Note: A full version of this unit plan will be included in the Unit Plan section of our resources – stay tuned!
Including video games in the classroom can come with a high level of skepticism from parents, fellow teachers, and administrators. However, the inclusion of this form of media is about increasing accessibility and motivation among students. Additionally, one of the best methods for improving students’ learning and understanding is to integrate multimodal texts into our classrooms. Multimodal texts take full advantage of all our senses – visual, auditory, tactile, etc. – to enhance learning and benefit diverse learners, including students with learning or communication differences. Students who may have difficulty reading lengthy passages of text or paying attention for long periods of time, for example, are provided the opportunity to shine and participate in ways they couldn’t before.
While many teachers are beginning to harness the power of graphic novels, streaming series, and films to further their students’ learning, video games have yet to be popularized within educational contexts. Given their incredible potential to foster multimodal learning, it’s time we take the normalized library of texts a step further and include commercial games.
Video games like What Remains of Edith Finch can offer rich stories, dynamic characters, powerful music, and beautiful visuals. But their benefits don’t end there! Games require users’ input, decision-making, and engagement to advance storyworlds. Thanks to a wonderful tool called “compulsion loops”, for example, players are kept engaged and wanting to continuously explore by unlocking various levels and areas. A similar feeling is when you’re reading a book late at night and, before you know it, the sun is rising because you just couldn’t put the book down. But this level of engagement can be difficult to achieve with the books you often find in your school’s book room. As a result, it can be tricky for educators to get students hooked on reading, participating in book-related conversations, and doing work connected to reading. By including new media texts such as video games, however, you can greatly increase your students’ participation and engagement levels, while reinforcing learning for the diverse individuals in your classroom.
So, what would including a game like What Remains of Edith Finch in your curriculum look like?
For this thought exercise, let’s imagine we have a class of Secondary 5 ELA students you see for 75 minutes 2-3 times/week.
This unit will have students work on all three of the QEP ELA competencies:
1. Talk (Uses language/talk to communicate and to learn)
2. Read (Reads and listens to written, spoken, and media texts)
3. Produce (Produces texts for personal and social purposes)
Students will also accomplish the following Learning Objectives throughout this unit:
1. Students will understand and practice their analysis of multimodal texts.
2. Students will produce an artefact and written text showcasing their understanding and analysis of a text.
3. Students will communicate a coherent argument and defense of their artistic choices using supporting evidence from the text.
Before this unit, or as an introduction to this unit, students should have a familiarity with the skills required for this activity. I would highly recommend that teachers spend some time having their students practice analyzing visual media such as graphic novels, TV shows, or movies. This will be a short unit of 1-2 weeks, thus expanding this unit to include other forms of media is highly encouraged!
Teachers will also need access to the technology required for playing What Remains of Edith Finch. This game is available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Windows, and iOS. The cost of this game can range from $9.99 to $24.99. The game can be completed at 100% within 3 hours or less. However, it would be good to dedicate 4-5 hours of class time to allow for in-the-moment discussions, technical issues, and to facilitate opportunities for each student to play the game.
This unit is designed with the intention of playing the game as a class. However, if you can facilitate students playing in small groups on multiple devices, that would be even better! If playing as a whole class, teachers will need to ensure they can connect their chosen system to the Smartboard.
As students begin gameplay and continue throughout the game, they should be given a simple worksheet with a family tree so they can take notes as they meet all the various Finch family members. This can be prepared by the teacher in advance, or can be drawn by students on a piece of paper. A sample family tree taken as a screenshot during gameplay can be seen in the image below.
Students should be introduced to What Remains of Edith Finch by watching a trailer for the game. A class discussion should be had covering some important questions: What do you believe this video game is about? Do you think video games can offer similar learning experiences as books/movies? Why/why not?
Teachers should set clear expectations for their students. Notes should be taken as the game is played on the family tree worksheet. At the end of this unit, students will be given an open book reader response test asking them to reflect on the game. Thus, it should be highly encouraged and emphasized that students need to take excellent notes and fill out the family tree with as many notes as possible.
It should be noted, if a student is absent during any of the gameplay, they can be directed to Youtube to watch a What Remains of Edith Finch longplay video allowing them to catch up.
Students will play the opening of What Remains of Edith Finch up to the end of Molly Finch’s story (approximately 20-30 minutes). Extra time is provided for unexpected issues or slower gameplay as students should be encouraged to explore the game’s environments.
Remainder of class
Teachers should engage students in an introductory reflection discussion looking at the 5 Ws of the game so far: Who, What, Where, When, and Why? Students should make note of any literary devices, patterns, or important elements they’ve seen in the game. Additionally, students should make note of important artefacts for each of the Finch members.
Students should begin playing the game right away. Students should play up to the end of Barbara Finch’s Story.
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Students should continue discussing amongst themselves the 5 Ws of the story so far as well as adding details to the family trees.
Students will participate in a journal writing exercise. Students will be asked to write from the perspective of one of the characters they’ve encountered in the game so far. The prompt for this journal exercise is: What potential conflicts might this character have with another members of the Finch family?
Remainder of class
Students should continue playing the game up to the end of Sam Finch’s story.
Students should be given a worksheet asking them to identify 3 artefacts from the game and to describe why these artefacts are important to the game’s respective characters. Students can work together on this activity, but all students should complete their individual worksheets.
Students will continue playing the game until 5-10 minutes before the end of the class. Students are approaching the end of the game by this point. Students should play up to the end of Milton’s story. If time permits, students can continue playing until they reach Lewis Finch’s room.
Students will be introduced to the major assessment for this unit: Students will be tasked with creating a unique real-life artefact that could belong to one of the characters from Edith Finch (not an artefact already found in the game). The artefact can be text, audio, video, or a piece of art created by the student. Students will be asked to justify their artefact by providing an artist statement of 500 words that clearly connects their artefact with their chosen character from the game. The artist statement will answer the following question: Why should this artefact be included in What Remains of Edith Finch? Students will then present their artefact and their rationale for its inclusion in the game to the class.
Remainder of class
Students should be able to reach the end of the game by this class.
This day can be a flex day for students to complete What Remains of Edith Finch. However, if the class has already completed the game this can be a work period for students to work on their assessments.
Students will be asked to complete a reader response test/reflective paper asking them to reflect on What Remains of Edith Finch. The reader response test can be at the teacher’s discretion. However, I highly recommend having students write a short paper reflecting on the common themes between all the members of the Finch family.
Some potential ideas students could explore are:
- Is the Finch family cursed? Why or why not? Justify your response with evidence from the game.
- Lewis’s story was one of the most vivid stories in the game as it explored his battle with his mental health. Mental health issues are often generational, as evinced by many of the Finch family’s stories. Was mental illness the Finch family’s curse? Justify your response with evidence from the game.
- Did Edith break the family curse or will the cycle continue with her son Christopher Finch? Explain your thinking with evidence from the game.
Students should be asked to include their family tree worksheet and notes with their reader response essay.
Day 8 & 9
After completion of the game, these days can be left for students to complete their artefact projects or for oral presentations.
This unit allows students the opportunity to interact with a unique piece of interactive media that will have them reflecting and analyzing at a similar, if not higher, level than traditional texts. Students will have all their ELA competencies assessed in this unit through a reader response essay and a creative project that has students analyze and reflect on the themes and devices found throughout What Remains of Edith Finch. The idea behind including this game in your curriculum is to engage students in a way a traditional novel may not. Any student who struggles with reading long texts will have the opportunity to practice their analytical and reflection skills in a way that may be more accessible to them.
For Further Consideration
If you like What Remains of Edith Finch and wish to expand your unit even further, the video game The Unfinished Swan is also in the Edith Finch universe. The game explores what happened to Milton Finch, is roughly the same length as Edith Finch, and offers an equally impressive narrative.
Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle would make for an excellent companion text to Edith Finch. I highly recommend this companion text route if your administration is hesitant to allow video games in the classroom.