Category Archives: Games

Gifts for the Gifted – IQ Blox

 A few 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 on every Friday in 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. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Also, I’m going to link to Amazon for these gifts temporarily, but would love to know if you know any independent stores who carry them. Please let me know so I can change the link to help out independent store owners!

So, for this week’s recommended gift I actually chose a product that frustrates me. I’ve admitted on this blog many times over the years that I need a lot more practice with spatial activities. We don’t do them enough in school and, as a female who grew up when toys were still extremely gender-biased, I was rarely exposed to blocks or Legos or anything that required this skill. This is one of the areas where I am fully aware that it’s important for me to have a growth mindset.

All of that being said, when I showed my husband IQ Blox, he immediately said, “Now, this is something I can get into!” And, of course he solved one of the starter puzzles I’d been staring at for 20 minutes in about 60 seconds.

At a reasonable price of $9.99 at most stores, IQ Blox would be a great stocking stuffer for people who love spatial puzzles and people who don’t love them. Especially kids. Get them started early on activities like this so they don’t grow up to be 50 years old and still have trouble figuring which direction they just came from when they walk out of a shop in the mall – like some people who will remain nameless.

IQ Blox is one of those solitary games that can also be done in pairs or small groups who take turns – similar to Dog Pile, Clue Master, or Solitaire Chess. There are 7 colorful pieces of different shapes, and 4 “wall pieces.” A booklet contains the challenges, which are scaffolded from “Starter” to “Wizard”. Each challenge is a picture that shows how the game needs to be set up to begin, and you have to figure out how to fit the rest of those pieces without moving the starter ones in the picture.

If you want to teach a Growth Mindset and don’t want this game to get thrown against the wall or accumulate dust from disuse, I have a few tips for introducing games like these to kids:

  • Do it with them at the beginning. You can take turns on the challenges. Model your thinking process. This has 2 advantages: kids love to spend time with you, and they can learn how they should deal with frustration.
  • Kids always, and I mean always, think the first few challenges are too easy. So they skip to the hardest ones, can’t do them as quickly as they expect, and give up. Instead, encourage them to work through the challenges in order, explaining they will get more difficult but they will learn new techniques as they go. Or, suggest they go to the hardest one at the next level. If they find it too difficult, they should go back to the last one they were able to solve quickly and keep working. If they find it easy, go to the hardest one on the next level. And, so on.
  • Strategies to model: turning the game around to look at it from different perspectives, figuring how the hardest place to put a piece first and put that one in, using process of elimination for spaces, and taking breaks from difficult ones (instead of looking at the answers in the back). I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out one of the puzzles, left it until the next day, and solved it in under 5 minutes. I felt so much better than if I had just looked at the answers!

IQ Blox is for ages 6 and up. If you are interested, here are a few other ways to practice Spatial Reasoning:

Gifts for the Gifted – Blank Slate

 A few 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 on every Friday in 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. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

Also, I’m going to link to Amazon for these gifts temporarily, but would love to know if you know any independent stores who carry them. Please let me know so I can change the link to help out independent store owners!

We received Blank Slate as a family gift last December, and it has become one of our favorite games. You could easily adapt it to the classroom and change a few rules for more than the 3-8 players recommended. The premise of the game is quite simple. Each card has a word and a blank, such as “High_____________.” Turn over a card, and everyone writes a word that could go in the blank on their tiny slate. (How fun would this be with Peardeck or Whiteboard.fi?) Now the scoring part is what is interesting. If your answer matches with exactly one other person, you get 3 points, but if more than one person matches with you, only 1 point is awarded. And if no one matches you, 0 points are awarded. Of course, you can create any variations you want on this. For example, in my gifted classroom, I would have given more points to those who didn’t match anyone else. Or, as the game instructions suggest, you could give points extra points to people who match with a pre-determined person (maybe the teacher, or a student of the day?).

While I was searching for independent stores that might carry Blank Slate, I found an adorable young lady named Zozo who made a video about how to play the game with your friends through Zoom. I love her passion!

Use Jigsaw Explorer for a Virtual Escape Room Clue!

First of all, I need to give a HUGE shoutout to Bob Flora at Jigsaw Explorer. When I was writing my post about doing collaborative jigsaw puzzles online, I e-mailed Jigsaw Explorer to see if there was any way to disable the “preview” button so people would not be able to see what the completed puzzle looked like until they solved it. (If you read my original post, you saw my story about trying to use a jigsaw puzzle as a clue in a digital breakout (escape) room, thinking my high schoolers would need to solve the puzzle to get the clue, when one of the clever kids figured out all they had to do was hit the preview button.)

Bob Flora responded that they did not have such a feature at the time, but might add something some time next year. I thought that was the end of the story – but Mr. Flora did not. In an e-mail that has secured my customer loyalty for life, he informed me today that they have added a simple checkbox to the creation page so you can now hide the preview in your puzzles! This feature also disables the ability of players to change the number of puzzle pieces – so they can’t cheat by lowering the number of pieces to make it easier to solve.

Here was my procedure to check out this new feature: I created a simple question on a Google slide and downloaded it as a JPG. Then I uploaded it to IMGUR, and right-clicked to get the image address. That’s what you see in the top line. I left the number of puzzle pieces at the default, and put a checkmark in “Mystery Puzzle.” (Click on any of the question marks if you need help.) Then I clicked on the Create button, and got both short and long links to the puzzle, as well as the embed code if I wanted to add it to a website. And – don’t forget – you can then visit the link, click on the 3 lines on the top left, and choose, “Modify this puzzle.” This allows you to create a game link so multiple people can work on the puzzle at the same time online!

So, for all of you who want to add a bit of fun to your class, or want to design a full digital escape challenge for your students, add Jigsaw Explorer to your resources for creating fun clues. Here is my post with other clue creation ideas. This video shows you how to make a simple Digital Breakout using Google Forms. Here are some digital breakouts I’ve created in the past.

Of course, if you really want some student buy-in, have them create the puzzles!

Thank you, Mr. Flora, for not only adding this great feature, but taking the time to communicate with me!

Charty Party – All Ages Edition

Charty Party is a game based on charts. (H/T to @MsMessineo for tweeting about this!)  Played like Apples to Apples, a judge is selected who turns over a card with a chart on it.  Only the X-Axis is labeled.  Players look at their own cards, which have potential labels for the Y-Axis, and choose one from their hand that they think the judge will find the funniest.  The player whose card is chosen by the judge collects that chart, and a new person becomes the judge.  The game ends when someone has collected 5 charts.

The creators of the original Charty Party, which was designed for ages 17+,  received a lot of requests for versions that would be appropriate for classrooms and young families.  So, after interviewing many people, including teachers, they are back with an All Ages Edition on Kickstarter.  The good news is that the game has already been funded, so production is guaranteed.  The even better news is that for every $5,000 the team raises from backers, they will donate 10 Charty Party All Ages games to a school.  As I am writing this post, they have already raised over $56,000. (Their original goal was $10,000.) The kind of hard-to-swallow news for those of us eager to play it is that delivery of the games will not begin until January, 2021.  😦

You can get the original Charty Party right now, and add on your All Ages Cards when you receive them.  I read some of the Q&A on the product’s Amazon page, and in response to, “How many cards would I have to remove before I could allow my high school students to play this at school?” one person answered, “About half.”  Personally, I think it would be fun to have your students make their own cards to go with the charts for the time being.

If you teach math, I envy you, and definitely think you should check out this game.  For other math fun with charts and graphs, see my posts on: Slow Reveal Graphs, Dear Data, and What’s Going on in This Graph?

 

Charty Party All Ages
image from Charty Party All Ages Kickstarter

ZoomJam

In April of 2020, as much of the world had fallen under the pall of the pandemic, more and more people were resorting to Zoom video as a replacement for socializing in person.  A few organizations (not affiliated with Zoom) decided to organize a “#ZoomJam,” with the challenge to create innovative games that could be played in this new context.  You can read more about the organizers of #ZoomJam and its origins here.

The competition has ended (though you can still submit games), and you can see the top winners on the #ZoomJam home page.  For a full list of games, you can visit here.

Looking at the games with the lens of an educator, I can see many that could be adapted for teachers to use either as class bonding activities or for academics.  Some of the notable ideas that I could see using with students are: Aardvark, Dance-Off, Hot-Seat, Mute-iny, Night at the Museum, Split Decision, and Zoom Spot.  Of course, you may see many more opportunities on the list that I missed!

Put on a parent lens, friend or family member lens, and you may discover some other #ZoomJam games that you want to attempt – or maybe submit one of your own!

Video Conference
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Quarantine Can’t Keep Us Down!

I’ve noticed that a popular activity during our COVID-19 pandemic right now is scavenger hunts.  My favorite scavenger hunt app is Goosechase, which I wrote about in January of this year.  Although I don’t currently have students, I immediately thought of this app when pondering how I would engage my students during online learning.  I considered making a GooseChase for other teachers and families to use, but a few others have beat me to the punch – and done much better jobs than I would have done.

First of all, Goosechase itself has begun a “Community Cup 2020” that is open to all to participate.  It runs from now until April 3rd, with new missions being added each day.  (Apparently the first day included a mission for people to do their best Batman impression, and the video compilation of select submissions is super cute.)  The page describing the contest also includes a how-to video in case you are new to Goosechase.  Since this is an app that asks for photos and videos of people doing (usually) silly things, please be conscious of privacy issues, especially for minors.  

Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta have also created their own special pandemic-inspired Goosechase.  They tweeted that they have one called, “Quarantine Can’t Keep Us Down,” which ends tomorrow, March 26th.  You can download the app and do a search for that game title to participate.  It has so many missions that I couldn’t count them, and it would definitely be a fun activity for the whole family.  According to @BGCMA_Clubs on Twitter, this is just the first of an educational series of scavenger hunts, so follow them on Twitter if you are interested in participating in future hunts.

For teachers who are interested in making your own Goosechases, the company is offering free-of-charge upgrades to the Educator Plus tier of the GooseChase EDU platform for the duration of the shutdown for all teachers.

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https://pixabay.com/photos/wash-hands-corona-disinfection-4941746/