Cart Before the Horse

With the holidays coming up, many parents ask me for educational gifts that I would recommend for their children.  “Cart Before the Horse” is one that I would suggest.  It is a logic puzzle game that can be played independently or in a small group collaboration (or in a center).  It’s for children 8 and up, and comes from www.mindware.com, one of my favorite sources for thinking games and activities.  Some other games that I recommend from the site are:  Rush Hour, Solitaire Chess, Q-Bitz, Knot So Fast, and Gobblet. These are all games that require logic, strategy, and deductive reasoning – making them great for the classroom or as gifts.

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Talking Tom and Ben News for iPad

You are probably familiar with the “Talking” apps.  There are a variety that are available for free, and work on iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.  This particular one is only compatible with the iPad at the moment, and is free (though there is an offer for an in-app purchase).  My Multimedia club students had fun playing around with the app to deliver some Thanksgiving Jokes on our school news, which is a video broadcast.  They recorded the jokes, then sent them to the computer, where, once the MOV file was converted to WMV (with a little help from Zamzar), we were able to add music and subtitles.  If you are not crazy about all of those complicated steps, don’t worry.  You can just record and e-mail it.  We have not had a chance to use one of the coolest features of this app, which allows you to insert a video from your iPad on which Tom and Ben can comment.  This offers a lot of learning opportunities in which students can explain some of their own homemade videos.  (Example:  Imagine, “This just in – Allison figured out how to solve 13 times 14!”)

Here is a sample of our jokes from our video club:

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Storybird

As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing?  In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice:  when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today.  I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write.  I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave.  So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories.  For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story.  We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.

After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens.  I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice.  You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish.  They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.

Storybird is free.  Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily.  The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in.  You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top.  They can comment, as can the teacher.  It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family.  The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create.  Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring.  The art work is charming and lovely.

Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders: (I apologize if some of the words are cut off – WordPress does not “play well” with embed codes!)
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Thanksgiving Fun from “Technology Rocks, Seriously”

My posts have been a little serious lately.  So, I found an antidote on the blog “Technology Rocks, Seriously“.  The author, Shannon, posts several links to some Thanksgiving logic puzzles and other problem solving games.  “Turkey Liberation 2” piqued my interest.   I recently read this post on video games enhancing creativity, so here is your justification for adding a few to your lesson plan!

Stump the Professor

“Stump the Professor” is one of several free downloads available from The Positive Engagement Project, a site that “is equipped with a variety of tools for teachers to get their students positively engaged in active learning.”  The free downloads are all thorough activity packets designed to help with engaging students.  Each packet that I reviewed included explanations, examples, and templates.  “Stump the Professor” detailed a review game in which students design the questions.  Another one that I liked was “True and False – Three Points of Proof”.  In this activity, the students are given the answers to questions from reading passages, and then must prove why the answers are correct and the other alternatives are not.  Teachers can also find activities for math and character education on the site.

Reteach and Enrich

This video, hosted by Edutopia, offers an interesting model for differentiating for students in mathematics – giving the ones who need extra help the opportunity for more time to learn while the students who have mastered a concept can go deeper.  This is a fascinating alternative to the “Intervention Time” that many schools have been implementing.  With this method, all students have their needs addressed, instead of just the ones who need additional practice.

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Scholastic’s The First Thanksgiving

Give your students a virtual field trip to the First Thanksgiving by visiting this in-depth resource from Scholastic.  Students can read letters from pilgrims, view videos with “Miles Standish” and other pilgrims, and take a field trip to Plimouth.  There are lots of resources and free printables for teachers as well.  This is a great way for the students to immerse themselves in history instead of relying on social studies textbooks.

Great Minds Don't Think Alike!

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