A Little Adventure Never Killed Nobody

When I was a kid, I remember reading a series of books called The Lone Wolf Series. These books had me hooked. as it is written in second person, placing you, the reader, in the role of protagonist Lone Wolf himself. This wasn’t your normal book. This was Dungeons and Dragons (for the old school gamers out there), meets Zelda. Nerdy? Maybe… But it drew me in. What hooked me was the constant opportunity to make my own choices, each one changing the overall course/direction the story would take, and ultimately, the final outcome of the book. It was a game interwoven in the contextualization of a novel. Imagery? Check. Characterization? You bet. A dignified plot? Of course- and one that spanned a whopping 28 books to boot.

Unfortunately, and much to my dismay, the Lone Wolf Series ceased publication and went out of print in 1998. Word is that they may be bringing back the series to the digital format for tablets (how cool will this be?)… only time will tell.
The series offered a lot to the imagination. It didn’t feel at all like a book- it was a game. As the reader, your character grew over the course of the series (characterization much?), as his abilities enhanced and you, as the reader and character, had to keep track of items you found, people you met, and the choices your inquisitive soul made. Every action had a reaction, dropping you further into the world (vast setting) of the story.
With this in mind, I wanted my students to take part, and hopefully appreciate, these type of texts in much the same way I did. Not only this, but I wanted an assignment that would hit on a number of the Common Core Standards as well as incorporated ed-tech. Here are the standards that this would accomplish:
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
During my unit on American Gothic Literature and Edgar Allan Poe I decided to give this assignment a try. I began talking about this type of novel in class, why I liked them as a child, and showed examples to my students, including the Lone Wolf Series. For the rest of the class period my students picked one of the examples, and read/played the novel individually or in pairs. Prior to the end of the class period, my students evaluated ( I love evaluations) the novel on a number of things including: Accuracy, Plot/storyline, Characterization, and fun, using a Google Form.
The next day I dropped it on them. To be fair, most of my students already anticipated it, since they “know how I work” and had a feeling this was to come. I explained the assignment; that they would be creating their own ‘Choose Your Own Adventure” story, with a horror twist, using Google Forms. Students have to utilize the same horror conventions of writing that made Poe such an intriguing and suspenseful writer. If your curious about how to create these, here is the document I gave to my students as I walked them through the process using Google Forms.
I actually had my students storyboard and create an outline (attached to the document above) before creating the actual story in Google Forms. This also had students follow the writing process… but they didn’t know this. My students really enjoyed this assignment. They ate it up! The more creative… the better. Students got creative: a zombie post-apocalypse (ala Walking Dead), vampires, etc. They embedded images that helped to encompass the reader. Some even went as far as to find youtube video clips and embed them into the form that they felt placed the reader in a similar environment.
On the final day students shared their “Adventure Stories” with eachother, read/played them, and then evaluated (see, I really do like evaluations) the stories on a similar form from above: Accuracy, Plot/Storyline, Characterization, Horror Conventions, and Fun. I saw some of my students’ best work during this assignment. Not only did they enjoy it, but it brought a part of my childhood back to me.
~ Nick

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