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.
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.
My annual “Gifts for the Gifted” lists wouldn’t be complete without at least one game from ThinkFun. This company is one of my favorite sources for entertaining educational games and my students always enjoy reviewing new ones as well as playing the classics.
Clue Master is one of ThinkFun’s newer products. It’s a “logical deduction” game that is somewhat like Sudoku. Although it is labeled as a single-player game, my students and I like to play in pairs, alternating puzzles. Designed for ages 8 and up, it does one of the things that ThinkFun does best with games like this – scaffolding. The challenges slowly increase in difficulty so that anyone can work through them at their own pace without feeling bored or frustrated.
The game puzzles and solutions are contained in a sturdy book, and you will also find 9 magnetic tokens, a game grid, and instructions in the box. Each challenge gives you a picture of the grid with some clues to the locations of each of the tokens. The player’s job is to use the clues to deduce where all of the tokens should be placed.
The graphics have the pixelated look of Minecraft, which immediately draws the attention of young people. Don’t be fooled, however. Adults will have just as much fun trying to solve the challenges once they skip through the beginning puzzles. Spatial reasoning is definitely a requirement in addition to logic, and many of us can use a bit more practice in both.
With these types of games, I’ve found that part of the appeal to my young partners is for them to see me struggle through it. I also enjoy when they verbalize their thought processes and come to the realization that all of these can be solved through reasoning – not guess & check. This is why I would recommend that, if you purchase Clue Master as a gift, you make plans to enjoy it with the recipient instead of expecting him or her to go off an play it alone. Both of you will find the experience much more rewarding.
For more game recommendations, check out my Pinterest Board, which includes more products from ThinkFun as well as other great companies.
TED Ed recently featured this “River Crossing Riddle” in its weekly newsletter. It is similar to the “Bridge Riddle” I recommended on this blog last May. I think it might be fun to act out the riddle in class to help students try to solve it. When the video is finished, there are some other riddle suggestions that you may want to investigate as well.
If you enjoy River Crossing puzzles, here is a link to an online interactive one – and another one here from PBS Kids.
I just love the people I follow on Twitter. I get so many great ideas that would probably take a decade to reach me if it weren’t for the #eduawesome people who share resources regularly.
The other day I caught a tweet from @JStevens009 that had a link to a mysteriously named Google Slides presentation, “WODB?” I opened it to find 52 slides that each showed four pictures. (John stated that a colleague who doesn’t tweet had shared the presentation.) Doing a little more research, I found the @WODB Twitter stream, which led me to the WODB website, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”
The website was created by @MaryBourassa, but includes submissions from many people. The basic premise is to provide 4 pictures that share some attributes, but not all. Your mission is to explain why each one doesn’t belong, and to support your answer. There are some that are more obvious than others, and that’s where the fun comes in!
For example, in the image above, it is obvious the nickel does not belong because the rest are pennies. The bottom right picture does not belong because it is the only one that shows the tail side of the coins. The bottom left one does not belong because it is the only one that does not add up to 5 cents. But what about that first picture?
Seriously. WHAT ABOUT THE FIRST PICTURE?!!!!!!!
Someone tell me what the other 3 pictures have in common that the first one doesn’t. I can’t figure it out.
And it’s driving me crazy.
I just teach gifted students; that doesn’t mean I am one!
Valentine’s Day Sudoku – I have some other links to online and printable sudoku puzzles here, but these free printables are particularly well-suited for Kinder and 1st graders.
Hopscotch Hearts – I thought it would be fun for my students to use Hopscotch (the iPad coding app) to make something Valentine-y, and they have been working on their own ideas on and off for a couple of weeks. (You can see what a few of my 2nd graders have done so far here – most of them haven’t finished, yet.) Then I saw a tweet from Hopscotch about a new tutorial they just posted to make a “Pixel Art Heart.” My 3rd graders tried it out yesterday and really liked it. A few of them finished the code and then started modifying it to make the heart bigger or smaller as well as different colors. A couple of other students messed up on the code and I loved watching their peers working with them to try to figure out where they went wrong. (Because I had absolutely no idea!)
And finally, how about geeking up your day? Check out these awesome paper circuit cards made by 7th graders! (You can find Chibitronics LED circuit stickers online, or you can use surface-mount LED’s. Copper tape and coin cell batteries will help you make the circuits.) For instructions on making greeting cards, visit this post. (UPDATE 2/8/16: Here is a link to the Valentine Cards our Maker Club made this year.)
During the last few years, I’ve collected quite a few resources to help teachers “survive” the few weeks before Winter Break. Rather than recycle them in separate posts this year, I decided to put the links to the posts all in one place. (The “Telegenic” post shares related videos.)
One activity that has made it into my lesson plans for a few years in a row is, “Outside my Snow Globe.” Another seasonal favorite on this blog is to S.C.A.M.P.E.R. the Holidays. Here is an example of a student’s work. He chose to “Substitute” globes for snow to make an “Earthman.”
These weeks will fly by and probably be quite chaotic – but there’s no reason they can’t be fun, too!
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.