Category Archives: Games

Brainstorming Relay

I was doing a little research the other day for ideas on how to teach brainstorming, and came across this article by Jim Flowers on, “Five Brainstorming Structures.” I generally vary brainstorming structures in my class from individual to partner to group, but I hadn’t seen the idea of a Brainstorming Relay until now.  It would be too much pressure for rookie brainstormers, but I like the idea of adding a bit of team competition to see which group can get the most ideas in a timed session.  Some students have a hard time understanding that quantity is more important than worrying about quality when they brainstorm and “braindrizzle” because they are so worried about coming up with good ideas.  This might be a fun way to practice getting some more fluency when they ideate.

brainstorm

Back to School Games from Breakout Edu

In this Education Week article, “10 Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School,” by Nancy Flanagan, she gives the following advice:

“Don’t make Day One “rules” day. Your classroom procedures are very important, a hinge for functioning productively, establishing the relationships and trust necessary for individual engagement and group discussions. Introduce these strategies and systems on days when it’s likely your students will remember them and get a chance to practice them. This is especially important for secondary teachers, whose students will likely experience a mind-numbing, forgettable parade of Teacher Rules on Day One.”

It’s often considered good practice to establish rules and procedures at the beginning of a new school year, but I can definitely attest that my daughter came home from each first week during her middle school years feeling bored and defeated.  Not only did the teacher of each subject spend the entire period going over rules, but many of them showed the same not-so-exciting videos, which repetitively appeared in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. (Fortunately, each year improved dramatically after the first weeks, as her fabulous teachers definitely challenged and engaged her.)

As a teacher of 25 years, I’ve gone through many first days, and I can tell you that I am just as enthusiastic as the students when my staff development weeks begin with rules, procedures, and awkward team-building activities.

Nancy Flanagan goes on in her article to suggest doing engaging activities the first day that will also help the students to learn something.  If you are looking for ideas, Breakout Edu offers some Back to School games that might be just the ticket to ramp up excitement so your students go home the first day and tell their parents what they learned and that they had fun doing it!  There is one game each for elementary, upper elementary, and secondary. There is even one for Staff Development! (Note: You will need to register for free with Breakout Edu in order to get the password to access the games.)

Consider embedding rules and procedures into exciting learning activities, rather than making them the starring topic for introducing the year.  Your students – and their parents – will thank you!

from Breakout Edu Back to School Games
from Breakout Edu Back to School Games

Help Your Students Grow By Riding the Pokemon Flow

With the Pokemon Go craze in full swing, augmented reality for education may be generating more interest than ever before. Leveraging trends like Pokemon Go in the classroom can certainly provoke student engagement even though education wasn’t the original intent of the game.  Whether you choose to modify Pokemon Go, or use one of the many other available apps, augmented reality offers new opportunities to our students for learning – when used correctly.

About 4 years ago, my initial forays into augmented reality were all about the novelty of the technology with my students.  They certainly enjoyed those first augmented reality scavenger hunts, but I will readily admit now that more fun than learning took place at the beginning.  As I learned how to use tools to create my own augmented reality, I saw the power it could have for sharing presentations on static displays, or delivering messages from people who could not be there physically.  Sending augmented reality work by the students home to parents added another dimension to their projects.

Augmented reality that is interactive gives students the chance to have experiences, like mixing sodium and chlorine gas to make salt, or touring an estuary in Australia, that they might not usually have in many classrooms.

Ideas are already cropping up about how Pokemon Go can be used in the classroom, such as this article or these suggestions. Discovery Education also has a detailed blog post of Pokemon Go curriculum integration activities.  If you want your students to try to design their own version of Pokemon Go, let them try this Vidcode online version.  Once they start figuring out the code, have them branch out to include some of their own graphics and code that ties in to your curriculum.

If you want to branch out to other augmented reality apps and lessons, I have collected several resources here.  Katie Ann Wilson, author of Diary of a Techie Chick, has many classroom ideas here.  Shell Terrell also recently published a blog post that lists many augmented reality links.

There is no doubt that you will generate enthusiasm from your students by using augmented reality in the classroom.  However, I highly encourage you to read this article by Laura Callisen, which cautions you about the ways good educators should not use this popular trend.

Another thoughtful piece about augmented reality, by Stephen Noonoo, compares the “virtual reality” of our current classrooms to the “augmented reality” learning should reflect – with or without technology.

pokemongoI expect that the Pokemon Go mania will spawn more augmented reality apps, hopefully with education in mind.  My hope is that they will be thoughtful and encourage deep learning while retaining the fun sense of adventure fostered by Pokemon Go.

Group Games and Activities from ThinkFun

I am hosting an “Undercover Robots Camp” in my home starting today, and I was scouring the internet for some fun games to play when we are taking breaks from the robots.  As a big fan of ThinkFun, I was surprised to come across a part of their site I hadn’t explored.  The “Group Games and Activities” page offers free resources for playing life-size versions of some classic puzzles.  For example, you may have seen ThinkFun’s one-player game, “Hoppers.” But substitute humans on a big piece of tarp, and you can now have a multi-player game! (Kind of Harry-Potter-Wizard’s-Chess if you need a visual.) If you are looking for some different ideas for getting children active, definitely check out ThinkFun’s Group Games and Activities page!

Full Disclosure: From time to time I receive games from ThinkFun to review, but I do not receive any compensation.  

photo from Elmira College on Flickr
photo from Elmira College on Flickr

 

Reflecting on the Whatzit

Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, is a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero.  One of the games I like to use in my classroom is “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.”  We generally play it to think deeper about novels that we have read, but I decided to try it as an end-of-year reflection activity yesterday.

We don’t play the game as the rules state in the book.  I put the grid up on the interactive white board and all of the prompts are covered.  The students are divided into teams, and I start the game by uncovering one of the prompts.  Then all of the teams have 5 minutes to write down an answer.

The prompts all have the word, “Whatzit” in them, and we substitute our topic for that word.  So, yesterday, we substituted GT (Gifted and Talented Class) for “Whatzit.”  For example, one of the questions is, “List three important features of the Whatzit,” and the students wrote 3 important features of our GT class.

After 5 minutes, all teams submit their answers without any names on them.  I shuffle them, and read all of the answers out loud, then select the one that “Wows” me the most (kind of Apples to Apples style).  The winning team members reveal themselves and they get a point.  Then they select the next topic.

Students are always engaged when they play this.  Plus, they are super quiet because they don’t want the other teams or me, the judge, to hear their answers.  But what I love most about this game is the variety of answers and what I learn about myself, my class, and the students.

One prompt is, “List two very different kinds of features of the Whatzit.”  The winning team wrote, “Learning and fun.”  I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or cry because this could be interpreted to mean that learning and fun don’t usually coincide in their lives.

I would like to be proud that a team listed me as one of the important features of GT, but that was probably a strategic move more than a heartfelt one😉

I must say that, having dealt with intermittent internet for the last few weeks, I was definitely in agreement with the team that, in answer to, “Which feature of the Whatzit is hardest to understand?” responded, “When technology doesn’t work.”

Yep, definitely top of my list of things that are hard to understand in my class.  Well, that and why kids always move faster when you start counting even when you don’t tell them what number you’re counting to and what terrible thing will happen if you get there.  I seriously will never understand that – but like technology, it comes in handy sometimes…

Whatzit?

Piano Tiles

Piano Tiles (Don’t Tap the White Tile) is a free app, available on iTunes and Google Play.  The name of the game is pretty self-explanatory.  As black and white tiles fall down the screen, your job is to tap the black tiles only.  The black tiles will make the sounds of music notes as you tap them.  The faster you can play without hitting a white tile, the better.  I’d never heard of the game until I saw this article in one of my Flipboard magazines, featuring a pretty amazing setup invented to “beat” the game like no human would ever be able to do.  To be perfectly honest, the video pretty much discouraged me from ever even trying to play the game – at least not until I get some bionic eyes and fingers.

screen shot from Piano Tiles app
screen shot from Piano Tiles app

Don’t Gross Out the World

Creator of ClassTools.net, @RusselTarr, tweeted this site the other day.  My 1st graders have been studying countries around the world, and we have recently been discussing foods.  They really enjoyed “Don’t Gross Out the World,” from FunBrain because they thought many of the cultural traditions were unbelievable.  For example, how can it be true that some people think that it’s a compliment to burp loudly after a meal? Or, that asking for catsup could possibly be an insult in some countries?  I learned a few new things myself by playing this game with the class🙂

Don't Gross Out the World game from FunBrain
Don’t Gross Out the World game from FunBrain