Tag Archives: learning tools

Connect Four (Board Games in the Classroom)

Again, going back to “old school” games….Connect Four is a good game to look for when you are hitting the garage sales. I once saw a SMARTBoard version, but the real version is enjoyed by all kids (Funny how as an adult, it’s one of the last games I feel like playing with my own kids.)

You can use Connect Four for review purposes with no extra preparation.

Divide your class into two groups (as in most teaching situations, the smaller the class the better) and set them on opposite sides of the room with the Connect Four board in between them.

Begin your review session by asking a team a question. If that team is correct, they get to place a checker in the slot. If they are wrong, the other team can make a move.

This does put a lot of pressure on students to come up with the right answer, so it is probably a good idea to not single out a particular student to provide the answer. Instead, make it a team effort.

Each round ends rather quickly, so it is fast paced and no one gets bored. And everyone is reviewing.

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My 9-year-old, “Tweedle Ian”, during a game of Connect Four. How can I resist those big brown eyes?

Trash to Treasure (Board Games in the Classroom)

As we are in garage sale season, now is a great time to pick up some cheap board games. These games don’t even have to be in great shape or complete. The random playing pieces (like dice, chips, board markers, or checkers from a partial set) can be used in a variety of ways with your students.

The pieces of the games, boards included, can be modified for classroom use and incorporated into student projects (one of the choices for our Earth Science project is to make a review game).

An idea I recently read about in Differentiated Assessment Strategies: One Tool Doesn’t Fit All, by Carolyn Chapman and Rita King, is to have students place the red monopoly houses on the main idea and green houses on supporting details.

Other ideas:

  • Students can place a red house on a math problem they are stuck on and as the teacher comes around the room, they will be able to stop and help them.
  • Students can lay a red, yellow, or green playing piece on the corner of their paper to show their comfort level with the concept being taught.
  • Use a deck of cards to create random groups. (All the 4’s are in a group, all the hearts are on a team, the Aces are team captains, etc.)
  • Give a sand timer to a student who easily gets distracted or who needs limits. They can try to complete a certain number of problems in 2 minutes.
  • Use play money as part of your reward system or to practice money skills.
  • Use colored marbles or chips for a lesson in probability.

Here is a shopping list for your next garage sale outing. You may have to think outside the box and look inside game boxes to find these goodies:

  • spinners
  • dice
  • cards
  • checkers or chess pieces
  • game boards
  • play money
  • marbles
  • place markers
  • dominoes
  • letter tiles
  • sand timers

Because my cat, Ellie, is an indoor cat she can’t go to garage sales. But, she does like to play good old-fashioned board games!

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Tweedle Dee and Ellie playing a Lego game.

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Ellie takes her turn at Shrek Monopoly. (One of my LEAST favorite games of all time.)

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Ellie and Tweedle Ian play Yahtzee (with foam dice because they are silent!)

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Guess Who? Yep, Ellie again!

Speaking of Patience…

I admitted in my previous post that sometimes I struggle to be patient…especially when I get a good idea for my classroom. I tend to leap right into things and can find myself (or my students) frustrated.

After spending (and in hindsight, sometimes wasting) a lot of time, here are some tips for making your own instructional materials:

Creating useful, quality learning tools takes time. When you get a good idea, work on the rough draft, let it sit, and come back to it. There is always room for improvement.

Realize there is a learning curve. Unfortunately, I only teach one section of Language Arts. My students are always the guinea pigs. If I had multiple sections, I am sure I would modify and tweak my instruction, materials, and delivery.

Don’t invest too much too early. My biggest mistake is thinking of an idea and simply running wild with it (i.e. creating multiple pages or an entire unit before I present even one lesson). Don’t create more work for yourself by working too far ahead. The layout or organization of handouts may need to be changed. Directions may be unclear. Or, worst case scenario, the idea totally doesn’t work like you thought it would and it ends up in the recycling bin.

Seek professional help. As hard as it is to be critiqued by your colleagues, share your work with a trusted and experienced co-worker. I run things by a reading specialist who works with my students. She has a very similar philosophy and understands what my goals and expectations are

Take on a student perspective. If you are making a handout, worksheet, graphic organizer, or study guide imagine how you would react if you were the student. How does it look on paper? Do the directions make sense? What is confusing? What isn’t clear? Perhaps most importantly, make sure as a student you can answer these questions:

“Why am I doing this?”

and

What am I supposed to be learning?”

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A Chinese Proverb that sums up what we do as teachers.

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