Do you reckon you could get by in the US as a single parent on USD1000 a month? In Spent, the developers have used elements common to “social” games such as Mafia Wars and FarmVille to help raise awareness of inequality, homelessness, and poverty in the richest country in the world.
Besides raising students’ awareness of economic, social and political issues, Spent is rich in language input and opportunities for meaningful collaboration, communication and problem solving. As in other simulation games, such as Climate Challenge, each decision students make has an impact on what happens in the game.
I haven’t used Spent yet, but this would be an ideal accompaniment to a coursebook unit on jobs and money, or to the acclaimed BC Hong Kong S5I/U materials based on Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days: Minimum Wage. Suggestions include:
- students predict the kinds of problems people might have living on such a tight budget
- students predict the cost of things like school lunches, car tax and petrol
- students brainstorm and pre-learn in-game vocabulary, e.g. pay check, insurance, fees – and tick them off on a list when they appear in the game
- students check their predictions from the pre-game stage
- students use functional phrases and first conditional/modal structures to collaborate and decide what to do, e.g. If we don’t pay our car tax, we might lose our car
- students explain what they did, what happened to them, and why, using the past simple
- students compare their final outcome with other students
- students reflect on their choices using the third conditional/modal perfect
- students discuss the issues in the game and reflect on whether a game is the best medium for exploring social and political problems
If students play the game at home, they can connect to Facebook and interact with friends in English.
I’d be interested to hear your and your students’ feedback on Spent, as well as any other suggestions for integrating it into the ELT classroom.