Category Archives: Games

GoNoodle Plus

I usually post about free resources, but I thought I would make an exception today.  The GoNoodle basic account is free, but all of the schools in our county just received access to the Plus version due to a generous grant.  To be honest, I had never even looked at the Plus version before now.

For those of you who haven’t tried GoNoodle, it’s a great site for promoting movement (also known as brain breaks) during the school day.  A free membership allows you to create classes and gives you access to a huge supply of videos that range from silly to exhausting.  It’s been a popular activity for the last few years in my Kinder, 1st, and 2nd GT classes.

The Plus version of GoNoodle cost $99 per year.  I was perfectly happy with the free version, but I am definitely enjoying the added features in Plus.  The biggest benefit is the option to customize several of the videos to fit your curriculum.

For example, the Mega Math Marathon will help your students practice grade level math fluency as they run in place.  Bodyspell allows you to create customized word lists for the students to spell out with their bodies.  When my 1st graders were learning about the continents on Monday, I was able to create customized multiple choice questions for them to answer while they experienced the Montana James adventure.

With GoNoodle Plus, I think the site will appeal to my older students (3rd, 4th, and 5th) as well.  Getting the opportunity to move around while still learning will be a welcome option for many of them.

Here is more information on GoNoodle Plus in case you are interested.  Also, this is the direct link to the GoNoodle Plus Integration Guide.  GoNoodle offers a 15-day trial if you aren’t sure you have the funds to commit for a year-long subscription.

GoNoodle Plus

Gifts for the Gifted – Rush Hour Shift

Around this time of year I post a gift recommendation each Friday as part of a “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  The title is a bit misleading, as it might imply that the gifts are only for children who have been endowed with the label, and that is certainly not true. Just as with any gift, you should select a product that suits the interests of the receiver.  These lists of potential gifts that I provide are ones that I feel will be engaging for children who enjoy problem solving and/or creativity.

Earlier this year, in March, I posted about a new game from ThinkFun called, “Rush Hour Shift.”  Longevity is always part of the criteria for the toys and games that I recommend, and Rush Hour Shift definitely fulfills that requirement.

Since I started teaching GT 14 years ago, Rush Hour has been one of the games immediately pulled out during indoor recess times.   Designed to be a single-player game the player sets cars up on a grid based on the challenge card he or she is playing.  Then, the player uses logic to slide the cars around so that the red car can exit the grid.

The only drawback to Rush Hour was that many of my students wanted to play with a partner, which sometimes resulted in squabbles as one person would get increasingly frustrated when the other could not see the “obvious” solution and try to take control.

Rush Hour Shift nicely resolves this issue.  In this two-player game, what can seem to be a relatively simple challenge can quickly become difficult when the players use the cards they’ve been dealt to change the traffic grid in the blink of an eye.

Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun
Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun

As you may observe in the picture above, the grid is made of three plates that can be “shifted” in order to block your opponent’s car or free your own. When it’s your turn, you must carefully choose a card in your hand to indicate what kind of strategy you intend to use to get your car closer to the end of the board on your opponent’s side. With 10 different game setups, 32 cards, and the unpredictable decisions that can be made at every juncture, the potential for months of game play is obvious.

Rush Hour Shift is recommended for ages 8 and up.  Children are quick to figure out the rules, and enjoy playing over and over again to try to outwit their opponents as they learn new strategies.

Some other ThinkFun games I’ve reviewed in the past are: Gravity Maze, Shell Game, Last Letter, and Robot Turtles.

For other recommended gifts for the holiday season, check out this page or my Pinterest Board.


AR Basketball Math Fun

In one of the sessions I attended during this weekend’s Tech Field Day SA, Cori Coburn-Shiflett spoke about using technology games in the classroom.  As she pointed out, even sites and apps that were not designed for education can be used for learning.  AR Basketball is a good example.  Even though I posted about this app awhile ago, I did not have it listed on my AR Resources page because I felt that some teachers might question its educational value.  However, Cori directed us to a great resource from Charlotte Dolat (one of the fabulous Tech Field Day organizers) that provides free printable worksheets for math integration with this app.  By changing the activity to one that teaches mean, median, and mode, AR Basketball becomes a win/win for the teacher and the students.

Screen Shot from AR Basketball app
Screen Shot from AR Basketball app

Wonder League Robotics Competition

If you have the Dash and Dot robots, you have probably received a few e-mails from Wonder Workshop describing the upcoming Robotics Competition.  I highly recommend that you consider entering a team (deadline for signing up is 11/1/15)!   This set of 7 missions looks like fun and a great opportunity for collaboration and problem solving.

All of the missions must be recorded and submitted together by 12/1/15.  The winning team (which can be 1-6 people, ages 6-11, supervised by an adult) will win an all-expenses-paid “STEM Field Trip” to California!  The top 4 teams will receive a Dash robot for every member of their team!

You need at least one Dash and one Dot robot to participate.  If you don’t have these fabulous robots, the competition page gives you a coupon code for $20 off an order of the pair.

My students love these robots, and there are even more apps to use with them now than when they first debuted.  This summer saw the release of the “Wonder” app, and last year “Tickle” app integrated Dash and Dot into the hardware that you can control with a mobile device and block programming.

For more information and the first 6 missions, which you can start now, visit the website now.  Remember, you must sign your team(s) up by 11/1/15!

My students trying to program Dash.  For more information, click here.
My students trying to program Dash. For more information, click here. For a fun geography lesson with your Dash and Dot robots, take a look at this post. And, to read about our Maker Club Robot Olympics last year, check this out.


New Hopscotch Curriculum

Hopscotch has been a favorite programming app of my students ever since they tried it for the Hour of Code a couple of years ago. One of my 5th graders chose to use Hopscotch to create his entire Genius Hour presentation last year.

Hopscotch is now offering a new curriculum for educators and I had a chance to sneak preview it before yesterday’s release.  I am very impressed by the format of the lessons, which were created using the Understanding by Design framework.

There are 6 lessons, about 45 minutes each, targeted for 5th-8th grades. However,  there is a lot of flexibility that allows for modifications for younger and older students.  The lessons include ideas for differentiation and detailed suggestions to include many levels.

Math, Engineering, and Computer Science Standards are included in the lessons.  Videos links are offered for all 6 activities to either use with your class or for the teacher to watch to gain better understanding.  Hopscotch not only differentiates for the students, but also for the teachers by making the instructions very clear for even those who have never used the app before.

I am excited that Hopscotch is offering such an amazing free resource for educators.  This app encourages creativity and problem-solving while teaching logic and many math skills.  Don’t worry if you have never programmed before.  With Hopscotch, you and your students can learn together.

Hopscotch Curriculum

Make Your Ice-Breakers into Earth Shakers

This will be my 25th year of teaching.  Add this to the years I attended school as a student and you will get 42 “first days.”

42 days of team-building activities and ice-breakers.

During those 42 years, I estimate that I’ve played “Getting-to-Know-You” Bingo about 25 times.  24 of those times were not initiated by me.

If you whip out Getting to Know You Bingo (or the equally enjoyable Getting to Know You Scavenger Hunt) as an activity at a staff development, I will groan.


Almost as loudly as I would at this joke:


If it bores me, chances are my students won’t be too excited about it, either. So I look to my colleagues each year for new ideas.

Maybe you are hunting for new ideas, too.   Here are some that I’ve gathered in the last couple of weeks that might help you to avoid yawns on the first day of school (other than the genuine ones that result from a summer of staying up late and getting up at the reasonable hour of 11 AM).

  • Being Student Centered Day One – Click on the link in Alice Keeler’s post to find a collaborative spreadsheet of 1st day ideas from teachers around the world.  While you’re there, add yours to the list – as long as it isn’t Bingo ;)
  • Get ready for Dot Day – This year’s Dot Day is September 15-ish. Use some of the ideas linked in Shannon Miller’s post to prepare for this great event and to allow your students to display their own unique qualities.
  • Epic Back to School Selfie Template – Shell Terrell provides this great idea that will definitely motivate students to express themselves.  You will need a free SlideShare account to download the presentation – or you can “remix” it and build one of your own!  You can also try one of the suggestions on Shell’s Kid Icebreakers page (lots of suggestions for primary grades),  or from her post on Teaching the Emoji Generation.
  • Social Media Profile –  Speaking of the Emoji Generation, , you might want to try this free download from Michelle Griffo on TPT if you teach 4th or 5th grade. You can see the cute bulletin board of her class’s responses here.

I hope this list gives you some Bingo alternatives that get your students’ year off to an exciting start!




Parable of the Polygons

My students adore Vi Hart videos.  I think the kids understand maybe 1/2 of what she is saying, but she makes math fun and stimulates their curiosity.

Parable of the Polygons” is an interactive website that was created by Vi Hart and Nicky Case.  Having watched several Vi Hart videos, I expected the site to do one of the things Vi does best – teach me math.  But I was mistaken.  “Parable of the Polygonsuses math to teach about racism, sexism, (and all of the other negative”isms”) and what we can do to help eradicate them.

from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case
from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case

I innocently played each activity trying to make happy polygons until I realized that I, a self-proclaimed non-racist, have had probably zero effect in persuading others to be less biased.  Using math, I learned that, unless more of us make an effort to seek out more diverse colleagues and friends, there is little chance things will change.

This is definitely an activity that I will be doing with my students and I hope to make some changes in my life based on what I learned. From now on, this little square is going to be on the lookout for opportunities to meet more triangles :)