Beowulf, Lego & Dark Echo

A couple of months ago, I came across an app called Dark Echo on the Apple Appstore. In this post, I want to share some of the processes towards generating descriptive writing, using Beowulf, Lego and the game, ‘Dark Echo’.  First of all, here’s the trailer for it, as well as a short demonstration so you understand what it’s like in-game. Be warned though! It’s rather creepy in parts.

Game Trailer: 

Level Walkthrough Examples: 

‘Trapped in darkness, you must use sound to guide your way through threatening environments. The sounds you create will bounce off obstacles, revealing the shape of the surrounding world. It won’t be long before your only way of sensing the world attracts a horrifying evil that devours both sound and souls.’

‘Survive through 80 levels that will make your heart race and leave you with an irrational fear of red lines. A foreboding soundscape, best experienced with headphones, sets the tone for your journey. Explore, solve puzzles, and most importantly – stay alive.’ morpurgo-_beowulf

Let me explain where I started with all this, and I will come back to Dark Echo in a moment… At the time, I was teaching my class about the Anglo-Saxons and introduced them to the poem ‘Beowulf’. For our class read, I ordered Michael Morpurgo’s version, which they were completely transfixed by — especially part one: the story of Grendel and Beowulf. After seeing Mat Sullivan’s excellent resource of using Lego for developing locational writing and pathetic fallacy, I decided to concentrate on using an emphasis on colour for conveying emotions, such as they do in Disney and Pixar. (Ironically, the class loved discussing this!) I began by asking the class to list down some emotions, based on such colours from some film stills, later adding to their word banks and word books.  Pathetic fallacy – what is it?

Pathetic fallacy is an effective technique used to make locations in writing come alive, and it’s a lot simpler to do than it sounds! Mat Sullivan (@inspiredmind5)

He’s right — it really is, and it’s such an effective technique which I love using in story writing, poetry, generating suspense and in this case, descriptive writing.

Download Mat’s ‘Developing High-Level Writing Skills’ here:

Through the use of Lego, Mat took this a step further. Not only have you got the hook straight away, but a perfect opportunity to stimulate rich vocabulary, characters and settings. Here’s an example of one of his scenes from last year.    Importantly, at the start of year five, my class weren’t that familiar with making a location a character, and, like the character in a story, you’d expect it to develop, as well as react and respond to surrounding influences.  Another thing they struggled with was the appropriate choice of vocabulary. Still, I ensure this is a key part of most lessons and registration time when they arrive (or have time). Using this approach, we turned our concentration towards our own Beowulf model – a dramatic scene that portrays the moment that Beowulf walks into Heorot to find the aftermath of Grendal’s complete obliteration of the Great Mead Hall.

I showed them this:    We focused upon the colours, grey, brown and red, generating adjectives that we then used thesauruses and online thesauruses to improve, but ensuring they were appropriate and, well, worked. As a shared write, they came up with this with some help from me:       You can see some of their writing here, on LendMeYourLiteracy and on our class blog.

How we used the app ‘Dark Echo’:

Just by chance, I came across this app and was hooked straight away. It’s original and fairly simple too. Through the use of certain senses, you must find your way out of each chamber-like room. Only by changes in sound and colour, can you figure out what the terrain is like or what may be lurking around the corner. Perfect for developing tension in writing.  My class loved it and were totally engrossed. Naturally, because of our links to colour from Mat’s Lego prompts, the pupils knew we needed to generate some effective vocabulary. This time though, I wanted to create some tension and onset dilemma in their writing. Be warned though – DE is rather scary the further you progress, so choose the scenes carefully if using in class.

Some suggestions: 

– Ask the learners to close their eyes and listen. What can they hear? Where are they?

– Concentrate on the colours red, black, white and blue. Generate adjectives for emotions, or maybe nouns that link to these, but this time, instead of using these for pathetic fallacy and personification, you could apply to the character’s feelings and emotions.

For example:

RED –  horrified, fearful, agitated, nervous, intimidated, frantic, petrified…

BLACK – lonely, isolated, abandoned, alone, deserted, entrapped…

For the colour WHITE, you could put emphasis on verbs; actions that the character or person is doing in this place, as mirrored when dragging your finger, leading you out of danger and hopefully into safety.

Jasmine’s first draft:   I gave this group some choice exciting sentences and they really tried hard. One of their aims was to vary sentence openers and they are also practising maintaining ‘tense’ – something they often find hard to do.

– As they are playing the game, pause and write down how they feel at particular moments 😮 – Use thesauruses to improve word choice. 📒

– Create an internal monologue of the character. 👤

– From a chosen scene, create a narrative for what happens next📝

– Use Comic Life to organise screen shots for remembering story sequence📲

– Create a recount of the ordeal😱

– Make a film trailer for their story based on their Dark Echo experience📺

– Create an emotions graph📈

– Sequence the ordeal by freeze-framing 🎢

I hope you’ve found some of what I’ve used in class useful and interesting.

Thanks to some fantastic resources from Mat @Inspiredmind5 and @alanpeat.

Enjoy, but remember… watch out for those red lines. 👀

Download the game here:

Download Mat’s Lego Locational Writing PDF here: