Stanford’s d.school is one of my go-to resources for anything creative, so I was a bit surprised when I found this particular one completely by accident. I was looking for unique team-building tools, and “Stoke Deck” popped up. This free printable has 28 different activities that will help students to “Boost Energy, Create Focus, Get Personal, Nurture Camaraderie, and Communicate Mindsets.” They are each short exercises that can be used before starting a lesson – or even as a quick break during instruction. Some of them, like “Blind Disco,” may require some an established history of trust before you try them. Others, like “Long Lost Friends,” might be good for introductions. Almost all of them were new to me, so I can’t wait to try them!
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 Catan, so 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.
Since I offered a new, inspirational video for teachers in yesterday’s post, I thought it would only be fair to suggest one for students today. This one came to me by way of one of my fabulous colleagues, Amy Chandler. The Bridge is a cute and entertaining short video that would be a great way to start a year of collaboration and stepping outside one’s comfort zone. If you’re a “Leader in Me” school, you can use this as an illustration of a Win/Win (and a Lose/Lose!) situation.
I love hearing about the clever ways teachers group students in their classes. My daughter, who is in middle school, told me about using “clock buddies” in one of her classes. A different teacher gave them each a sheet with pictures on it, and they put a person’s name next to each one. When the teacher called out a picture, such as, “Eagle!” they would have to find the partner who corresponded to that picture.
I have been using Class Dojo to randomly make teams or select partners, but it isn’t exactly the fastest way to do it. Last week, I heard about an app called, “Team Shake,” which is so much faster! It does cost .99, so I just downloaded it to my phone rather than a school iPad. Once I input the names of the students for a class (or a club), all I have to do is choose the number of groups I want and shake to sort everyone immediately. Since I have multiple classes and clubs, I am able to save each one separately and load them whenever I need them.
Knowing I would be doing this post today, I did a little research to find some other ideas for grouping students. I ran across this gem by Genia Connell that has two of the ideas I already listed – plus eleven more! (And free downloads!) If you’re getting bored with always using the same method, you should definitely check out her suggestions! (I love the “Synonym Rolls” and the “iPartners”!)
So, this is a perfect example of the power of being connected. The other day, I saw a tweet from Principal Brad Gustafson in Minnesota (@GustafsonBrad – check out his great interview on The Two Guys Show!) about a video showing kids being thankful. I clicked on the link and was immediately charmed. The kids are fabulous, and throw in a few surprises (such as the lizard named CheeseDoodle- what a cool name!). What’s unique about this video, though, is that three schools collaborated to make it. The project is a combined effort from Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey. I think it’s great the way the students from Byram Intermediate (who collected comments from the elementary school – so I think that technically makes 4 schools), Greenwood Elementary, and Cantiague Elementary shared their gratitude. They can see what they have in common, which is a lot, and have a conversation about some of the different things that were mentioned.
This leads me to mention something I am thankful for this year that I did not have on my list (or even on my radar) last year – my online PLN. Without Twitter, I would not have known about this awesome video, which has already given me numerous ideas for project suggestions for my own students. And this is only the latest in a very long list of inspirational tidbits that I have gleaned from the folks on Twitter. I know everyone in America is busy today with your Thanksgiving preparations, so I won’t waste your time by getting all gushy and sentimental. Just know that I appreciate all of you – readers, Tweeters, co-workers, family, friends, and students!
Thanks for sharing, Byram, Greenwood, and Cantiague! Great job!
Adam Bellow, the man behind Educlipper, is now my top Education Rock Star. The man is amazing, engaging, and generous. I was fortunate to witness two of his sessions at ISTE this week, and I was inspired to fill two pages of Pages on my my iPad with new ideas for the upcoming school year.
One project that is near and dear to Adam’s heart is Educlipper. I have seen Educlipper mentioned on several other blogs, but basically dismissed it as a “Pinterest for Education.” However, I realize now that it is so much more.
This robust tool is free, and Adam assured us that it will always be free.
How is Educlipper different from Pinterest? Wow. Let me count the ways:
1.) As a teacher, you can add classes. Similar to Edmodo, your students receive group codes that allows them to join your class, and then you can share boards. This means that you can easily share resources with them, they can create digital portfolios, they can collaborate with each other.
2.) Educlipper is not limited to images. Any file format can be “clipped.”
3.) If you are interested in using Educlipper as a portfolio tool, you might want to know that Adam is currently working on an app that would allow you to take pictures of work and instantly upload it to your board.
4.) Adam built in an “export” feature so that you can export your boards and never have to worry that your hard work will be lost forever in cyberspace.
5.) Every single pin offers instant sharing options that include: Edmodo, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Tumblr, and even an embed code.
6.) Students do not need to have an e-mail, or any kind of social networking account to join.
7.) Adam’s “customer service” is amazing. I e-mailed a question to him last night, and immediately got a response – even though he is probably getting thousands of e-mails after his week at ISTE.
Can you imagine what a great differentiation tool this could be in your classroom? Or, how wonderful it would work as a digital portfolio? Or, how it will promote collaboration between students?
I want to thank Adam Bellow for this awesome resource. I’m only sorry I didn’t check it out sooner! Help to spread the word about Educlipper by clicking here for a handout, presentation, or video!
For the summer, I have decided to use my Tuesday and Thursday posts to reblog some of my favorite posts that some of my readers may have missed the first time around:
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.