Portable Wordplay Final Report

March 1, 2012

This project supported the conceptualization, design, development and field-testing of two digital games and related curricular materials for middle grade classrooms. These materials were designed to support the growth of students' knowledge of multiple meaning, high frequency academic vocabulary. The goal of this project was to demonstrate how digital games can create opportunities for students who are struggling academically to interact as peers with their higher-achieving classmates, while all students are building and refining building core literacy skills.

The games and related classroom activities were developed and piloted through an iterative process, in collaboration with our development partner, 1st Playable. A field test of these materials focused on testing:

  1. The feasibility of the implementation model,
  2. Students' ability to engage with the core pedagogical goals of the games,
  3. Teachers' ability to lead and build on students' game play, and
  4. The impact of game play on several measures related to academic word knowledge and student attitudes about language and reading.
  5. The field test involved five teachers and approximately 300 seventh grade students in three middle schools. Findings from the field test are very positive, including enthusiastic responses from teachers and students, robust student engagement with the core tasks of the games, success in game play for students with a very wide range of academic and literacy achievement, and a positive impact on student familiarity with the target words.

    This project achieved its goals, and has produced high-quality games and related curricular materials that we are now expanding and refining through grant funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenges, Wave 2. This project benefited from a sustained period of conceptual design and development, a close and successful collaboration with our development partner, 1st Playable, and enthusiastic and dedicated support from our teacher-collaborators in schools in New York and California. We look forward to building on this project through additional development efforts and new lines of research into innovative approaches to supporting and assessing middle-grade students' academic word knowledge.


Cornelia Brunner
Jay Bachhuber
Katherine Culp
Jeffrey Nelson