Category Archives: Games

Parable of the Polygons

My students adore Vi Hart videos.  I think the kids understand maybe 1/2 of what she is saying, but she makes math fun and stimulates their curiosity.

Parable of the Polygons” is an interactive website that was created by Vi Hart and Nicky Case.  Having watched several Vi Hart videos, I expected the site to do one of the things Vi does best – teach me math.  But I was mistaken.  “Parable of the Polygonsuses math to teach about racism, sexism, (and all of the other negative”isms”) and what we can do to help eradicate them.

from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case
from Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case

I innocently played each activity trying to make happy polygons until I realized that I, a self-proclaimed non-racist, have had probably zero effect in persuading others to be less biased.  Using math, I learned that, unless more of us make an effort to seek out more diverse colleagues and friends, there is little chance things will change.

This is definitely an activity that I will be doing with my students and I hope to make some changes in my life based on what I learned. From now on, this little square is going to be on the lookout for opportunities to meet more triangles :)

Bitsbox Subscriptions

“Are we going to do Share Time today?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

5 minutes later…

“When can I share?”

This 5th grader was super-excited, and completely determined to make sure I didn’t forget to give him his 5-minute sharing opportunity.  In my GT classroom, students can earn different privileges for certain achievements, and this was a privilege for which this student had worked particularly hard.

Finally, it was time.

The student came to the front of the room with a box in his hand.  It turned out the box was his first package from Bitsbox.  It included cards, a magazine, stickers, and a surprise toy.

image from Bitsbox
image from Bitsbox

I last posted about Bitsbox in December.  The site is free, and allows students to learn how to code programs.  Once the students log in online, students can write and test programs on a virtual tablet. When users create something they like, it can actually be shared and played on mobile devices.  You can access the Teacher Guide here.

My student’s parents had gone one step further, and gotten a Bitsbox subscription.  Depending on the subscription level that is chosen, either a PDF or an actual box is delivered to subscribers monthly. My student obviously received the box, and he could not wait to share its contents with the class. The students were in awe as he demonstrated how you could actually write a program online, and then play it on your mobile device.

I was thrilled to receive my own Bitsbox in the mail for review.  So was my 12-year-old daughter, especially when she saw the “surprise toy” – a Slinky.

The current Bitsbox magazine is great quality (nice paper, color pages), has 22 apps to try, and includes an inventory of some of the songs, stamps, fills, and sounds that you can use to “remix” the apps. It also has a link to a Grownup Guide – one of the best features in my opinion – which allows you to type in a code number for any of the programs. Parents then have access to a helpful “translation” of the programming involved, as well as extension suggestions.  LOVE!

My daughter enjoyed the “Who’s My BFF?” code, which randomly chooses a friend’s name from the ones that you input.  My students like things that explode, so “Fido’s Lunch” (one of the included programming cards) made quite an impression.

The difficulty of the apps varies.  Some are very short and simple. Others have quite a few lines of code, but obviously allow for more fun when playing the completed games. Content-wise, the target ages seem to be about 7-12 years old, though I must admit that I certainly enjoyed trying them out even though I’m nowhere near that age bracket ;)

So, the big question is, “Is a Bitsbox subscription worth it?”  One thing you should do to help yourself make this decision is try the website activities first.  If your child enjoys those – to the point that he or she is modifying them and begging for more – then you should consider a subscription.  My 5th grader obviously did!  Personally, I think the $20 PDF would not be that exciting.  Kids like to get packages.  That being said, I’m not sure the $40 month-to-month is a very good value.  I think I would try the $35/month for 3 months or the $30/month for 12.  My advice to Bitsbox would be to offer 6 months for $30 each, and the 12 months for $25/month.  I think that would be ideal.

 

Or You Could Organize a Flash Mob

“I don’t know why they even make the kids go to school during the last 2 weeks.  The textbooks have been picked up, grades turned in, and all the teachers do is show movies.” Okay, first of all – NOT TRUE! Okay, maybe some of it is sometimes true.  Possibly.

But think about it. Let’s say school ended in March instead of June. Wouldn’t we still have the same problems? As far as I can see, the only solutions are:

A.) Make the end date of school a surprise every year by having a groundhog predict it with his shadow:

“Hooray! He saw his shadow.  That means six more weeks until we can ask him to come out again and repeat this process.”

“Oh darn! He didn’t see his shadow! That means today is your last day of school!”

OR

2.) Schedule all standardized for the last 2 days of school.  Because, let’s face it, that’s the only thing that gives school meaning. Otherwise, it’s just about learning for the sake of learning.

Granted, neither of those solutions would be very popular.  So, I think we have to go with Door #3 and make the last two weeks as meaningful as possible – maybe even more meaningful. What can we do to make ourselves, as teachers, feel less like babysitters?

Give our students some physical activity by teaching them how to pack up a classroom. Give our students some physical activity with GoNoodle or Deskercises.

Stretch their brains by showing them Monsters Inc for the 70th time. Stretch their brains by showing them Word Picture Brainteasers or stumping them with 50 Riddles.

Let them play Heads Up Seven Up. Let them play Creativity Games or one of the bazillion quizzes on Kahoot.

Reminisce by showing them a slide show of pictures from the year. Reminisce by creating a Thinglink of a class picture with links to a video from each student or allowing them to each make their own Pic Collage that represents their year. (Check out the new Pic Collage for Kids app here!)

Assign them to draw whatever they want, which usually results in Minecraft, Pokemon, or My Little Pony posters they all want to gift you with. Assign them to draw something that challenges them to think, like a S.C.A.M.P.E.R. picture or a Sketch Note that summarizes their year.

Have your students start moving your supplies to your new classroom for next year. Have your students design a Rube Goldberg Machine to move your supplies or try out one of the many engineering challenges supplied by the F.L.I. girls in their Challenge Boxes.

Speaking of boxes, you probably need to pack some – so get those young, energetic kids to load them up for you. Speaking of boxes, you can always have the students bring in their own, and design games to play the last day of school (on which they will be sure to bring those games home).  Even better, put all the stuff you don’t need anymore into a pile and challenge them to make something new using only those supplies (with the understanding that their new invention will definitely go home with them on the last day).

I think I’ve suggested enough ideas to last one or two days.  How about we crowdsource activities for the other 7 or 8 days?  Put your favorite end-of-year lessons in the comments below!

image from:
image from: Irvine Unified School District

The Fido Puzzle (And an Explanation)

I was reviewing old blog posts and came across one about the Fido Puzzle.  For their “sharing time” my 5th graders have recently been trying to stump each other with riddles, and I think this might be a good one to add to the mix.  (If you are a parent of one of my 5th graders, don’t show them the answer!)

fidopuzzle

My original post did not include an explanation, but I’m getting kinder in my old age;)

Kahoot.it

Kahoot is a fun student response site that can be used with any device.  I don’t employ it very often because the nature of my gifted classes doesn’t really allow for many multiple choice questions. Yesterday, though, I decided to see how my first graders would respond to a Kahoot geography quiz.  They have been doing research on different countries, and have participated in all kinds of activities to help them learn the locations of their countries and the seven continents.  Sure enough, there were already several public Kahoots made that were perfectly tailored for my group.

Kahoot

It took a lot more guidance to get them started than it takes with my older students, but they were finally all ready to start.  The first question took them by surprise.  They had never used a student response system in their lives, and couldn’t figure out why the screen in front of the room looked different than the one on their iPad – but was still connected.  Once they realized what was happening, though, they got completely fired up.  They were leaping out of their chairs and cheering when they got answers correct.  After we finished the first quiz, they begged for more.

The level of engagement was undoubtedly there.  I was a bit uncomfortable, though, with whether or not the competition was a good thing or not.  Even when the students used “aliases”, it was immediately apparent by their reactions who was doing well and who wasn’t.

Every student, whether they did well or not, wholeheartedly agreed that they love “Kahooting.”  And I realize that competition can be motivating.  However, I have mixed feelings about the students comparing themselves to others. Am I helping them to learn more by offering this exciting and engaging activity?  Or, am I discouraging those who find themselves unable to answer correctly or fast enough?

What do you think?  Comments welcome!

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.

i’m sorry

So, I saw this tweet the other day:

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 6.04.46 PM

And I was like, “No, that’s not possible.  A game that’s better than the Chrome dinosaur?!!!”

So, I clicked on the link, which took me here. There were quite a few links in the story and I, of course, clicked on every single one except the one that actually took me to the “game.”

But then I found it.  And I think Chris Rogers might be right. Watching a shark swim through my address bar is pretty fun.  I enjoyed the plane, too.  But I have to say that my favorite is the “diy” option. 

Developer Glen Chiacchieri prominently displays, “i’m sorry” on the tab for this site.  

i'm sorry

And well he should be.  Because of him, millions of tasks will never be completed as people attempt to play the “pewpew” game in their address bar.

Which means that, once again, I’ve stumbled upon another perfect Phun Phriday time-waster that I can happily pass on to the readers of this blog.

I’m sorry!