Marshall professor uses role playing games as teaching aid

A Marshall University professor is using elements from traditional role-playing games to spice up classics.
Professor Del Chrol runs an RPG session with his special topics classics and entry-level Latin classes.
Students battle pirates by correctly translating sentences into Latin with “Classcraft.” Students also influence the votes of classmates by playing the role of a historic character from Rome or Athens with “Reacting to the Past.”
Chrol said he always wanted to add external constraints that could add fun to his classes. He said these constraints provide motivation to the student who is not motivated by traditional teaching methods.
“I am a big fan of artificial constraints and incentives because life is so big that I support ways of finding structure,” Chrol said. “When you have nothing but time on your hands, it’s hard to get anything done, but if you have work or classes, they often times help you get other things done because you have time frames.”
Hannah Bradford, a student who participates in both of Chrol’s games, said they help her understand the material in each class.
“I really like [“Classcraft”] because it forces you to team up with people in the class,” Bradford said. “I know the Latin material better than if I had been studying on my own.  [“Reacting to the Past”] is a way to see how ancient society worked and to immerse yourself in that culture and better know the material.”

I am a big fan of artificial constraints and incentives because life is so big that I support ways of finding structure.

— Professor Del Chrol

Bradford said she has never played an RPG, but she is getting into the games thanks to her drama background.
Chrol said his reacting game challenges students to play out roles by giving speeches, writing poems and composing songs all in character.
Someone’s character will be chosen to preside over the sessions, and Chrol will grade the students’ contributions.
“Reacting to the Past” was honored in 2004 with the Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation.
Chrol said he plans to make “Classcraft” a permanent part of his Latin 101 class, but the special topics class for reacting may be offered every three semesters.
Chrol said this is the first semester “Classcraft” and “The Reacting Game” have been used at Marshall.
Patrick Breeden can be reached at [email protected].