Some of the first video game adventures that I can vividly recall were around the original, 8-bit Nintendo game system that showcased a mere 5 button controller. The star of this system took center stage in our living room, and ruled for many years after his debut to my brother, sister, and I. We formed a tight bond with Mario, his sidekick Luigi, and fought off his villains like they were our own enemies down the block. The writer, Shiguro Miyamato, created a story line that wove its way into everyone’s homes like Grimm’s fairytales, that stood the test of time. Mario is still reigning in the living rooms of children across America to this day, holding its ground while new platforms emerge and children seem less and less reminiscent of the generation they replaced, Mario threads them together.
When I came across Mario’s suit, at a thrift store outing with my friend and my sister, classroom transformation ideas started buzzing through my mind. I did not have the hat, gloves, or even a lesson to go with it yet, but I knew I had to bring Mario’s world to life in my classroom. I found the hat and gloves as a combo on Amazon. To create the backdrop, I hung blue butcher paper, and cut white butcher paper clouds that I hung from my ceiling tiles using binding clips. Two strips of green butcher paper were all I needed to crate the warping tunnels. (My students have already given me feedback that I need to make tunnels they could really travel through for next year’s version).
I purchased a birthday party kit of decorations and cut off the “Happy Birthday” phrase from the top, and this became the backdrop for the scene of characters that surrounded the QR code responses with rationales for one passage.
To start the challenge, I jumped out in full Mario costume, and shared the tragic news that Princess Peach had been captured, and it was their job to find her. They would only be able to find her by destroying the villains within this world. (I realize the mystery boxes aren’t a villain, so I plan to find another use for them next year). Copying the Benchmark that we had just completed the week prior, students had to find where their thinking had gone wrong, and correct any missteps in their thinking to destroy the villains. In order to protect their dignity, I did not return their actual Benchmarks to them with the answers they had chosen. Rather, their were unmarked passages at each station, and players had to think together to get to the answers. My objective was not for them to all get to the same answers, but to think about their thinking and share their reasoning with each other.
Each passage was housed inside of a large manila envelope with the villain or mystery box that went with the passage. This helped me keep the passages and answers sorted as players made their way through the game.
The flytraps were created by spray painting PVC pipes and three Dollar Tree Trash cans green . The flower of the flytrap was created (thanks Babe) by attaching three red colanders (also from the Dollar Tree) to the PVC pipes using 2 part epoxy. Side Note: These ended up needing some repairs before the transformation had wrapped up, and we added sand to the bottom of the trash cans to stabilize the stems. I velcroed the answers to the passage that went with the Flytrap to the teeth of the plant.
They mystery boxes were just boxes wrapped in yellow butcher paper, and I attached a large question mark to the face of them, which I cut out of white vinyl using my Cricut Die-Cutting machine. Each mystery box had answer keys to the passage that correlated with it, and players got to punch through the boxes to secure the answers. The part they punched through was the open end of the box, which I covered with yellow tissue paper, and taped it closed. They loved punching through the mystery boxes!
When I was reviewing the students Benchmarks, I noticed that a lot of my students had not taken many notes or highlighted as they read. I was hoping to redirect this pattern, and get the idea in their heads that they should leave evidence of their thinking as they read through a passage. This led me to create this prompt by Princess Peach.
I created dozens of Boo Ghosts by filling white trash bags with scraps of Butcher paper, and stuffing them with answer keys to the passage that went with these villains. I will probably hang the ghosts in some fashion, next year.
Bombs set the scene as a villain the students needed to destroy by blowing up black balloons, which held answer keys inside of them, and affixing two vinyl ovals about 3″ in length to the front of the balloons to create the eyes of the bombs. Using cardstock, I cut out a heart shape to create feet for the bombs, which I adhered to the balloons with double-sided tape. This also served to keep the bombs from rolling about “Mario’s World”.
The “game” took place across two days, and students were on point the whole time. I had to redirect behavior twice across two days THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS BREAK! This had to have been my most successful classroom transformation to date. I sought feedback from my students at the end of the lesson, and they provided dozens of ideas for next year that I CANNOT wait to implement. In addition to their suggestions, I already decided I needed to end the game as Princess Peach, herself, so I have added to my many costumes!
Come Back Next Year for more adventures in Mario’s World!