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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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!
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!
One of the things that is really important any time of the year is to get the students up out of their seats. But it’s particularly vital this time of year. Attention spans are shorter and less time is spent out of doors in many places. Here are some ideas for keeping active during the school day:
Minds in Bloom has a fabulous list of Christmas Brain Breaks that could be modified for those of you that don’t celebrate that particular holiday. (Pretty sure your kids will enjoy the “Snowball Fight” idea!)
Register for free at GoNoodle.com for some more Brain Break videos that include some gamification.