Category Archives: 3-6

Invisible Ink Books

This Friday’s edition of “Gifts for the Gifted” may be a blast from the past if you ever went on long trips as a child without the benefits of electronic entertainment systems.

When I was little, preparing for travel consisted of packing a bunch of books to read and a few books of puzzles.  I can’t remember ever flying in a plane without one of these invisible ink books.

You can still find them in stores.  On the rare occasion I visit a Cracker Barrel, there is usually a display of invisible ink books.  Most of the ones you see these days are products of movie advertising, like Toy Story or Frozen.  But I was amused to come across some of the classics while browsing the “New Products” section of MindwareOnline.

Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)
Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)

My absolute favorites as a child were the Mr. Mystery Secret Agent Spy ones.  (You can find More Mr. Mystery and The Return of Mr. Mystery online as well.) I loved the challenge of the puzzles and the independence that the invisible ink pen gave me to become a detective in my own imaginary world.

mrmystery

I got my daughter one of these a couple of years back for an upcoming trip, and I think she enjoyed them just as much as I always have.  Of course, in retrospect I probably should have gotten one for myself, too!

For more ideas for gifts, check out my Pinterest Board.

gifts

Oh hi

Most of the trouble I get into is when my daughter is late getting done with swim practice.  I get bored and start clicking on Twitter links.  Before I know it, I’m addicted to a new game.

Ian Byrd from @byrdseedgifted tweeted the link for “Oh hi” out a couple of days ago.  For those of you who enjoy Sudoku, this logic puzzle should be right up your alley.  For those of you who think Sudoku is evil – you’re welcome.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.22.47 PM

Oh hi” is browser based, and the game appears to work on any device, which makes it even more wicked.

I have lots of devices.

I’m not going to try to explain the game because the site does a good job with a simple tutorial.  Basically, you need to get the same amount of blue squares and red squares in every row and column without repeating the pattern.  However, you can never have more than 2 of the same color adjacent to each other. There are 4 levels: 4×4, 6×6, 8×8, and 10×10. I’m still on the 8×8 – mostly because I like the feeling of being somewhat challenged and majorly successful at the same time.  Frankly, I only got that far because of my daughter’s encouragement ;)

If you’re struggling to find an activity to fill in small time gaps during the last couple of days before Thanksgiving break, this might be a good option!

8x8 Oh hi

 

Shell Game

For this week’s “Gifts for the Gifted” post, I have another great product from ThinkFun. It’s called, “Shell Game.

gifts

The concept of the game is to place the colored hermit crabs under the shells as directed at the top of each challenge page.  You are then supposed to slide the shells around (without peeking underneath) until you think you have moved the colored crabs to the new spots shown on the bottom of the page.

Shell Game from ThinkFun
Shell Game from ThinkFun

If you think Shell Game is easy, you’re probably not playing it correctly! I learned this from my 4th graders who seemed to be going through the challenges kind of rapidly.  I sat down with them, and realized they were just moving the shells around.  To truly meet the challenge, the player must slide the shells only along the lines provided.  This makes it much harder.

ThinkFun games are always a fan favorite in my classroom, and this one is no exception.  Although it’s designed for one player, I can usually allow up to 3 students at a center with the game, and they take turns on the challenges.

This game is recommended for children 8 and up.  I would definitely agree with that recommendation.  I think younger children would get frustrated or play the game incorrectly.

One of my students came up with an interesting solution to the problem of remembering which crab was under each shell.  He turned the shells different ways for each color so he always knew the crab hidden underneath.  According to him, this “isn’t cheating, just a good strategy.” I have to admit that is a clever way to keep track of the colors as you whisk them around the page!

Some other recent reviews I’ve done of ThinkFun games are Gravity Maze and Robot Turtles (a nice center to have during Hour of Code). Also, if you are looking for more educational toys and games, I have a Pinterest Board here.

My Gifts for the Gifted series will continue each Friday through the end of December. Here is a link to last week’s post, the first in this year’s batch.

(Full Disclosure: I did receive Shell Game for free to review from ThinkFun.)

Erase All Kittens

Don’t worry.  There is nothing inhumane about this site.  And, if you are a fan of kittens and teaching kids how to code, then you will probably like it.

Erase all Kittens is a game that can be used to teach kids some programming skills.  The demo, which is available online, has several levels that scaffold learning to code (HTML and CSS) as the user plays a simple video game in which the goal is to release kittens from their box prisons.  Whenever you reach a kitten, you are rewarded with a short video of a cute kitten.  Each level is a bit harder, and you learn coding skills such as creating headings and changing colors so that you can more easily navigate.

My 11-year-old daughter was able to play the demo without any help from me.  She has a bit of experience with coding, though.  Whatever age level you try this with, the user needs to be able to read in order to make the necessary adjustments to the code.

If you want the full game, and you have some tech skills, you can visit this link.  Erase All Kittens is currently in beta, so the full version is not currently available to play online.  If you want to be notified about any updates, be sure to fill out your information on this page.

H/T to @wfryer for tweeting this link out last week!  If you would like to see more ideas for teaching kids how to code, feel free to visit my Pinterest Board on Programming for Kids.

Erase All Kittens

What Would Socrates Do?

socrates-education

In past posts, I’ve mentioned using “Socratic Dialogue” with my students.  Sometimes this is referred to as “Socratic Method”, “Socratic Seminar”, or “Socratic Circles.”  You can learn more about this teaching technique here and in my post on “Socratic Questions.”

I recently ran across an excellent post on the Langwitches blog called, “Socratic Seminar and the Backchannel.”  The article gives a detailed description of teacher Shannon Hancock using the fishbowl method of an inner circle and outer circle with her 8th grade students to discuss The Alchemist. What distinguishes Shannon’s lesson from others of its kind is that she allowed her students to use Today’s Meet as a backchannel to comment during the discussion.  Normally, the outer circle of students remain fairly passive, but her technique makes the discussion much more interactive and collaborative for all who are involved.  I must confess that I have used a backchannel in my class before (Socrative and Google Docs are other great alternatives to Today’s Meet), but this particular use never occurred to me.

Even if you do not have enough digital devices to exactly replicate Shannon’s lesson, I encourage you to take a look at the article, which includes a wonderful video of the class in action, as well as examples of comments made on the backchannel.  I love the way Shannon introduces the lesson, as well as her encouragement of the students to collaborate by having a short discussion with partners at the half-way mark.

Watching Shannon Hancock inspires me to work harder to make our classroom Socratic Circles more meaningful and deep, whether we use technology or not.

Transum Software

Transum Software

Don’t be mislead by the title of this site.  You are not required to download any software, and the math resources here are fun and free.  Although primarily designed for middle and high school students, there seem to be a lot of activities that could be used in upper elementary – and it would be a great site to refer to for extension activities.

The first thing I discovered when exploring the site was the “Starter of the Day” link, which gives a mathematical brain teaser for each day of the month.  Below is the example for today:

Starter of the day for 4/23/14 from Transum Software
Starter of the day for 4/23/14 from Transum Software

 

Shine + Write has many activities that would be great to use with an interactive white board.  This “True or False” game, for example, takes some thought.  Fun Maths has a page of games and math tricks that will be sure to entertain. Investigations offers challenges that might be good for gifted math students to work on independently.

There are many other links on Transum Software that you may find useful.  If you are looking for a way to make math class more exciting, I highly recommend checking out this site.

Would You Rather Be My Valentine or Do a Few Math Problems?

Would You Rather Be My Valentine

Earlier this month, I saw a post by Richard Byrne that led me to this great site of mathematical “Would You Rather” problems.  John Stevens (@JStevens009) is the clever man who creates these mathematical challenges, and I love the thinking that is required to solve the questions he poses.  I tried a few with my 3rd graders, and they were hooked.  Many of the problems, though, require a little more advanced math knowledge than generally possessed by 8-year-olds, so I thought about penning a few of my own.  Since Valentine’s Day is closing in, I decided to go with that theme.  I asked John if he minded me borrowing his idea, and he generously gave me the go-ahead.

The rule I give my students for these problems is that they must prove their answer using mathematical reasoning.  They are allowed to use the internet to research and/or do some hands-on measurements.  It’s possible that they may be able to justify completely different answers.  For example, on the one about the pound of chocolate, they might choose the lower amount instead of the higher because they are not huge fans of chocolate – though that seems to be rather rare.

I don’t know if you have ever heard kids playing the actual “Would You Rather” game, but it can get a little disgusting.  They seem to enjoy the gross questions, so I threw one into this series for the sake of low entertainment ;)

Feel free to use the Google Presentation, this Powerpoint file, or this PDF.

For more Valentine-related links, check out this post!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.