Updated: Mar 23
Maybe it is the start of a new school year, or perhaps you are about to introduce a new subject. Are you interested in spicing up your learning environment by increasing engagement? You have heard about using Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) as a learning tool, and it seems like it could be interesting ….. but where do you start? Well, “a journey of a thousand miles” right! You begin with Step #1 / Lesson #1.
This blog post is the first in a series of lessons that provides parents and teachers with upper elementary lesson plans that support specific learning objects within the context of D&D gaming. Should we start with Math, English, Social Studies or Science? I am a dual-certified teacher in Pennsylvania - elementary school and middle school math - and I am most comfortable teaching math. But let’s save math for a later blog post and start with a worthy long-term project: writing. Such a critical skill and like all skills, it can be learned through practice. Writing should be explicitly taught.
The challenge for many parents and teachers is not knowing how to create lesson plans from the gaming experience. I am here to help you with that aspect of D&D. From prewriting and drafting to revising and editing, the goal of this particular lesson is to help students develop the skills and habits associated with the writing process. No matter what age group you are dealing, this lesson’s format will be the same. Future posts will show you how to use D&D to support a variety of content areas including Math, Science, History, Philosophy and English.
Lesson Plan #1: Writing to Learn, Learning to Write
Lesson Objective: Before the game is started or at least really gets going, have player-students write a one-page rough draft of a background description.
Allow your player-students the choice to write a description of either the background of the location of the D&D story or the character they will use in-game. Ultimately as the teacher/storyteller, to motivate you will use aspects of the player’s written work to shape the story.
Warm-Up: Ask your player-students to imagine a “magic item” and to write for 5 minutes about that magic item. What is it? What does it look like? What does it do? The last time the item was used, what happened?
1) Introduce the Story. The students will influence the final Story so just a basic “start.” (2-3 minutes maximum).
In the introduction, you need to keep the story beginning simple and exciting! No need to define any geopolitical elements as your players will help create, shape, and define the story themselves throughout their experience. Start simple. “A local wealthy family is hiring you to help find a missing chef who disappeared a week ago. The chef went to an old abandoned inn to search for a missing important mysterious cookbook.” (I love food …. What can I say…. start however you like…but keep it simple. This first scenario will be used as a learning experience for the game so that the player/students can learn the game procedures, expectations and goals).
Your “Entire Story” outline for the above:
a) Get the Task/Mission
b) Travel to the abandoned inn
c) Search the inn & fight the battles
d) Report your results, get reward
2) You model your own written page. Talk about how you wrote parameters for a character creation (prewriting). Show a rough draft of a D&D character background you created. (Have an example of the location background handy as well.) Together, go through the ways to revise and then edit (10 minutes).
3) Together create your own new written page. Spend time in the prewriting stage. Get your player-students to get in the habit of jotting down bullet points or even creating an outline!?! (Helpful through college!) Create a typical Beginning, Middle, End quick draft. (10-20 minutes)
4) Have your player-students write. Write, write, write and then write just a bit more. DO NOT interrupt any writing to correct spelling, grammar, or handwriting. (30-40 minutes)
Check that your player-students have completed the Rough Draft. Provide positive feedback and supportive suggestions! If a student finishes early: Have your student create a drawing of their character or a map that goes along with their writing. (5 minutes)
Revising, Editing, and possibly Publishing.
Good luck with your D&D learning adventures, and feel free to comment below on how your experience with Lesson Plan #1 went. This blog follows "Dungeons and Dragons in School?!?" Next Up: Math :-)
Great links to check out:
Paul Lazrow (he / him)
Founder and Storyteller
Starmarlin, 14 Half-Elf Warlock (player art)