and Details
1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
3. Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

Craft and Structure:
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
5. Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts,graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
8. Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
9. Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

AASL Standards

1.1.1 Follow an inquiry based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real world connection for using this process in own life.
1.1.8 Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within the learning community.

2.1.5 Collaborate with others to exchange ideas, develop new understandings, make decisions, and solve problems.

3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and
understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.

4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.

The Setting and Context
What kind of school library is this? Camelot Middle School is an early school which means the school day begins with breakfast at 7:30 AM, and all students must be in their classes by 7:45 AM. At 1:55 PM, the dismissal process begins and students will have cleared the building by 2:10 PM.. The majority of the students arrive by bus and the rest are defined as other means of transportation (car rider, walker). This information is valuable when the whole child is taken into consideration. For example, students who arrive late and miss breakfast are at a disadvantage. These students could have a problem focusing and offer very little cooperation in terms of independent or group work. Likewise you may have students who are chronically late and they come in for the last ten minutes of the class. It is these obstacles that will cause the librarian/teacher to stagger the lessons.

Camelot's mission statement is: Camelot Middle School will create a healthy and dynamic learning environment comprised of students, staff, parents, and the community, that will collaborate to provide all students with academic and technological skills through enriching learning experiences in order to help them grow into successful college and career ready members of the 21st century global community. Stakeholders will focus on the total development of every student, allowing for a diversity of learning styles.

"We are committed to excellence."

What Kind of Students are these?
There are 389 students currently enrolled at Camelot Middle School and of that number:

A. 45% of the students qualify for Free and Reduced lunches.

B. 85% of the students are African American

C. 5% of the students are listed as having two or more races

D. 5% of the students are listed as coming from Spanish speaking home.

E. 4% of the students are listed as Asian

F. 1% of the students are listed as European

Most of the students who attend Camelot Middle School come from a single parent (female) home or the grandparents have custody of them. A great many of the students display emotional problems and a high level of defiance towards those with authority. Even though many struggle with their reading levels they deeply resent having to sit and endure a lectured lesson. These students enjoy movement and hands-on learning activities.

Will you be teaching this yourself, or working with a teacher? What are the challenges of either scenario?
This lesson was born out of the teacher’s realization that the textbook contained only two pages of information concerning the Civil War. Despite the fact the students have been exposed to information concerning the key figures, States’ rights, economic factors which also included the issue of slavery, the teacher does not feel the students have had an opportunity to explore the topic in detail. Thus, a request was made by the teacher to the school librarian to provide additional learning pathways for the students.

The school librarian will be working with the teacher to follow up on previous lessons given in the classroom.

A potential problem would be that the school librarian has to determine the students’ current level of understanding concerning the Civil War. As teachers/instructors, we can easily say that we taught something, but to what degree? Here lies another problem for the librarian to try to understand what depth did the teacher cover the information. And allow for the fact that a review/re-teaching must be done in order for the students to complete the learning activities.

Are there scheduling challenges that affect how you plan the lessons, and when the classes will occur? Do the scheduling challenges affect when and how you will plan with other teachers?
Typically this unit is taught between January and February which would place this unit in the middle of the MSA push. It is often a standard rule that if a lesson is not directly related to MSA then you better not do it or be prepared to justify how it could help with MSA. Otherwise the better known interruptions like award assemblies, field trips, back-to-back classes and principal called meetings could force the librarian to extend the total number of needed classes. The classes will occur every other day during the school week.

The ability to plan with the teachers is challenging under that best circumstances.The issue of when to plan with a teacher is doable, however, it is how we plan together that could be problematic. For example, if the school librarian and teacher share the same goals for the students to have obtained by the end of the lessons, no problem. Not so simple if the teacher has a level of expectation that is not shared by the school librarian then this could cause a problem.

What are the technology skills of the students and the teachers? How do you plan to work around these considerations?

Our students have a mixture of technology skills. Most students do not have free access to the computer in the home, and get most of their access from the school and public libraries. Search skills are limited in general, and students often search by typing in natural language queries. The tech skills of the teachers vary, given the wide range of backgrounds that the school attracts. Each classroom has at least one computer in it, but it’s up to the teacher how they will use it.

The general low technology literacy level of our students means that we will need to provide scaffolding to teach valuable search strategies, which is part of the reason that we are using game design to teach this lesson. Students will also be broken up by reading level, and groups that need more help with the activity can be targeted by the media specialist and the social studies teacher throughout the lesson. Throughout the process we will model both the research aspect and the game design aspect for the students, and make ourselves available to answer questions. The teacher that we are working with is fairly tech savvy, so that won’t likely be a problem for this lesson, however in future lessons with less able teachers we would be able to divide the work by having them focus on something they’re more comfortable with, like print resources, while we focus on computer resources

What are the level of resources that you have? Number of computers? Internet access? Mobile devices? etc etc. How does the level of technology access you have link to how you're implementing your lessons?

The media center has six lab computers. These computers are all fairly current machines, with Internet access, and full access to the school databases. We also have a Smartboard, which we can use for the lecture and group discussion portions of our lesson plan.

Since we have six computers it makes sense to break up the class so that each group has full access to one computer. We can’t guarantee one computer per child, so instead we will mix in print resources and organize the students to work as teams to make the best possible use of our limited resources.

Because of the media center’s limited budget:
Subscription databases will be supplemented by free online databases and websites.
Print resources will be supplemented by utilizing the local public library to borrow additional titles for students to use in their research.

What kind of policy challenges will you face? Are certain sites blocked? Will certain projects (for example social media projects) pose professional/ethical concerns? How will you get around these?

Our school has a firewall that blocks most sites categorized as entertainment. It will be useful for the media specialist to sit down at a school computer and try various search strategies to see how this might interfere with the information that the students will gather. Any sites that we are using as demonstrations will also have to be checked and then cleared with the school IT department if they are blocked by the firewall. It might also be useful to coordinate with the social studies teacher to see if there are any sites that she recommends, and to make sure that those sites are accessible come class time.

Since this is MSA time in the school year we need to make sure that we can justify our curriculum to the administration. This means that we should be ready to tie our lesson to established standards for both the social studies classroom and the media center, which we will detail in our lesson plans.

What about technology failures (i.e. a site is down, a computer is offline etc.). How will you plan for these possibilities?

We will have a great number of sites organized into the livebinder pathfinder, and we will check these sites both for compatibility with the school’s firewall, and just for general availability the night before class. By having a lot of sites we are building redundancy in to the lesson plan, and ensuring backups in case one site goes down. If a computer is down come class time, since students are collecting information in stations, we can rotate the groups through the other available computers to make sure that every group gets equal computer time. Also, by using the print resources available, we make sure that at least SOME information is available if technology fails, or if a group has an especially hard time with computer based research.

The Materials and Technology You Will Need
Subscription Online resources:
Britannica Student Edition -
Britannica ImageQuest -
Annals of American History -
SIRS Discoverer -
SIRS Decades -

Civil War Research @ Minnesota History Center:
Civil War Wiki:
Digital History:
Discovery Education Streaming:
History Channel
LiveBinders for Pathfinder:
Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War:
National Archives:
Voices of the Civil War:

Teacher Resources:
Notetaking PowerPoints:

Popplet for group brainstorming

Print resources:
  • Who Was Abraham Lincoln? by Janet Pascal
  • DK Biography: Abraham Lincoln by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Abraham Lincoln by James M. McPherson
  • The Civil War for Kids: a History with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert
  • Fields of Fury: The American Civil Warby James M McPherson
  • If You Lived at the TIme of the Civil War by Kay Moore & Anni Matsick
  • Eyewitness Civil War ( DK Eyewitness Books) by John E. Stanchak
  • Civil War Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes by David C. King and Cheryl Kirk Noll
  • A Nation Torn: The Story of how the Civil War Began by Delia Ray
  • The Emancipation Proclamation by David & Patricia Armentrout
  • You Wouldn’t Want to be a Nurse During the American Civil War! by Kathyryn Senior
  • John Brown: One Man Against Slavery by Gwen Everett
  • The Civil War Series by James R. Arnold and Roberta Wiener
    • Divided in Two: The Road to Civil War, 1861
    • On to Richmond: The Civil War in the East, 1861-1862
    • River to Victory: The Civil War in the West, 1861-1863
    • Life Goes On: The Civil War at Home, 1861-1865
    • This Unhappy Country: The Turn of the Civil War, 1863
    • Lost Cause; The End of the Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillence Balloons, Ironclads, High-Powered Weapons and more to Win the War by Thomas B.Allen and Roger MacBride Allen

Worksheets and Handouts:
Venn diagram template - to compare and contrast the six topics
Note taking sheet
Collection of Resources (bibliography)
Game design template
Grading rubrics

Board Games:
Chutes & Ladders
Candy Land
Wheel of Fortune
Meeting of the Minds
Impulse Control Challenge
Sequence Board Game

Materials to Create the Games:
5 packs of dice from the dollar store
5 100 packs of index cards
poster board
cardboard boxes/cereal boxes/paper towel rolls
construction paper
index cards
plastic Army figures
Civil War images from ImageQuest

The Implementation and Assignments

Each class session will be 60 minutes long. The main product will be the board game at the end of the class series, but students will be working in groups, creating capture sheets with notes from their search process, Venn diagrams to compare ideas, producing rough drafts of their games, and filling out evaluations for other teams. These items will be evaluated by the instructors and used to provide guidance for the students, and will factor in to the final grade of the project.

Each lesson is designed to lead in to the next, and to prepare students for the next session's goals. Modeling through group discussion and instructor lead presentations will help students understand the product that they are creating.


Lesson #1
Students will analyze primary and secondary sources and complete activities in order to refine and extend their knowledge of the American Civil War.

Objective: Students will learn to analyze information and take good notes on capture sheets provided.

Worksheets and Handouts: , ,

5 Minutes, Warm-up:
Students will work in cooperative groups and brainstorm a list of facts they already know about the Civil War to share later.

10 Minutes, Introduction and Developmental Activities:
Prior to the class visit to the library, the classroom teacher will assign the students into cooperative groups of 3-5 students that have been balanced by reading level. The library media specialist will prepare all handouts and create research stations within the school library media center. These research stations will consist of computers with access to online subscription databases, computers with access to the Civil War Pathfinder (available here), and a third area with a variety of print resources. Capture sheets and pencils will be available for students on which to take their notes.

1. Using the ideas from the warm up, the media specialist will solicit information from the groups and with the students help, and using Popplet ( , begin to create a class Popple.
2. The library media specialist and the classroom teacher will discuss with the students the objective for the activity
3. The library media specialist will review the differences between primary and secondary sources with the students.
4. The library media specialist will instruct the students that they will work independently and cooperatively to gather information from non-fiction books, websites, maps, and literature using graphic organizers. The media specialist will explain the gathered information will be used to help the students create their board game.
5. The library media specialist will share with the students the following PowerPoints about good notetaking:

6.The library media specialist will instruct students and model how to complete the note sheet and Venn Diagram, and show where to find each station.
7. The media specialist and the classroom teacher will assist each group as they visit the stations. All stations will have both a print and an online set of resources from which to choose. A note capture sheet and a Venn Diagram will be available for students to collect notes and analyze their research information.

Station 1: Maps and Battles of the Civil War - Students will work in group of 3-5 to analyze the data and create a table that shows the names of the states the Civil War battles were fought in, and the number of battles in each state.
Station 2: Slavery in the United States - Students will work in group of 3-5 to analyze slavery and slaves’ rights in South with free blacks’ rights in North
Station 3: Compare and Contrast: States Rights - Student will work in group of 3-5 to analyze how the rights of Confederate states differ from Union states.
Station 4: Compare and Contrast: Causes of the War - Students will work in group of 3-5 to analyze how the North vs South view the causes of the war
Station 5: Compare and Contrast: Culture & Society: Students will work in group of 3-5 to analyze society and culture in both Union and Confederate states.
Station 6: Key Figures in the Civil War - Students will work in group of 3-5 to review and analyze the key figures in the Civil War

45 minutes for stations.

Lesson #2

Objective: Students will continue to evaluate and synthesize information in their learning sessions in order to add more details to their constructed tables, Venn Diagrams, and organized notes.

5 minutes, Warm -up: Each group shares an interesting fact that they had not previously learned

10 minutes, Review note taking PowerPoints and answer any questions from students.

Notetaking PowerPoints:

45 minutes, Continue working on research and create Venn Diagram from notes.

Lesson #3
Objective: Students will review all work completed and finish all notetaking assignments in order to begin the process of transforming “written work” into the game creation mode.

5 minutes, Warm -up: Each group shares interesting fact that that had not
previously learned about the Civil War and and answer any questions

40 minutes, Continue working on research and create Venn Diagram from notes.

15 minutes, Play board games for inspiration.

Lesson #4
Objective: Students will begin to create their board games by completing a rough draft template.
Worksheets and handouts: ,

10 Minutes, Warm-Up discussion: What is your favorite board game? What is the objective of that game? How do you play? Put the design template up on the smart board, and as a class go over the components of a game that is familiar to the students. This will provide a model for the upcoming group work session. (10 minutes)

45 Minutes, Group Work: Groups will be provided with a template that has several key areas for them to fill in. This will assist with the creation of the game by providing a basic structure for key game elements. The media center specialist will explain that there are four roles for each group, and the first step is for the groups to figure out who will be doing what. The five roles are...

Layout Wizard (1-2 students) Requirements:
-Designing the spaces on the board; determining how players advance
Art Wizard (1-2 students) Requirements:
Writing the title on the game; drawing or pasting relevant Civil War icons, symbols, etc; coloring the board appropriately.
Rule Wizard (1 student) Requirement:
Determining the rules of the game. Writing them out clearly & making sure the game has a clear objective and purpose in order to win.
Q&A Wizard (1 student) Requirement:
Incorporating the groups’ 25 questions and answers into the game

The template will contain a place for the title of the game, for the number of players, for a mock-up of what the board will look like, for the materials that will be required for the game, for an outline of the rules of the game.

This product will be collected at the end of the class session, and the media specialist will provide feedback on this and hand it back in the next session.

5 Minutes, Class Activity: After the templates have been collected, the class will reconvene and have an informal discussion about the design process (remainder of class time). This will also cover an overview of what will be taking place in the next class session.

Lesson #5
Objective: Students will begin creating their games based on instructor’s feedback from their rough drafts.

Materials Provided: Each group will receive 1 piece of poster board. 1 pack of index cards. 1 Pack of magic markers. 1 Ruler. Pens and pencils. 3 Glue sticks. 4 six sided dice. 1 pair of scissors. Any materials not available through the school can be purchased inexpensively at a dollar store.

Media Specialist: “I’ve read through each of your templates and I’m very impressed with your creativity. I wrote some comments and questions about your games. Before you start creating your board games, I want you all to read my feedback and consider any changes you might want to make.”

Students will then have the remainder of the class time to work on their projects.

At the end of this lesson students will hand in their final products which will be stored in the school library.

Lesson #6
Objectives: Play the games that they have created, as well as provide time for reflection on the process of creating a game.

Worksheets and Handouts:,

5 Minutes, Students will have discuss the games that they have created.

45 Minutes, Students will set up their board games at stations, and each group will advance through the stations playing the games that their peers have designed. At the end of each station period the media specialist will call time, and groups will collaboratively write a brief evaluation of the game that they have played.

At the end of the sessions students will hand in their evaluation sheets. The media specialist will assign points based on completion, and these evaluation will be handed back to the creators of the games.

5 Minutes, Class will end with a reflective discussion on the experience of designing a board game.

References used in constructing this lesson:

Our Collected Online Resources:

Civil War Game Project:

Nassakeag Elementary School 5th Grade Civil War Project:


Print Resources:

Allen, Thomas B., and Allen, Roger MacBride. (2009). Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillence Balloons, Ironclads, High-Powered Weapons and more to Win the War. Washington, DC: National Geographic

Armentrout, David and Patricia. (2005). The Emancipation Proclamation. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Publishing.

Arnold, James R. and Wiener, Roberta.(2002). Divided in Two: The Road to Civil War, 1861. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Arnold, J. R. and Wiener, R.(2002). On to Richmond: The Civil War in the East, 1861-1862. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Arnold, J. R. and Wiener, R. (2002). River to Victory: The Civil War in the West, 1861-1863. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Arnold, J. R. and Wiener, R. (2002). Life Goes On: The Civil War at Home, 1861-1865. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Arnold, J. R. and Wiener, R. (2002). This Unhappy Country: The Turn of the Civil War, 1863. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Arnold, J. R. and Wiener, R. (2002). Lost Cause: The End of the Civil War, 1861-1865. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company.

Everett, Gwen.(1993) John Brown: One Man Against Slavery. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.

King, David C.,and Noll, Cheryl Kirk . (1999). Civil War Days: Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass

Herbert, Janis.(1994) The Civil War for Kids: a History with 21 Activities. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

McPherson, James M.(2009). Abraham Lincoln New York: Oxford University Press USA.

McPherson, James M. (2002). Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. New York:Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Moore, Kay, & Matsick, Anni. (1994) If You Lived at the TIme of the Civil War. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks

Pascal, Janet (2008). Who Was Abraham Lincoln? New York: Grosset & Dunlap

Ray, Delia. (1990). A Nation Torn: The Story of How the Civil War Began. New York: Lodestar Books.

Senior, Kathryn. ( 2010). You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Nurse During the American Civil War! New York: Franklin Watts.

Stanchak, John E.(2000). Eyewitness Civil War ( DK Eyewitness Books). London: DK Children.

Stone, Tanya Lee. (2005). DK Biography: Abraham Lincoln. London: DK Children.

Works Cited:
AASL. (2007). 21st century learners. Chicago, IL: American Association of School Libraries.

Charsky, D. (2010). From edutainment to serious games: a Change in the use of game characteristics. Games and Culture, 5(2), 177–198. doi:10.1177/1555412009354727

Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813–834. doi:10.3102/00028312038004813

Gee, J. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ito, M. (2006). Engineering play: Children’s software and the cultural politics of edutainment. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 27(2), 139–160. doi:10.1080/01596300600676003

Kafai, Y. B. (2006). Playing and Making Games for Learning: Instructionist and Constructionist Perspectives for Game Studies. Games and Culture, 1(1), 36–40. doi:10.1177/1555412005281767

Ke, F. (2008). A qualitative meta-analysis of computer games as learning tools. In R. E. Ferdig (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education (pp. 1 – 32). IGI Global. Retrieved from

Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., & Salen, K. (2009). Moving learning games forward. Cambridge, MA: The Education Arcade.

Koster, R. (2004). A theory of fun for game design. Paraglyph Press.

Lainema, T. (2008). Perspective making: Constructivism as a meaning-making structure for simulation gaming. Simulation & Gaming, 40(1), 48–67. doi:10.1177/1046878107308074

Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Rankin Macgill, A., Evans, C., & Vitak, J. (2008). Teens, video games, and civics. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew Research Center.

Retrieved from

Papert, S. (1998). Does easy do it? Game Developer Magazine, June. Retrieved from

Shaffer, D., Squire, K., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. (2005). Video games and the future of learning// (Working Paper). Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research.