Updated: Aug 12
Can you imagine a classroom where when students walk in, sheets separate the room into different, imaginary places? Where students are entering a world or era that they are now a part of?
Bare with me non-English teachers with this example, but, can you imagine recreating Stratford Upon Avon in the classroom? Students are now physically walking the streets of where Shakespeare himself grew up. Each student has been given a character with a background, an income, and basic profile information- they get to BE this person- transported through time to imagine life as a person who is from the time of Shakespeare?!
If you want to know whether I believe LARPing (or Live Action Role Playing) would be an option in the classroom, the answer is YES! I wholeheartedly support this idea!
What You Need to LARP in the Classroom or Outdoors on Campus:
Set Ground Rules
While LARPing is doable, teachers need to carefully lay the ground rules to ensure no one gets out of control, and that no one gets hurt. You need rules for combat (if combat is a part of the world your students will enter.) Here are basic rules of combat while LARPing to give you an idea of how to create a safe environment.
If your classroom isn’t the right size do some research- find the space needed. Go outside- find a field or courtyard where room is plentiful. Utilize the cafeteria, auditorium, or gym. Combat or no, have rules and expectations for student behavior and performance in the activity.
Create Basic Character Sheets
Students need to know who they are in the world you’ve recreated in order to interact with it. You can either assign them character sheets or allow them time prior to beginning to choose who they want to be. Ensure that the characters reflect the time and place students are entering into.
For historical pieces, students need a name, gender, age, occupation, background, and an income. The purpose of having them be in character throughout the activity is to truly engage them and make them think about how someone from this place and time would act and react to a variety of situations, places, and people. It gives them a deeper understanding than if they took a passive role in the world.
Create the Setting
Wherever your LARPing adventure takes place, you need to have photos for visuals, signs, and props that give the students a feeling of actually being in the place and time you have designed.
Sheets make great walls, clothes lines and pins are you friend. Maybe you know someone who is a historical reenactor that can help you in creating the setting, and possibly let you borrow some authentic props. That is something you will need… props and materials students can interact with.
This adds to the realism of the setting and helps students to better role play and immerse themselves into the activity. Students can even make the props earlier in the unit that you display and interact with during the Larping session.
Materials that can help your LARPing experience!
Create Activities: They will get a grade
Throughout your setting, each place should have tasks and events for students to collaborate with one another and complete either independently or in teams. Some stores may need a scribe or someone to deliver information.
Maybe you have a sign outside of the sheriff’s office asking to help them solve a crime. Some tasks will send them on a sort of scavenger hunt, while others may have clues to help them unlock a box. each activity teaches them something you want them to know.
The Larping lesson is like an escape room or scavenger hunt on steroids. As students complete various tasks they come to you and show you what they’ve done and you mark down their grades. Depending on time constraints, you may want to tell students they have to complete a specific amount of activities to earn their “A”, and anything above that is extra points. My personal tip, give them a role playing grade. Be sure to walk around, watch and listen to how each student is interacting with the world.
Collaborate within Your Department
If more than one teacher is on board, they can help you with the setup and break down of your student LARPing event. Teachers can be active NPCs (Non-Player Characters); they can own shops, play the sheriff, be townsfolk in need of help… Having an NPC addition to your LARPing event will enhance the setting and realism.
These teachers can take names of students who’ve come to their area and write a percentage of the task these students completed on a designated sheet categorized by teacher name. This way, multiple classes can participate, and teachers will get their class sheets back at the end of the day to give their students a grade. If everyone in your department is in the same location, then each classroom can then become a place with one or more activities assigned to that classroom.
Students are given their character sheets in their classroom and released to start the LARP at the designated time agreed upon by all of the teachers involved. Each classroom would have a sign, letting students know what place they are entering, and the whole event is inside AND in a large space.
Once, you have all of these things in place you can reuse it again and again. The initial work is a lot (my advice- set it up over a summer) After that, you’ll be having a blast with your students every year. This could turn into a department tradition!