Tag Archives: holiday

A Blocky Christmas

I’ll be adding the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” to my list of “Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break.”  It’s a fun ABCya page that challenges you to move some blocks around the screen.  I know that doesn’t sound very fun or challenging, but trust me, my description doesn’t really do it justice.  As you move through the levels, new obstacles are added and your own block becomes magnetic – which can be helpful and irritating at the same time.  I love using puzzles like these on the Interactive White Board to talk about Growth Mindset with my students.  They cheer each other on and everyone celebrates when someone solves a particularly difficult level.

I learned about the “Blocky Christmas Puzzle” from Technology Rocks. Seriously.  You can find more holiday interactive by visiting this post by Shannon.  She also has a billion other awesome resources, so you should definitely visit her blog if you haven’t yet.

Blocky Christmas Puzzle
Blocky Christmas Puzzle
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The Twelve Days of Christmas Math Activities

Way back in 2012, I posted about some interesting math activities that you can do with the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  This happens to be one of my most despised songs ever because of the redundancy.  However, it’s worth using in class to demonstrate a little mathematical magic and get your students to think about the true cost of ridiculous gifts that no one would actually want to receive (aside from five golden rings).

Four years ago, this is part of what I posted:

My 4th grade gifted students are studying mathematical masterpieces.  We had looked at the Fibonacci series earlier this year, and a couple of days ago, I stumbled across an interesting lesson that ties Pascal’s Triangle in with “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  We spent half our day: creating the triangle, finding patterns in the triangle, finding Fibonacci in the triangle, trying to make sense of a Vi Hart video about the triangle, and using the triangle to figure out how many gifts were actually bought each day.

The other portion of my post mentioned a website interactive that doesn’t appear to work any longer.  However, it was hosted by PNC, who has been kind enough to provide an updated version that gives current estimates of the cost of each gift. There are also some educator resources, designed for middle school and high school students, as well as a free printable coloring book.  I plan to actually have my student calculate the final cost of the gifts.  (If you want to do the same, don’t let them use the website at first because it reveals the answer when you scroll down far enough.)  This recording sheet is one that you could use for gift calculations.

A nice feature of the updated PNC site is the interactive graph near the bottom that allows you to see how costs have changed over the years for the group of gifts as well as for each individual gift.  This can yield some good discussions on what might be driving the costs up or down.

image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:XRF_12days.jpg
image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:XRF_12days.jpg

Breakout Edu Seasonal Games

I should probably add Breakout Edu’s Seasonal Games to my “Teachers’ December Survival Kit.”  What better way is there to keep your students engaged, learning, and problem-solving than sending them on a holiday quest?  You can find 5 Breakout Edu games related to December holidays on this page.

In case you haven’t hear about Breakout Edu yet, here is my first post about the site.  Also, don’t forget that there are digital Breakout Edu games that don’t require the physical equipment (boxes, locks, etc…) that are suggested for the regular games.  Don’t despair if you want to try a Breakout Edu game and don’t have the supplies.  I’ve seen teachers use many creative ways to simulate the boxes and locks with found materials.  The students will enjoy working out the puzzles no matter what you use!

image from Pixabay
image from Pixabay

Gifts for the Gifted – Rush Hour Shift

Around this time of year I post a gift recommendation each Friday as part of a “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  The title is a bit misleading, as it might imply that the gifts are only for children who have been endowed with the label, and that is certainly not true. Just as with any gift, you should select a product that suits the interests of the receiver.  These lists of potential gifts that I provide are ones that I feel will be engaging for children who enjoy problem solving and/or creativity.

Earlier this year, in March, I posted about a new game from ThinkFun called, “Rush Hour Shift.”  Longevity is always part of the criteria for the toys and games that I recommend, and Rush Hour Shift definitely fulfills that requirement.

Since I started teaching GT 14 years ago, Rush Hour has been one of the games immediately pulled out during indoor recess times.   Designed to be a single-player game the player sets cars up on a grid based on the challenge card he or she is playing.  Then, the player uses logic to slide the cars around so that the red car can exit the grid.

The only drawback to Rush Hour was that many of my students wanted to play with a partner, which sometimes resulted in squabbles as one person would get increasingly frustrated when the other could not see the “obvious” solution and try to take control.

Rush Hour Shift nicely resolves this issue.  In this two-player game, what can seem to be a relatively simple challenge can quickly become difficult when the players use the cards they’ve been dealt to change the traffic grid in the blink of an eye.

Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun
Rush Hour Shift by ThinkFun

As you may observe in the picture above, the grid is made of three plates that can be “shifted” in order to block your opponent’s car or free your own. When it’s your turn, you must carefully choose a card in your hand to indicate what kind of strategy you intend to use to get your car closer to the end of the board on your opponent’s side. With 10 different game setups, 32 cards, and the unpredictable decisions that can be made at every juncture, the potential for months of game play is obvious.

Rush Hour Shift is recommended for ages 8 and up.  Children are quick to figure out the rules, and enjoy playing over and over again to try to outwit their opponents as they learn new strategies.

Some other ThinkFun games I’ve reviewed in the past are: Gravity Maze, Shell Game, Last Letter, and Robot Turtles.

For other recommended gifts for the holiday season, check out this page or my Pinterest Board.

gifts

Podsnack

I forgot my wireless speaker yesterday.  Usually, the week before our Winter Break, my students enjoy listening to Christmas/Holiday music.  Our new computers don’t have C.D. players, so I have a few playlists on my phone.  However, the phone doesn’t sound very good without a speaker.

Podsnack to the rescue!  During my planning time, I quickly put together a playlist of virtually all of the same songs I had on my phone.  When the students returned to class, the songs were ready to go.  Click here if you would like to access my Holiday Playlist. (The Straight No Chaser songs are a huge hit with the students, by the way!)

Podsnack is a free service.  You can access public playlists that have been shared by a link without even registering.  If you do register (for free), you can create your own playlist by adding tracks from your computer (not iTunes), Dropbox, or YouTube.  There is a Premium version of the service, but I haven’t needed that.

Of course, make sure Podsnack is not blocked if you are using it in your classroom.  And always preview the songs before playing them to make sure they are appropriate for your particular group of students.

Podsnack is great to use in the curriculum as well.  You can read about one great idea from my friend, LeAnne Hernandez.  She won the Teachers are Givers contest this summer with this lesson plan.

Below, you can see some of the creative thinking my 4th graders did yesterday while they were listening to our Holiday Playlist.  Their assignment was to “adapt” Santa’s sleigh to a different environment. If you are interested in more ideas like these, check out this post.

Santa has his own inner tube connected to one carrying gifts.  Whales are pulling them.
Santa has his own inner tube connected to one carrying gifts. Whales are pulling them.
I cannot even describe all of the details in this picture.  The sleigh is being pulled by lions and is also powered by a lunar panel as opposed to a solar one)
I cannot even describe all of the details in this picture. The sleigh is being pulled by lions and is also powered by a lunar panel (as opposed to a solar one).  There is feed hanging off the end for the lions.
Here we have the sleigh outfitted with a drill for underground travel.
Here we have the sleigh outfitted with a drill for underground travel.  Powerful lanterns are necessary, too.
My favorite thing about this one is the technical jargon on the buttons!
Sorry about the quality of this pic!  My favorite thing about this one is the technical jargon on the buttons!

Logical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break

Full disclosure: this first week of December is going to be my busiest week this year. Therefore, I decided to cheat a bit for a few days and recycle some posts from last year. I’ve done a bit of editing to make sure they remain current but otherwise they are the same. Hopefully you still find them useful!

Screen Shot from Winter Sudoku
Screen Shot from Winter Sudoku

Yesterday, I posted some “Creative Ways to Survive the Week Before Winter Break.” But maybe you have a group of students (or even a handful) who have a decided preference for logical thinking challenges, so here are some resources:

One resource I always forget to check (even though I have products listed on there!) is Teachers Pay Teachers.  Here are some free logic packets you might want to download:

This one is NOT free (currently $8), but it’s 213 pages, and chock full of critical thinking activities for 1st-3rd.  Personally, I think it’s well worth the money for this set of “Christmas Critical Thinking Puzzles,” that includes:  Primarily Christmas Logic, Christmas Logic with a String of Lights, Christmas Analogies, Christmas Which One Doesn’t Belong?*  I do not know Susan Morrow, the author of this set – and I am certainly not getting any money for advertising her product.  But, I think it’s a great deal.  Quite frankly, I am very jealous of her talent 😉

*You can also purchase a few of the included puzzle packs separately, if you prefer.

Another idea, which I plan to try with my older kids, is to have them design some Winter Kodable mazes (similar to the app), along with the coding solutions.  This will let them use a bit of creativity along with their logical thinking skills! (By the way, don’t forget about Hour of Code next week!)

More in this series:

Creative Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!
Physical Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!
Telegenic Ways to Survive the Weeks Before Winter Break!

Augmented Reality Reward Coupons

I confess that this is nothing new.  I offered these augmented reality reward coupons last year, and have been meaning to make some more.  However, that hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe a few enterprising students can make some for me!

music1

My students absolutely loved these last year.  In my classroom Reward Coupons are kind of a seasonal thing, which makes them extra special when I start giving them out.

These coupons, when scanned with the special Aurasma app, will “speak” the reward.  (You need to be following Hidden Forest Elementary in the app.)

If you like these, you might also want to try out the AR holiday cards that I posted last December.

New to augmented reality?  I have an Augmented Reality Page devoted to tutorials, lessons, and apps.  Also, be sure to check out Elements 4D for a great educational way to use augmented reality for teaching Chemistry!