Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-5, Language Arts, Problem Solving, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

A Teacher’s December Survival Kit

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.”

earthmanjpg

These weeks will fly by and probably be quite chaotic – but there’s no reason they can’t be fun, too!

Critical Thinking, Education, Games, K-5, Problem Solving, Teaching Tools

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

Education, K-5, Problem Solving

Halloween Sudoku

I have a third grade student who brings a pad of sudoku puzzles out to recess each day. Any time there is a possible treat on the horizon, some of my second graders call out, “Can it be a sudoku puzzle?”

So if, like my students, yours also love these logic puzzles, here is a Halloween Sudoku you could try this week.  It could be fun whole-class on an interactive white board, or as a station.  Be sure to click on the settings gear on the bottom right corner, so you can choose the appropriate level.  Something that I like about this particular site is that, once you finish, you are given another challenge – so it’s not just a one-shot deal.

For more digital activities with an October theme, check out Laura Moore’s amazing Listly that includes some spooky magnetic poetry and more!

Halloween Sudoku

3-5, 5-8, Apps, Education, Parenting, Problem Solving, Teaching Tools

Zoombinis

A few months ago I gushed about a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring one of my favorite computer games ever, Zoombinis, to the 21st century.  Due to the success of that campaign, the Zoombinis app is now available on iTunes and Google Play. Windows, Mac, and Kindle Fire versions will be available later this year.

I was excited to download the app a few weeks ago when it finally became available to Kickstarter supporters. Back when we were allowed to download our own software, I had the game in my classroom for my students to play.  I highly respected the logic skills the game promoted, so when my daughter was younger, I bought a version for her to try at home.

My daughter is now 12, and vaguely remembers playing the original game.  I guessed that she would like the app, but I did not predict the high level of engagement that I’ve observed the last few weeks.

The Zoombinis game is all about logic.  Your goal is to get the Zoombinis to their new home, navigating through perilous puzzles along the way.  Each Zoombini has the following attributes that can be mixed and matched: hair, eyes, feet, and noses.  The challenges are based on those attributes.

For example, the Allergy Cliffs have 2 bridges.  If you place a Zoombini on the correct bridge, the little guy will quickly cross.  If it’s the wrong bridge, the cliff sneezes him or her off.  You have to figure out the “rule” for each bridge.  Only blue noses?  Only the ones with glasses?  Carefully test your theories before too many sneezes make you lose some Zoombinis.

AllergyCliffs

There are several different types of puzzles along the journey. If you aren’t good at one, that’s okay; the puzzle remains on that level until you’ve mastered it. Each puzzle is tailored to your skills, so after a few trips to the end you may end up with different puzzles on different levels of difficulty.

mapOne particular favorite is the pizza puzzle.  You must figure out exactly what toppings Arno wants on his pizza.  Children quickly learn that you need to be methodical because random guesses will end up with a Zoombini or two getting booted off the screen.
Pizza

Playing Zoombinis together is a fun way for my daughter and I to bond.  It’s also a great opportunity to model problem-solving skills. One of the most frustrating qualities of the game is also one of the best qualities – very few instructions are given.  Watching a child struggle is never easy, but the way his or her face lights up when solving a Zoombinis problem makes it all worthwhile.

The Zoombinis app is $4.99.  This may seem like an enormous amount for an app, but I guarantee that it’s worth it.  It teaches so many thinking skills and sustains interest for a very long time.  If you are a teacher or a parent of multiple children, you will be happy to know that different students can save games on the same iPad so their progress won’t be lost.

This game is cute, fun, and educational.  What are you waiting for? Download it today!

 

3-6, 5-8, Critical Thinking, Education, Fun Friday, Games, Parenting, Problem Solving

Rush Hour Shift

As regular readers may know, my students and I are big fans of ThinkFun games in our classroom.  The logic and problem-solving skills embedded into each one equal the entertainment value, which makes teachers and learners happy.

ThinkFun recently sent us one of their new games to review – Rush Hour Shift.  This name may sound familiar to you.  Rush Hour has been one of the most popular games in my classroom for years.  It’s meant to be a single-player game, though my students usually work in pairs or small groups to solve the increasingly difficult challenges of sliding a car through lanes of traffic to the exit.  The new version, Rush Hour Shift, is a 2-player game – and I predict it will be the new favorite in my classes.

Rush Hour Shift from ThinkFun
Rush Hour Shift from ThinkFun

In Rush Hour Shift, there are 3 interlocking plates that make up the traffic grid.  Each player is trying to slide their car to the opposite end.  Different challenges direct you on how to set up the “traffic” on the grid before starting.  Each player is dealt a set of cards, and can only make the moves that are on the cards.  These moves include sliding the other cars around or shifting one of the interlocking plates.

My daughter (12) and I tried the game first.  She beat me two out of three times.  (Spatial reasoning has always been one of my weaknesses.)  I was addicted – but I think my daughter was getting frustrated with playing against someone so obviously beneath her level.

Yesterday, three of my 5th grade girls tried the game out.  They had earned the privilege of  “testing” a game and went into the empty classroom next door to play.   The rest of us were trying to solve some wicked sudoku-like math puzzles, and were soon finding ourselves distracted by the uproarious laughter coming from the game-testers.

I peeked in on the girls, and they were having a great time.  They had easily figured out the instructions, and were taking turns playing each other.  When I asked them if they would recommend the game to others, they vigorously agreed.  Jokingly, one of them commented,  “But not if you want to keep your friends!”  Apparently Rush Hour Shift has the ability to spark some friendly competition.

One thing that we all agreed on was the potential for many hours of fun with this game.  For each of the 10 game set-ups given, there are endless ways the game can be played based on the cards that are dealt and the choices each player makes for using them.

We did receive Rush Hour Shift free to review, but I would definitely choose to purchase one for a birthday gift in the future.

If you find this game interesting and would like to see some other products that I have recommended in the past, check out this Pinterest Board.

Creative Thinking, Education, K-5, Science, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites

Leprechaun Traps and Other Shenanigans

A couple of years ago I posted about the cute idea that I’d found on several websites of having students build leprechaun traps.   Since my Kinders were learning about Inventor Thinking around that time, we tried it out.  They were very earnest about creating efficient traps, and I’m pretty sure at least one of the students was disappointed that he didn’t catch his prey.  You can see our class blog posts from that year here and here.

Here is an updated list of St. Patrick’s Day links in case you want to try to capture your own leprechaun this year – or, better yet, his pot of gold:

Not enough?  Technology Rocks. Seriously has way more St. Patrick’s Day links.

If you’re looking for additional resources, I also have a St. Patrick’s Day Sudoku Packet ($1) and a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Packet ($2) available for download on Teachers Pay Teachers.

image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr
Leprechaun Trap image from: Sunflower Lily on Flickr