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!
As I continue to educate myself on anti-racism, I have vowed to devote a weekly post to this cause. I have been curating resources for this at a rate that is impossible to sustain, and it has been a bit overwhelming. I don’t want to dump a lot of links on you because you can basically get any list that you want from social media. Following the tradition of this blog, I will attempt to share no more than a few quality resources with each post.
Today’s very useful resource is brought to you by CommonLit. I’ve written about CommonLit a couple of times on this blog, and it is heartening to see that this website has continued to improve. Provided by a non-profit, CommonLit also has remained free for teachers. As you know, (and I mentioned in yesterday’s post), quality ed tech tools are difficult to find, and sometimes don’t last very long.
CommonLit has compiled 59 texts for talking about race. It appears that the grade range is from 4th-12th. Here is an example of a poem called, “The Child,” by J. Patrick Lewis, that is suitable for 4th grade and up. As you can see on the right-hand side, activities are provided to go along with the text, including questions and discussion suggestions. Students who are logged in on a computer (not a mobile device at this time) can also annotate the text. They can have the computer read it out loud, or translate to another language.
At the top of the page, you will see tabs for paired texts, related media, and parent/teacher guides to go along with the specific text. You must be logged in for some of these resources – but remember it is free to register!
If school is already out in your neck of the woods, be sure to bookmark this resource for next school year. Parents, you don’t need to wait, since there are guides for you to use if you want to start the discussion now.
I’ve been in the process of gathering recommended tools and strategies for distance learning, and bookmarked a spreadsheet started by Fawn Nguyen (@FawnPNguyen) where she is collecting “Distance Learning Best Practices for Maths.” One of the resources entered on the sheet is Graspable Math. Intrigued by the title, I decided to check out the website.
Graspable Math is a free website that allows students and teacher to manipulate the terms in algebraic equations easily online. You can see how it works by going directly to the canvas, and typing in your own unsolved equation. (Go to Insert – Math Expression.) Then, just click and drag to indicate each step you would go through as you attempt to solve it. A neat feature of Graspable Math is that only the results of your most recent step will show on the canvas. However, at any time you can click the handle on the right side and drag it down to show any or all of the previous steps as well.
Here is the short video that was included on Nguyen’s spreadsheet that summarizes Graspable Math:
Once you are ready to create assignments (there are specific lessons on the site you can use if you need help getting started), head over to this page for a quick tutorial on how to design lessons for your classes.
For those of you who are elementary teachers with students who may be ready to move on to algebraic thinking, Graspable Math also has a projects page that includes interactive games that scaffold the topic. One of the games is specifically appropriate for elementary students.
Whether using an interactive whiteboard at school or teaching remotely, educators will find that Graspable Math is a nice way for students to demonstrate their understanding of algebra.
I have been a fan of iCivics, the site founded by Justice O’Connor in 2009, since 2011. Since then, the site has continued to add fun, quality activities designed to help students learn about being responsible citizens. As a response to our current educational environment, iCivics has introduced a free, quest-based resource called, “iCivics Game Odyssey,” that will encourage students to, according to the site, #shelterinplay.
To begin, students will download the Odyssey map, which will be on a Google Slide that they will copy so they can edit it. As they complete each quest, they will be able to add the badges they have earned to the map. The quests, which are also each accompanied by interactive Google Slides activities, are connected to iCivics games. New quests are scheduled to be added each Monday. If used as an assignment, teachers can have students turn in their completed Google Slides copies at the end of each quest, and the map once all badges have been earned.
There is a link on the Odyssey page to weekly planners for middle school and high school teachers who would like to use the lessons for class. (To access these, you will need to register for a free iCivics account.) Although 6-12 seem to be the targeted grade levels, I think that upper elementary students would also enjoy these activities. There is no requirement for this resource to be used by schools, so parents can feel free to provide this as an enrichment activity for their children and even play along with them.
When my daughter was younger, she would often plop on the floor next to our golden retriever, Mia, and read to her. I would have suspected that Mia was just being a good sport, but her additional voluntary presence during our nightly bedtime stories seemed to suggest that she actually enjoyed read alouds. Each evening, my husband or I would set ourselves up in the beanbag chair on the floor by our daughter’s bed, and Mia and our bulldog, Clancy, would lie down on either side of us, muzzles in their paws and eyes wide open, as we made our way through Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia. (It should be noted that, at the time, Clancy’s greatest joy was devouring books in a very literal way, so it was quite the feat to get him to calm down and actually listen to one being read.)
Pet Partners, an organization that helps to train therapy animals and match volunteers with organizations, recognizes the magic of reading to your pet. In response to the pandemic, which may have placed more responsibility on parents to encourage their children to read at home, Pet Partners has begun a new program called, “We Are All Ears.” With a reading log, printable bookmarks, and a bingo card students who may find reading to be a chore can make it more fun by involving their pet snake, hamster, bird, dog, cat, etc… The program is free, but you can also purchase a t-shirt if you like.
I’ve seen lots of pictures on social media of people thankful for their pets during the quarantine. Now you can give back to your pets while practicing literacy at the same time.
One of the many podcasts that I listen to is Radiolab, a program that makes science easy to understand for non-scientists. I was happy to find out from one of their Tweets that there is now a “Radiolab for Kids” site, where they have collected programs from their archives that would appeal especially to children. One of the many episodes is, “Mapping Tic Tac Toedom,” which I’ve embedded below. In this broadcast, the hosts try to figure out who in the world knows how to play Tic-Tac-Toe – a game that seems ubiquitous to Americans, but do people in other countries play it?
If your child listens to the podcast, and is interested in learning more about Tic-Tac-Toe, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on “Tic-Tac-Toe Variants,” which offers suggestions for different versions such as “Revenge in a Row” and “Random Turn Tic-Tac-Toe.”
My students enjoyed playing Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe, and you can find directions for that here: “Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe” (as explained by “Math with Bad Drawings”)
They also really liked the video, Tic-Tac-Toe Game That Goes Horribly Wrong, which I would use whenever we were about to do a unit on inventing games so they could see what happens when people just assume you know the rules to a game.
Other great listens on Radiolab for Kids? Try learning about animal minds, super cool science, or zombie cockroaches among other things. Chances are, even the adults will learn something new!