Tag Archives: games

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.

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You can find Castle Panic here!
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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.

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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!

Futoshiki Puzzles

These online Futoshiki Puzzles were created by KrazyDad (you can find puzzles of all types on his site here).  The puzzles are similar to Sudoku and KenKen in that you are trying to place numbers in a matrix using logic without repeating digits in any row or column.  The twist is that Futoshiki puzzles provide clues using the inequality symbols for less than/greater than.  Your clues are in comparing boxes that are on either side of the inequality to determine which digits would logically work.

You can do Futoshiki puzzles online here.  Or, you can print out the pages provided by KrazyDad here.

Jim Bumgardner, the man behind KrazyDad, provides practically unlimited puzzle game fun on his site, so once you get worn out on the Futoshiki puzzles I recommend you try some of his other unique puzzles.

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image from Wikimedia

myRebus

myRebus is a fun tool that teachers can use to create picture sentences for students to solve.  For example, I made the one below for the students who signed up for my summer Google Classroom.  Can you tell what it says?  The site allows you to type in any sentences and it will generate the rebus for you.  It does ask for you to input your e-mail to have the rebus sent to you, but I just take a screenshot.  This could be a fun alternative for spelling practice or even a strategy to get students to pay attention to directions on an assignment.  Another great use is for Breakout Edu clues! For students who want to create rebus puzzles, they can use this site, or you might want to take a look at this lesson plan I wrote for Canva.

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PicCollage Game Boards

The PicCollage (or PicKids) app is a versatile tool that my students have used for reflection, creating visuals for a report, and telling stories.  Recently, I’ve seen a couple of different articles on the web about students and teachers using PicCollage to make game boards.  This can range in educational value from creation for fun all of the way to another way to assess learning.  In all cases, creativity can be a part of the activity as students can personalize the boards with photos, stickers, and text.  For some examples and specific integration ideas, check out these two blog posts: “Digital Game Boards with PicCollage” and “Creating and Playing Games on PicCollage.”

Mindset Monopoly
Mindset Monopoly Game created by some of my 3rd Graders (using some Mandala images made by my 4th graders!)

Spaceteam Revisited

It has been about 4 years since I first wrote about Spaceteam, and there have been a few changes since then.  The app is now available on both Google Play and iOS, and there can now be up to 8 people involved in a single game.  What hasn’t changed is that it is still fun!

When you play Spaceteam, everyone playing must be on the same wi-fi network.  Once all of the players get past the “Waiting Room” in the app, each person gets a different dashboard with gadgets that usually have gibberish labels.  In order to get to the next level, instructions must be followed.  However, the instructions on your screen are usually for other players – so you must call them out.  This means you will be shouting out ridiculous sounding directions such as, “Turn off the novacrit!” with the hope that the player who has a “novacrit” will hear you and turn it off.  Not all of the commands are gibberish, however.  It’s funny listening to someone impatiently yelling, “Darn the socks! Someone needs to darn the socks!”

Due to the unusual vocabulary, this game is best suited for 4th grade and up.  The app has a 9+ rating, but I have not seen anything inappropriate pop up on the screens.  The biggest danger seems to be that people might inadvertently pronounce something incorrectly.

Why play this app in your classroom?  Well, it’s a great brain break.  It’s also fun for team building.  In addition, it can be the introduction to a great conversation about listening.  One of the things my students learned was that, when you expect to hear one thing and someone says something else, you may miss it.  (This happens a lot in Spaceteam due to differences in perceived word pronunciations.)  They also learned that little can be accomplished when a lot of people are yelling, and that communication is definitely more difficult in high-pressure situations.

Spaceteam also has a Spaceteam ESL app designed specifically to help English language learners work on vocabulary.  Again, there is a lot of shouting involved, but it beats memorizing word lists.

For many of us, the end of the school year is drawing near.  If you are looking for novel ways to keep student interest, you may want to try Spaceteam.

Snotes

I was reading @chucktaft’s recent blog post on Social Studies Out Loud about his recent Breakout Edu experience, and almost missed a list of new-to-me digital tools near the end of the article (click here to see my blog post explaining Breakout Edu).  Taft offers a few different ways to leave clues for fun Breakout Edu experiences that I hadn’t seen, and one of them is Snotes.*

Snotes allows you to make short hidden messages.  The only way to read them is to turn them certain ways – both horizontally and vertically – which can be done physically or digitally.  There is a Snotes app (for both iOS and Android), which allows you to digitally send Snotes secret messages, and there is a Snotes Quotes app, which is a trivia game.

After trying out Snotes, you can register for a free account, which will allow you to make more Snotes. Or, you can pay $1.99 for a bunch of extra features like an “expanded secret decoder.”  Not really sure what that means, but it might be worth two bucks to find out.

It’s quite possible that I typed “snots” instead of “Snotes” somewhere in this blog post, although SpellCheck seems to have found enough “Snotes” to make that unlikely.

There are some other great clue suggestions on Chuck Taft’s site that you might want to check out.  You could use them outside the classroom, too.  My daughter hasn’t had a Christmas or Easter, yet, when she hasn’t had to solve puzzles to find at least some of her treasure…   (She’ll probably get her revenge on me when I die by encoding an evil message on my tombstone.)

*Unfortunately, the website may be blocked in your district, but you can always create Snotes at home to use for school, or use the app.

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