Category Archives: Parenting

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – beanz

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. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

Despite the popularity of mobile devices and computers, I think that children still get a thrill out of getting something from a physical mailbox.  If your child is interested in making video games, reading about new technologies, and learning different programming languages, you may want to consider getting her/him a subscription to beanz, a monthly magazine about “kids, code, and computer science.”

beanz would probably appeal the most to children between 8 and 13 who are avid fans of reading and technology.  However, if you are a parent or teacher who wants to develop a child’s desire to create, this magazine could also be a huge resource for you.  This monthly periodical explains technical topics, such as coding with Python, in a way that any layperson can understand.  It gives a lot of examples, great graphics, and many suggestions for projects that children can do.

To me, it’s not just important for children to learn how to use technology responsibly but also to learn how to maximize technology’s potential for creativity and innovation.  beanz helps to inspire kids to use technology for making things – not just for consuming entertainment.

beanz is available online and as a print magazine.  You can view the latest issue here, but some articles are only available to subscribers. For $29.99/year, you can receive the print magazine and online access.  I think this is a great deal, but if you want to spend a little less you can opt for the $15/year online subscription.

For a unique gift that will delight any creatively “geeky” parent or child, you should definitely consider beanz!

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Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Castle Panic

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. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

I’m going to admit that I debated whether or not to include Castle Panic on this year’s list due to the recommended age level (10+).  But I really think that children as young as 7 or 8 could play the game after playing a few rounds with parents or older siblings.

A friend gave our family Castle Panic as a gift last year, and it quickly became a favorite during the winter break.  Not too long before that, we had become obsessed with playing Catanso we opened Castle Panic expecting something similar.  Although there are some similarities (cards that can be traded and the importance of strategy), there is one huge difference – Castle Panic is a cooperative game.  In other words, all of the players must work together to slay monsters before the castle towers are destroyed.  This took a bit getting used to, as Catan is a game where players selfishly hang on to valuable pieces while in Castle Panic selfishness will almost certainly result in everyone’s defeat.

The main reason that Castle Panic may be rated 10+ is that there are a lot of rules.  The first few times we played, there were many rule book consultations, and that does require pretty fluent reading ability.  However, children seem to be quite good at remembering the rules – particularly when adults break them – so I don’t see that as a huge obstacle as long as adults aren’t expecting the children to play this on their own right out of the box.  Several commenters on the Amazon reviews seemed to agree with me on this point.  The only other sticking point that some people might have is that there are monsters to be destroyed.  This could pose an ethical problem for some, I suppose, and a nightmare concern for others.  To the latter point, I would say that the monsters are no worse than the ones you would see in comic books or a Marvel movie so I guess that can be your measuring stick.

The game can be played as a solitaire game, but I don’t think that is quite as much fun.  There also is a competitive version where one player can earn the most points.  But our family prefers the plain “Co-Op” version (2-6 players) and cheers heartily when we defeat the numerous monsters against all odds.

castlepanic.jpg
You can find Castle Panic here!

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Dog Pile

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.

dogpile.jpg

Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up.  Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions).  It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉

The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes.  Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert.  Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card.  When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.

Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.”  My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this.  In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control).  Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more.  It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.”  Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges.  When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.”  Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on.  If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.

You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.

Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!

James and Susie

I landed in a new Twitter chat this weekend (#ecet2 – Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers).  The moderator was @AngelaAbend, and the topic was gifted students.  Here is one of the threads from the discussion when we were asked to describe gifted children:Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 4.26.27 PM.png

I don’t like to over-generalize gifted students.  Some can be hard on themselves and do their best in school.  But there are others who do so well at the beginning of their school careers that they receive more compliments than challenges.  Without sufficient problem-solving practice during these formative years, these students may never learn what to do when answers do not immediately appear in their heads.  By assuming young, successful students will “be fine,” we inadvertently cripple them later in life.  It’s essential that we target every child’s Zone of Proximal Development regularly so they can be equipped with tools and strategies for dealing with difficulties.

During the chat, Angela Abend tweeted the video, “James and Susie,” which illustrates the need for all children to be challenged.

When my gifted students say, “This is hard!” I tell them, “Good!  That’s my job!  If it was too easy, I’d be worried.”  Of course, there are students like my 5th grader from last year who would say, “This isn’t in my ZPD!” with a sly grin on his face.  “Keep trying!  You’ll figure it out,” I always responded.  And he would.

#redrawthebalance

In light of recent news events, it seems that sexist stereotypes and misogynistic behaviors continue to be supported and trivialized in our society.  The “boys will be boys” attitude persists in all age groups, socioeconomic classes, and cultures despite attempts that have been made in the last few decades to eradicate it.  What can we, as parents and teachers, do to combat the many chauvinistic messages that bombard our children every day?

Inspiring Girls, an international organization based in the UK, has an idea.  Noting that many of our children are exposed at an early age to a multitude of animated characters, the organization also found that only 29% of these potential role models are female.  In a revealing video included on the resources page, a classroom teachers asks her students to draw people in several different professions such as a firefighter and a surgeon.  61 pictures were drawn as men.  5 were women.

The #redrawthebalance campaign from Inspiring Girls wants us to bring awareness to this disturbing example of gender stereotypes, and to help our students see that women can be strong, intelligent, and hard-working as well.  You can find a workbook on the resources page that can be printed with pages that prompt students to draw their own characters, who will hopefully be more representative of themselves.  There are also downloadable posters of characters such as “Carla the Coder,” who are female.

We’ve come a long way since we had to fight for the right for women to vote.  But all we have to do is take a look at the headlines to see that it hasn’t been far enough.

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from Inspiring Girls

 

storymamas

As pretty much anyone who attends an ISTE conference will tell you, one of the most important features of the entire event is the connections that you make.  With the explosion of social media many educators have been able to find like-minded colleagues around the globe through Twitter chats, Facebook Posts, or blogging.  But when 20,000 of these people convene in a single city, these bonds can be strengthened as we get to meet each other in-person.

Two of the people I was fortunate to meet up with this week happen to be 2/3 of the storymamas team, Kim and Ashley.  These two, along with their friend Courtney, are the women behind the storymamas blog, a site dedicated to sharing book recommendations for children.  The three all have elementary school experience, and coincidentally they each have 2 children. (Did you have the second one three months ago, Kim, just to even things out?) As soon as I met Kim and Ashley, I knew that we all shared the same passion for reading and education, which definitely makes this an ISTE connection worth celebrating.  If I could just get them in the same room with my Twitter/Blog pal, Joelle Trayers, I think we might become a new alternative source of energy 😉

What is great about storymamas (besides the cool people who created it) is that the blog is a great resource for busy teachers and mothers who are looking for new children’s literature.  Now that my daughter is a teenager and stubbornly choosing to decide her own reading materials, I don’t find myself in the children’s book section very often.  It’s nice to have another place to get ideas for books to use with my younger grade levels.  I also like that they include author interviews on the blog with 3 questions about the story and 3 questions about the author.

So, want great new book ideas and insights into what makes writers tick?  Check out storymamas.  You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram at @storymamas, #storymamasbookaday & #authorsaturday

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Pool Noodle Projects – Reblog

I was at a dollar store this weekend, and saw a plethora of pool noodles.
It reminded me of this post I did a few years ago, and I thought it would be the perfect time for a repeat!

from http://www.babble.com/home/20-clever-ways-to-use-a-pool-noodle/#marble-run
from:  http://www.babble.com

After coming across one article on ways to use pool noodles, I did an internet search, and found a lot more creative ideas than I dreamed could exist for using these long pieces of foam!

My students use every spare moment they can get in my classroom to build elaborate marble runs, so the above picture caught my eye immediately.  You can find it, along with 19 other ideas for pool noodles here.

You can find the idea for pool noodle flash cards here.  To kick it up a notch for gifted thinkers, why not call out a word in a foreign language, or a definition, and have them find the noodle pieces that spell its counterpart?

Along with the Pool Noodle Super Sprinkler, you can find 29 other ideas here.

Of course, with all of these innovative suggestions I did not find any that matched the one drawn by one of my students!

from my Summer Pool Party packet
from my Summer Pool Party packet