Gifts for the Gifted — Charty Party All Ages Edition

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) on every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2021 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

Way back in June of 2020, I wrote a post about Charty Party, a game similar to Apples to Apples but with graphs. At the time, the company was in the middle of a campaign to raise money for an “All Ages Edition” as the original version was for ages 17+. Eager to see if the new game would be appropriate to play in classrooms, I contacted the company to see if they would send me a set to review and they graciously agreed.

Now, even though it is labeled “Charty Party: All Ages Edition,” the recommended ages are 10+ on the box. You will want to play with participants who can read well and can interpret basic graphs. I haven’t read all of the playing cards, but we used a great number of them and I didn’t see anything involving alcohol or sex. There are some gross ones (like a chart of the loudness of farts), but most kids would find those extremely appropriate 😉

To play the game you technically need at least three players, but my daughter (18) and I have a great time playing our own modified version. As in Apples to Apples, there is a rotating judge, but we just agreed to choose the card that got the most laughs as the winner for each round. Standard play involves a judge revealing one of the white chart cards and the players (who each have 7 orange cards) each choose one from their hands that they think would be a good label for the y-axis to give to the judge. The judge (who doesn’t read the cards yet) shuffles the cards, then reads them out loud, and the person whose card get the most laughs as it pertains to the graph wins the white chart card. Everyone draws a new orange card, the judge rotates to the next person, and the rounds continue until someone wins 5 cards.

Below are some examples, and I’ll let you decide the winner of each round:

We turned over the “Instrument You Play” chart that showed that the y-axis dramatically increased for drum-players. My daughter (a Music Ed major) played the card, “Belief You’ll Have a Successful Career in Music” and I turned over “Creepiness of Mustache.” No offense to drum players out there, just trying to put down the funniest card…

The next example shows an increase during middle school, and my daughter played the left card while I played the one on the right.

Above you can see that something increases equally with the type of mood you might have at a funeral and the type of mood you might have at a surprise party.

And, lastly, a fart one…

You will note in the rubric below that I gave the game high marks for “Replayability” as my daughter and I stopped counting who was winning and just kept playing until we finished the charts. We also played some charts again with different card hands for added fun. The possibilities for probably not infinite if you do some mathematical calculations, but they are a lot.

I also gave this game high marks for “Extendability” because there are so many ways to integrate this into your classroom. In fact, there is a flyer with “Classroom Activity Ideas” included in the box as well as a page on their website.

The cards are durable, and losing one or two will not impact playing the game. Though there are some constraints, the game rates highly in the Strategic, Creative, and Spatial reasoning areas as well.

You can currently buy Charty Party: All Ages Edition directly from their website with free shipping. I can’t wait to play it with larger groups, especially family during the holidays!

Cultural Appropriation: What It Is, And How to Avoid It

There is a video currently being shared on social media of a white teacher wearing a headdress, dancing around her classroom, and chopping her arms in the air. She is chanting “SohCahToa” as she does so, a mnemonic device used in math for recalling trigonometric functions. It is not my practice to shame teachers, and I don’t want to dwell on this specific incident, but it is definitely an example of cultural appropriation.

For those of us who are white and want to be sensitive to and embrace diversity, we may find ourselves second-guessing our actions. As I wrote yesterday’s post about Dia de Los Muertos, I thought carefully about how I would approach this holiday in my own classroom, and whether or not the way I would have done it ten or fifteen years ago would be different than the way I would do it now. Like doctors, teachers have an obligation to “first, do no harm.” But there is always the chance that we may act on what we believe to be good intentions which are actually quite harmful. I won’t pretend to know the intentions of the teacher in the headdress, but here is how she and the rest of us can recognize the difference between appreciation and appropriation: “Appreciating a culture involves sharing knowledge with permission and crediting people who belong to that culture, while appropriating a culture entails exploiting a culture in any way, whether that be reinforcing stereotypes or taking credit from original creators.” This quote was taken from “Teaching About Cultural Appropriation” by Educators 4 Social Change. There are several recommended links in the article, but one that found especially helpful is from The Ed Advocate. It tell us that we can ask three questions to determine if we are guilty of cultural appropriation: Am I denigrating another culture? Am I exploiting it for material gain? Am I embarrassing that culture?

To find out why cultural appropriation is so detrimental in our society, I recommend this article from Everyday Feminism. This isn’t a matter of hurt feelings, but a deeper, more systemic problem of dominance benefiting from lies and stereotypes. Does this mean that white people must avoid anything that may have originated with another culture? No, the author states, “But I am encouraging you to be thoughtful about using things from other cultures, to consider the context, and learn about the best practices to show respect.”

In the classroom, if you are coming from a position of respect and a desire to learn, then you will create an environment where the students will feel free to share their cultural traditions and everyone can gain a deeper understanding. But taking on the guise of a group of people different from yourself to gain a laugh or pretend you are including them will only harm your students and perpetuate racism.

For more Anti-Racist posts, click here.

Dia de Los Muertos Altar

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I am ashamed to say that I have lived in San Antonio for over 30 years and only became aware of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a few years ago. The holiday originated in Mexico, but is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd by people all over the world who have Mexican heritage. With its proximity to the American holiday of Halloween on October 31st, as well as the proliferation of skulls and skeletons, Día de los Muertos may be confused by some as another excuse to wear costumes and ask for candy, but those are not the purposes of Día de los Muertos. Instead, it is a time to remember those who have died — not in a mournful way, but one of joyous respect. Private altars dedicated to dead relatives and friends are built in some homes, while a number of families visit graveyards to clean and decorate the resting places of those no longer living.

Special traditions are observed during this holiday, including one of the most famous: sugar skulls. Unfortunately, coloring or decorating sugar skulls may be all that non-Mexicans learn about Día de los Muertos in school, and those activities in and of themselves are not the most meaningful way for students to understand another culture. (Tomorrow’s Anti-Racist post will be about how to examine whether or not an action or activity is an example of cultural appropriation.) I have collected some resources that include short videos, websites, and lesson plans you can use in this Wakelet.

If you have any other suggestions for resources or if I made any mistakes in my explanation of Día de los Muertos, please let me know.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar
Día de los Muertos Altar Display at Pearl Brewery in 2018


One of my favorite workshops to do with teachers is, “Developing Design Thinkers.” There are so many ways to use the Design Thinking process in every part of the curriculum, and it is just plain fun! I recently learned about a tool that I will definitely be incorporating next time. It’s called, “Protobot,” and it was developed by one of the professors at Stanford’s d. School. Protobot is an online randomizer that will propose different design challenges. Some of them are thought-provoking and some completely absurd. But the surprising combination of objects and purposes is what makes Protobot the perfect warm-up activity for promoting creativity. Here are a couple of the prompts I got when I clicked the “Randomizer” button:

Anyone who teaches can probably imagine the giggles these would elicit from students, especially the last one! The designer, Molly (@MollyClare), has some suggestions for using Protobot with different sized groups. You will also notice that my link takes you to the English (safe mode) version, which you can change by clicking in the top right corner. She teaches college, so sexuality and alcohol are possible references in the “unsafe” version. Either way, you might not want to go the completely random route if you have super young students, and take screen shots of potential ideas instead.

Here are some other options for generating design thinking challenges in the classroom. And don’t forget that I have a Wakelet of books to use, including picture books, that inspire creativity and design thinking!

Gifts for the Gifted – Genius Square

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) on every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

I am linking this product to Toyology, an independent toy store in Michigan, which has a few locations and an online store. Thanks to Kimberly M. for this tip!

This is the earliest I’ve ever begun this annual series of posts, but you know pandemic, supply shortage, blah blah blah… Plus, I’m switching to Mondays because I usually do my Anti-Racism posts on Fridays. Another new change (yes, I know I’m full of them today) is that I devised a bit of a rubric to use with the games/toys. I was always using a sort of mental rubric, and just decided this year to make it visible to everyone else!

I’m starting this year’s recommendations with a game called Genius Square. When I began looking for ideas a couple of months ago, I reached out on various social media channels, and several teachers mentioned that their students love this game. The game can be played by one or two people, and includes two grid boards, two sets of Tetris-like pieces, a set of wooden peg blockers, and a set of dice. You roll the dice to determine where the blockers should be placed, and then try to fit all of your colored pieces on the board around the blockers. With two people, you are racing against each other, but a one-person game is basically just a great way to practice your spatial skills.

If you recall, I wrote an article for NEO on spatial reasoning back in February, and I feel that this is an area that is often ignored in formal education though extremely useful in real life. (Try packing a carry-on suitcase with everything you need so you don’t have to pay for a checked bag on an airline, and you will see what I mean.) Genius Square is a fun way to work on developing this skill, and I love that it has the option of competition or solitary enjoyment. It’s also great because there are often (maybe always?) multiple solutions. And, with all of those dice and grid placement options, chances are you will rarely get the same challenge twice.

I did score the game a little bit lower in the durability area due to the multiple pieces. Parents and teachers know the frustration of lost parts on a daily basis. But it wouldn’t be that difficult to make your own replacements (especially if you have a 3d printer!). In fact, I saw some pics on Twitter of people who were using some pictures they had drawn and cut out due to that issue. I also want to thank Christine Dale (@DaleDaze) for her Tweet about the Mathigon virtual version of Genius Square that you can play.

The lower Extendability score is based on how directly this game could apply to curriculum or real-life. I mean, yes, we use spatial reasoning a lot, but no we don’t often have to pack an exact number of Tetris shapes into a grid. And, I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of strategy involved in the game as there is nothing you can do to keep your opponent from winning except to think faster.

Although the box says 6+ for the age, I think kids slightly younger could play, and I would even encourage it. I also think it’s great for people of different ages to play against each other, as it does not require reading, trivial knowledge, or counting. (You may need to place the blockers for younger children, though.)

I’ll be adding this to my Spatial Reasoning Wakelet. Also, if you are new here, you may want to check out some of my math Wakelets.

Got a toy/game/book suggestions for me to review? It’s not too late! Comment below or email me

laughing diverse girls embracing gently on sofa

Embrace Race Action Guides

I am always on the lookout for practical ways to for parents and teachers to raise anti-racist children. So, when I found these “Embrace Race Action Guides” I knew that I wanted to mention them in one of my regular anti-racist posts. The guides can be read online or downloaded in PDF form in Spanish or English. I counted 28 guides altogether (be sure to click on the “next” button at the bottom of each web page to find more), and the ones that I looked at were brief and down-to-earth advice that could easily be implemented. From “Tips to Drawing Across Color Lines with Kids” to “5 Ways to Raise More Inclusive Kids if You Live in a Segregated Neighborhood,” I wish had access to these resources from the beginning of my teaching career and parenthood. There are many other topics, webinars, book suggestions, etc… on the site, so I encourage you to explore. I’ll be adding this to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, and I hope that you will also take a moment to visit some of the other 58 links I’ve included in that collection.

cheerful diverse schoolgirls embracing near brick wall
Photo by Mary Taylor on