Poison Pudding

Today’s post was inspired by a question from a reader from Denali Montessori Elementary. She mentioned a game that they play in their GT classroom called, “Poison Pudding.” This is how she describes the game: “I set up a course on the floor with a duct-taped grid on top of a tablecloth. The kids try and figure out the course one by one by stepping on squares. If they stepped correctly, they get another turn. If not, they go to the end and the next person goes and so on until they have figured out the course.”

She asked if I knew of any other movement games for GT, and I could not think of any, other than unplugged coding activities or The Human Knot (which is used a lot in teambuilding activities). I could see some of these ideas from Cult of Pedagogy being implemented in a GT classroom, but I was wondering if you, the reader, have any other suggestions. If you do, please comment on this post or e-mail me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com. If I get more than a few recommendations, I will compile them into a new post to share with everyone. In the meantime, try “Poison Pudding”! It sounds like a great memory challenge!

Image by Eluj from Pixabay

Don’t Gross Out the World is Back!

When I had the good fortune to win a grant to visit Japan about 20 years ago, I received a packet of etiquette rules to study before the trip. One that was firmly lodged in my mind was to never leave chopsticks standing up in your food, as this is a ceremonial act seen at Buddhist funerals. I’m still conscientious about this decades later, and it was one of the many things I learned that serve as a reminder how easily we can offend people if we don’t take time to get to know what is important to them. I wish that every person could go on a trip to a foreign country to give us this perspective, but in the absence of that kind of experience it is fun and important for students to learn about diversity in cultures around the world. Way back in 2016, I wrote about an online quiz called, “Don’t Gross Out the World.” Players could learn about food traditions that might seem strange in their native country but are the norm elsewhere. At one point, the game disappeared and I updated my post with a link to a video of someone playing the game instead. However, FunBrain just commented on that post yesterday that they have brought the quiz back. I updated that post, but here is the new link in case you don’t have a habit of reading my blog articles from 5 years ago. Your students will enjoy guessing the answers, and you might learn a few new things – as I have whenever I play!

plate of sashimi
Photo by Christel Jensen on Pexels.com


In an article by Belle Beth Cooper that falls under the “Life Hacking” tag, she explains how making connections is a large part of how our brains come up with new ideas. She quotes Steve Jobs as once saying, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” This is one of the reasons I think using hexagonal thinking with my students is so powerful, and also why I have recommended products like Dinkee, Codenames, and Anaxi.

Russel Tarr has a game on ClassTools.net called, “Connect Fours,” which is based on a BBC game show called, “Only Connect.” In the game, 16 clues are presented on a 4×4 grid. Players must find relationships between the words, and separate the 16 into 4 groups by their connections. Then they have to identify what the words in each of the 4 groups have in common. This could be used to review vocabulary, name associations between people or events in history, draw lines between stories or themes in literature, etc… Click here to play Tarr’s sample game.

If you don’t have a premium subscription to Class Tools, you will not be able to save any “Connect Fours” games you create. Another option is to use the PuzzGrid website, which is full of user-submitted games. You can challenge yourself or your students to play the ones that are already posted, or submit your own. (I think it’s amusing that, beneath the question asking if your puzzle is “of interest to a general audience,” the following advice appears: “Teachers: please note that your grids are almost never of interest to a general knowledge audience. Please do not choose Yes above. Your grid will still be accessible at the URL.“)

Although playing PuzzGrid can be quite fun for word nerds like me, I think the true value of this would be to have student groups create their own versions for submission. If you are looking for more ideas for games to engage children, don’t forget this article I wrote for NEO on how to mine talk shows for entertaining ways to review or introduce subjects in class.


Virtual Vacation

In honor of the many Texas teachers I know who are on their well-deserved Spring Break this week, and in honor of the many teachers I know who still have some time to go before they get a vacation, here is a frustrating but fun activity to do that will test your geographical and observational skills. City Guesser debuted in 2020, and was inspired by Geo Guessr. To be honest, I haven’t compared the two to see the exact differences as I got a bit distracted when I started trying to identify places in the United States. When you choose a category, you will be shown a random video from a place, and you guess the location by clicking on a map. I am woefully terrible at this game, but I still enjoy trying to beat my own horrible scores. If you want to try, here are some things the game-designer, Paul McBurney Jr., suggests looking out for:

There are different modes and challenges, and you can also do multi-player games. So, the next time you need to visit somewhere outside your pandemic bubble, give City Guesser a try!

Gamestorm Edu

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

“Let’s Play: Flexible & Engaging Games Your Students Can Play Virtually or Face to Face,” was one of the first On-Demand sessions I watched when I joined TCEA 2021 online this morning. It was presented by Jonathan Spike (@JonathanSpike), who also publishes the GameStorm Edu website. If you are registered for TCEA, I highly recommend that you “attend” his presentation, which also includes a Google Slides file full of templates you can copy for games. (Thanks to Jonathan for permission to share this!) A couple of the games in the presentation, as well as some others, can also be found in the Games Library section of his site. You may recall that one of my “Gifts for the Gifted” recommendations in 2020 was the game Codenames, and that happens to be one of the templates you can download!

If you do any type of game design unit with students, you will definitely want to take note of some of the other pages on Jonathan’s site, such as “How to Create a Game,” “Types of Games,” and “Resources for Creating Games.” One thing that I’ve learned with students is that they tend to resort to one or two different kinds of games when they design, and I think it’s definitely helpful for them to have a handy reference so they step outside that comfort zone. I also think it would be beneficial for them to have Jonathan’s digital Designer Guide and Designer Workbook (located on the Resources page).

If games in the classroom interest you, don’t forget my article for NEO on mining talk shows for ideas. It has lots of links and a template you can copy also!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Step Up Your Game

In my latest blog post for NEO, I give ideas for games to play in class that are based on ones found on some of your favorite talk show. The post, “Let’s Talk a Good Game: Mining Talk Shows for Classroom Engagement Ideas,” includes popular examples from daytime and nighttime hosts like Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon. There are suggestions for how to tweak them to use with your curriculum, and they can be adapted for virtual or face to face classes. I even included a Google Slides Template for one of the games. This was a super fun post to write (especially as I hunted for video links to use for reference), and I hope that it will help you to generate some unique ways to introduce, review, and assess learning.

My previous NEO articles have been:  How to Do More with Less Screen Time, How to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in Hybrid or Virtual ClassroomsTop Ed Tech Tools for DifferentiationFrom Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve EducationApplying Universal Design for Learning in Remote ClassroomsHow Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

Image by G Lopez from Pixabay