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After the Storm
Pros: Well-structured activities feature lots of practice and opportunities for skill development.
Cons: Could be more accessible to students with learning difficulties.
Bottom Line: An excellent way to target practice with most middle schoolers.
There are tons of resources on the website to go with After the Storm, and that's a good place to look first. There's also a unified version of three, similar games called Read to Lead, which includes After the Storm. Teachers can check the objectives of each episode, then teach the concept before assigning the episode (it works best to allow a class to complete an entire episode in one sitting). Because of the nature of the topic, there are also some great extension activities teachers could conduct, encouraging students to think about an emergency plan for their own community, check to see if such a plan exists, and create their own for themselves, their schools, or their families.
After the Storm is an ELA, point-and-click game where students take on the role of editor of the local newspaper following a devastating storm. It's part of the Read to Lead series along with Community in Crisis and Vital Signs. It's your job to manage the paper, and that means talking to reporters, assigning stories, combing social media for reliable stories, talking to locals, and finally writing and editing stories for the paper. Along the way, you'll have to take notes on important details to include in your final story, decide which stories are reliable, and determine which information has no place in your paper.
After the Storm does several things really well. There are tons of things for kids to do, whether you're writing an article, updating your résumé, or deciding which social media tweets best serve a blog post. Students will also feel engaged with the interactive game style -- there's just enough agency and choice in the activities that it really does feel like a game and not a conversation you happen to be reading. And the nature of the game makes it very difficult to skim through, forcing deeper engagement with the process.
The game includes activities that address a variety of skills, from proofreading to résumé creation to digital presentations, and it handles them all effectively, if not with a lot of depth. To make sure students really engage with these big ideas and hone these skills, teachers will need to offer good context and find ways to make the game fit in with other classroom activities. Luckily, the site that accompanies the website has a lot of good suggestions. Take a look at the game and then at the site: This is a neat simulation to help kids get engaged with several key ELA skills.