Nurturing Narrative: Games and Literacy

Using Immersive Games to Enhance Literacy

I was recently talking to our speech therapist about a project I was involved with in 2011. This was with Tim Ryland who has sadly passed away. The Nurturing narrative event was held in partnership with the Kent CAT (Communication and Assistive Technology Team). I looked it up to find that the website ( was now down. Fortunately, I retrieved this blog from a web cache. I hope no one objects to me posting it but working with Tim did have a profound effect on my practice. The Nurturing Narrative project is still relevant today. Maybe even more so with the prolific use of devices and gamification in education.

Games as Immersive Learning Environments

There are many modern games and apps that exist in a similar Niche to Myst. Tim used Myst not as a game but as an immersive environment for pupils to explore. This would bring out their imagination and was a way to unlock interest and vocabulary outside of traditional speech and language/literacy techniques.

Whilst Myst itself is now unavailable a new VR version is due to be released soon. However other games such as the Museum/discovery mode of Assassin’s Creed could also work. If you have the game it is accessed from the main menu.

Myst gamification nurturing narrative literacy cover
The Original Myst cover

Here are some ways games can be used as immersive learning environments:

  • Roleplaying/Simulation – Games that allow students to take on roles and simulate real-world scenarios can help them learn by experiencing situations firsthand. This could include historical, scientific or career simulations.
  • Problem-Solving – Many games present players with challenges they must solve through critical thinking, research, trial and error. This trains important skills while feeling like an engaging activity. Puzzle, strategy and construction games work well.
  • Narrative/Storytelling – Games with compelling storylines immerse students in fictional worlds. As they interact with characters and progress the plot, they explore themes and time periods in an engaging format.
  • Collaboration – Multiplayer and team-based games encourage cooperation, communication and sharing of ideas to achieve common goals. This fosters social and soft skills such as turn taking.
  • Feedback Loops – Games provide frequent feedback to guide players’ progress by responding to their actions. This trial-and-error approach facilitates experimentation and learning from mistakes.
  • Visual/Spatial Learning – Games that incorporate virtual environments, objects to manipulate or spatial puzzles appeal to visual and spatial learning styles.
  • Connected Concepts – Some games weave together concepts from multiple subjects, allowing reinforcing connections between topics in an integrated way.

The key is selecting games with explicit, scaffolded learning goals that provide interactive, engaging experiences for students to practice and apply knowledge. With guidance, games can be highly effective immersive learning tools.

The original Tim Ryland blog on Nurturing Narrative

Day two of the “Nurturing Narrative Event” here in Kent. Today, we had the joy of working alongside staff, and students, from Stone Bay School,  Broadstairs, Kent.

ICT to Inspire Tim Rylands
The Original Art from Tim’s Blog

And… Wow! What a superb experience! The Kent SEN ICT crew, are a remarkable bunch. In the run up to this event, we have had a lot of Skype calls and “virtual meetings” to build resources, support materials, and some delightful tactile stimuli, such as plants, magnifying globes, and even a balloon containing a mysterious fish like creature. These really added to the buzz of communication in the room. 

Joe White, a teacher at Stone Bay School, recorded his thoughts on the nurturing narrative day:

The most striking aspect of the morning sessions was witnessing the engagement of the students increase within the first 10 minutes. From slouched and surly in one or two cases, to leaning forward, participating and demonstrating their ideas. It was clear that the focus of the students moved from the screen to their own ideas and a need to show, and state, what their thoughts and ideas were.

Joe White (2011)

The students didn’t seem concerned about the unusual setting, or busy room, filled with strange faces. They saw the image on the screen and seemed interested. It had not been explained to them what would be occurring in the sessions. This meant they weren’t under the pressure of living up to an expectation. They weren’t aware of what they were supposed to be achieving and nothing was asked of them above being in the room.

Autism Myst Literacy

I don’t know if this gave the session a different atmosphere to a “lesson” but no negative behaviours were shown, the students were focused on either Tim or the screen from the start. Despite the distractions of cameras and flashes the student’s focus was totally on the front, whether that was their peers or Tim using “the rat” (wireless mouse) and discussing their thoughts.

Working Together To Enhance Communication

It is inspiring to see how the students and staff worked together to get the ideas recorded in a variety of mediums. I believe all the students would have been motivated to stay for even longer and develop their ideas further. There was barely a quiet moment before a response was either coaxed by or more often thrown into the centre.

The students benefited greatly from the open forum style of the session which allowed any comment to be relevant and taken aboard. At times the students were prompting each other and feeding off each other’s ideas. This boosted their confidence to put forward their own ideas in whatever context this was. Some felt compelled to stand up and touch the board others shouted ideas out, but there was not one student who remained silent for the session.

Thank you to The TEAM for the past two days! This has been Nurturing Narrative a project to enhance literacy and communication in a special needs school.

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