Tag Archives: games

Getting active with maths – Readilearn

Many games involve children in practising maths skills, and playing games is a great way of incorporating fun into the maths program. With the additional benefit of supporting the development of social skills and, oftentimes, literacy skills, there is no reason to not include games. A daily dose of fun with maths contributes much to an enjoyable classroom experience, developing positive attitudes to maths, in addition to providing opportunities for consolidation and practice of maths learning.

Adding a little physical activity to the game increases the benefits, and there are many simple games that can be played with the whole class, indoors or out; some that require equipment and some that don’t; some that take just a few minutes, and some that take several. Many games can be invented on the spot to suit current learning.

Continue reading: Getting active with maths – Readilearn

Can you guess: Who am I? – Readilearn

can you guess - who am I

Last week I shared an interview revealing a little about myself and my hopes and plans for readilearn. I also uploaded some little Who am I? Easter caption books. It’s seems timely then to discuss the value of creating, writing, and reading Who am I? puzzles in the classroom.

Children love solving puzzles and it is good for them to engage in thinking activities. Who am I? puzzles involve deductive reasoning, and are easy for children to write. Solving them means listening attentively to the clues, remembering all the information, relating new information to existing information, and using the clues to eliminate options in order to identify the specific.

In addition, the puzzles can be used to discuss and teach the difference between statements and questions and the appropriate way of punctuating each.

Children can begin by writing statements about themselves, such as those they may have shared in About me booklets. They can also add interesting facts that others may not know about them. Remind children

Continue reading at: Can you guess: Who am I? – Readilearn

Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

 

In this post I introduce you to Michael Rosen, the storyteller.  Michael’s story Going on a Bear Hunt many be more familiar to you than his name. But Michael Rosen is a storyteller extraordinaire and his website is a treasure trove to explore*.

*Note: Not all of Michael’s stories and videos are suitable for early childhood. Please preview them before presenting them to students.

One of my favourites of Michael’s stories is Chocolate Cake. Please follow the link to view it on his website.

In the story from when he was a boy, Michael sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night and eats all of the remaining chocolate cake, leaving not a skerrick for a lunchtime treat. If only he’d been able to restrain himself, then he would have had a treat as well.

Michael tells the humorous story with expressive voice and face. Children laugh out loud as they recognise themselves in the story, if only they dared (or did they?); and beg for it to be retold, often spontaneously joining in with the telling.

After a few repetitions, children are confident enough to retell the story independently, imitating many of Michael’s humorous gestures and intonations.

Listening to Michael tell stories is a great way to encourage the development of expression, in both telling and reading stories.

Suggestions for using the story:

Continue reading at: Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

Trick or Treat – it’s Halloween! – Readilearn

The latest post from readilearn explains resources for a new board game to play at Halloween.

The game is great for literacy and maths groups, to play with buddies or in family groups. It links literacy, maths and physical activity. Players collect treats and perform actions as they move

Source: Trick or Treat – it’s Halloween! – Readilearn

Storybook pirates and early childhood learning

Would you believe that with the hundreds of picture books I have in my possession I do not have one about pirates! That surprises me. There must be oodles of books about pirates on the market.

my granny is a pirate

When I was in London last year I did buy a delightful book for my grandchildren called My Granny is a Pirate by Val McDermid.  We had enormous fun reading it and laughing at the wonderful illustrations by Arthur Robins.

Although I own many titles by Mem Fox, I don’t own her “all time classic and long-lasting bestselling” pirate book, Tough Boris . In the information about the story on her website, Mem explains how the story came to be and raises issues of sexism, particularly regarding the over-representation of male characters, in picture books. This is a topic that is very familiar to me.

Tough boris

In addition to not owning books about pirates, I can remember using a pirate theme for teaching on only one occasion. This surprises me too as pirates seems to be a perennial theme for birthday and fancy dress parties. Children and adults find the idea of pirates fun. You have only to look at the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series to know that.

Of course, in this post I am referring only to the pirates of picture books and movies such as these, that were no more real than other fanciful characters such as giants, fairies, elves and dragons.

The occasion for my using a pirate theme was over twenty years ago when I was running early childhood classes as part of my home-based business Create-A-Way, and the inspiration for it was of a practical rather than literary nature. I was required to wear a patch over an eye after having a pterygium removed. A pirate day seemed like a great way to avoid upsetting the children and to have a bit of fun as well. Perfect!

But why am I thinking about pirates you may wonder. Well, it’s in response to the post by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch and her challenge to writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a pirate story. As always Charli gets me thinking about different things with her prompts. She is talking about the piracy from her internet data service and drinking rum before 10 am, which is apparently something pirates do.

As usual I take the prompt to the early childhood education setting, and I’m excited by doing so. Ever since reading Charli’s prompt I have had ideas for teaching and learning experiences based on a pirate theme swirling around in my head. I may be late coming to the party, but I’m not coming underdressed.

One of the things I have always loved about teaching is the opportunity to be creative: to write and prepare fun educational resources to use with my children. What wonderful things could be done with a pirate theme. I can’t believe I have never done it. And while I am no longer in the classroom and the opportunity is not there for me to use them with my own class, I can make them for my website to share with other teachers. The fun of thinking, writing, and creating is still mine!

I’m pleased to announce that my website is underway. I have signed with a web designer and developer. It should be ready to go live by the end of January, ready for the start of the new school year in Australia. I can’t wait. Well, I can wait. I still have so much work to do in the meantime. I have resources to finish and new ones to write. There are many “in progress”. While I won’t be rushing into making pirate themed resources, I am putting them on my list. I have lots of ideas.

Actually now that I think about it, the mix of feelings I have now that the website is imminent may be similar to those experienced by someone walking the plank: there is no way back and the choice for the future is to either sink or swim. If I do manage to hold my head high and above water level, I hope I don’t get eaten by sharks!

On my website subscribers will be invited to suggest or request resources to match their requirements. I love thinking of resources to suit particular topics or to teach particular skills or processes. I would love a request for pirate materials so that I could get started on making them sooner rather than later.

Here are a few ideas I have to start with. I’m sure I would come up with many more given a little longer.

© Norah Colvin 2015

© Norah Colvin 2015

But now here is what got me thinking about pirates in the first place: my flash fiction response to Charli’s prompt. I’m definitely sticking with my early childhood theme and a bit of fun for this one.

If I was …

 If I was a pirate

I would sail the ocean blue,

In a boat made out of cardboard

With my parrot Libby-Lou.

 

I would wear a red bandana

And purple polished boots.

I would flash my pearls and silver sword

And plunder pirate loot. 

 

I would dig for buried treasure

In the spot marked with an X,

And all I’d find I’d stow inside

My handy wooden chest.

 

I would have no one to boss me

I could do just as I please,

Until my dad would call me

“Anna, come, it’s time for tea!”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Freeze!

 

Freeze, or Musical statues as it is sometimes called, is a popular childhood game wherever groups of children gather.

While not suggesting that playing the game has any great educational benefit, it can be used with good effect from time to time in early childhood classrooms.

As with other games, it does provide opportunities for children to:

  • participate in a social situation
  • understand and follow game rules
  • accept game decisions, for example  being out
  • respond in positive ways to their own participation and the participation of others
  • have fun

It also provides opportunities for activity and to release tension.

In this post I describe how to play the basic game and a few variants and suggest some times suitable for its use.

How to play Freeze

The basic game

Requirements:

  •  a manager, often a teacher or parent but can be a child
  • a group of participants, often children but anyone can play
  • enough space for the participants to move about without bumping into each other, and
  • a source of music that can be played and paused.

How to play:

  • The participants find a spot within the defined space from which to start the game.
  • The manager plays a piece of music. Moving to the music, the participants move about the space without bumping into any other participants.
  • After a few seconds (varying duration between approximately 2-20 seconds) the manager pauses the music. As soon as the music is paused, the participants must “freeze”. Anyone seen moving is out of the game and sits to the side.
  • The game continues until only one participant remains.

Variant #1 — Topic words

No music is required.

Before the game commences the manager, or the manager in consultation with the participants, decides on a set of specific statues to be used in the game. These statues are explained and demonstrated to participants.

The manager turns away from the participants and counts loudly to ten, while participants form one of the statues. After ten the manager calls “freeze” and participants freeze in the statue they have chosen. The manager then calls out one of the statues and turns around to see who has made it. Those who did remain in the game. The others are out and sit to the side. (The reverse can also be played with the called statues going out and the others staying in. Participants would need to be informed of this before the game begins.)

Suggestions:

Monarch butterfly

butterfly

When learning about butterflies, participants could make these four statues:

egg — curled up in a ball on the floor

caterpillar — prone on the floor

chrysalis — standing with knees bent out to the sides and one hand pointing up while resting on the head (attached to a leaf or twig)

butterfly — fists on hips and elbows out to the side (for wings)

shapes

shapes 

When learning about shapes, participants could make these four statues:

circle — fingers meeting above head, arms forming a circle, feet and legs together

square —arms out to side, elbows in line with shoulders, forearms and fingers facing upwards at right angles, feet and legs together

triangle — legs wide apart, and hands on hips with elbows out to the side, making three triangles in all

rectangle — lying on back on the floor with arms and legs extended straight upwards

Suggestion: the possible statues could be written or illustrated on a dice to be rolled or on cards to be selected.

Variant #2 — Groups

Music is required.

The manager calls a number from 2 – 5 then starts the music. While the music plays participants quickly form groups of that number. They must freeze in group formation when the music stops. Groups that do not freeze and participants who are not able to join or form a group are out of the game and sit to the side.

Play the game until four participants remain. Call all participants back into the game to move to the music once again.

 

Suggestions:

This game can be a fun way of exploring groups using the number of children in a class. No one is out in this version.

Count the number of children in the class. Write the number on the board or chart. Play the music. Participants move to the music. When the music is paused call out a number. Children quickly form groups of that number and freeze. As a class count the number of groups, identify the number in each group, and how many “left over”.  Write the information on the board or chart. Repeat with all children participating for different numbers.

grouping 25

Variant #3 — Find a partner who

Music is required.

This activity will be noisier and require more time than other versions.

In this version participants try to link up with someone with a similarity; for example the same colour eyes, the same number of people in the family, the same favourite colour, or who plays the same sport.

Before the music starts tell the participants who they need to find. When the music stops, those who have not found a match sit to the side, as the others explain their matches.

Everyone joins in again for each new round.

Suggestion: Add a bit more fun with this one by having partners freeze  touching the same body parts together, for example, ankles, elbows, tops of head, or bottoms.

 

Suitable times for playing Freeze

  • To transition from a noisy activity to a quiet activity
  • To provide an opportunity for movement during lengthy sessions of seated work
  • To dismiss children for recess (use Variant #1 rather than the basic game)
  • To ease a tense situation
  • To settle children and prepare them for the next activity
  • To have fun in a few ‘spare’ moments
  • Whenever you think it’s appropriate

The stimulus for my thinking about the game Freeze this week is the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story. Charli suggested that the freeze could be related to weather, emotion or time.

My first thought was to the movie “Frozen” which my granddaughter enjoys, being completely captivated by Elsa and her beautiful blue dress. I thought she should prefer Anna who shares her name (though pronounced differently) and hair colour.

My second thought was to the scientific explanation of cold as the removal of heat. It’s all relative. Instead I decided to go with a bit of fun. However, for my flash I did incorporate a little science thinking spurred by the question “Why do ice cubes crack when you drop them in drinks?”

Frozen

To an external observer she would have appeared immobile as if frozen in place and time. But her insides churned as the heat engulfed her body in a wave from toes to head. She thought her heart would erupt from her chest and wasn’t sure she could contain the contents of her noncompliant belly or from which end of her body they would spew. Others mouthed soundless words, their messages obliterated by the relentless pounding in her head. Just when she thought she’d crack, like ice exposed to sudden temperature change, she breathed deep, composing her tumultuous fear-fuelled mind.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Are you game?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about childhood games and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme. I think she chose this topic just for me. Thank you, Charli.

I love games and am a strong believer in the use of games to enhance learning. I have memories of playing games that span my lifetime, from early childhood until the present, and have visions of playing games far into the future.

Johnny Automatic, cartoon of a girl and boy playing with a ball https://openclipart.org/detail/721/playing-ball

Johnny Automatic, cartoon of a girl and boy playing with a ball https://openclipart.org/detail/721/playing-ball

One of my earliest memories of an organised game was of “Drop the hanky” played at a birthday party. I was about five years old at the time. I think that perhaps, until this event, I had only ever played imaginative games with my brothers and sisters. I was obviously not familiar with the rules or the ethos of the game. I’ll let my flash (non-) fiction explain.

Plum pudding

We sat in the circle chanting,

“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it.”

“It” skipped around the outside, waving a handkerchief.

“One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.

Not you. Not you. Not y-o-u!”

Suddenly “It” was running and children were scrabbling behind them.

“Run,” they called.

Then “It” was beside me.

“Plum pudding!” they all screamed hysterically.

The adult pointed to the centre of the circle. “We’ll have you for dessert,” he grinned.

I cried, wondering what it would be like to be eaten alive!

© Norah Colvin 2015

© Norah Colvin 2015

Obviously I was traumatised for the memory to be so vivid and almost nightmare-like since the memory ends abruptly with the fear. Obviously I wasn’t eaten for dessert, I survived the trauma and, to complete the fictional narrative, I guess you could say “I lived happily ever after.”

But games don’t need to be traumatic. Games are better when they are fun; and I have many more memories of having fun with games than I do of being traumatised by them. Some of my “best” memories are of the laughs shared playing games like “Balderdash” and “Billionaire” when we (hub, son, daughter and partners) set aside traditional holidays for playing games together as a family. My house may have shelves laden with books, but they also have cupboards bursting with games.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

We didn’t always play purchased games. Sometimes we made up our own. It takes some skill in problem solving to think up a new game that will be fun to play with just the right amounts of challenge and competition, and an equal chance of “winning”, if there is a winner. Games without a winner, played for the fun of playing, are just as enjoyable.

I have always included games in my class program. As well as being fun, if carefully chosen they can also progress learning. Games can be played at the beginning and conclusion of sessions; at transition times to reenergise, refocus and refresh; and as part of the teaching/learning program with whole class, small group or individual participation for targeting practice of particular concepts.

One obvious benefit of playing games is the development of social skills such as:

  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Cooperation
  • Dealing with competition
  • Accepting a loss
  • Accepting a win graciously

In their book “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change”, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown talk about ““arc of life” learning, which comprises the activities in our daily lives that keep us learning, growing and exploring.” They say, “Play, questioning, and — perhaps most important — imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning.”

Throughout the book they talk about the importance of collaboration in engaging online in multi-player games and say that When understood properly . . . games may in fact be one of the best models for learning and knowing in the twenty-first century . . . Because if a game is good, you never play the same way twice.

monopoly

Robert Kiyosaki in his book “Why “A” Students Work for “C” Students and Why “B” Students Work for the Government” talks about the importance of learning through games and explains how he learned, and was inspired to learn more, about finance from playing “Monopoly”. He says that Games are better teachers than teachers.” While I prefer to not agree with that statement in its entirety (I don’t even like playing Monopoly), I could understand his reasons for making it.

Rarely a day would go by that at least one game wasn’t played in my classroom. We would play games in literacy groups that required children to read and think critically. We would play games in maths groups to practice skills in fun ways or to solve problems cooperatively. We would play games in science to try out ideas or research information. Some of the games involved physical as well as mental activity. Some were played with the entire class, and some on their own.

One game we used in maths groups as well as an activity in the last few minutes of the day was a problem solving game that I was involved with from its inception, The Land of Um or, as it is known in the UK, Scally’s World of Problems. (Also available as an app.)

http://www.greygum.com.au/nebula/index.php/the-land-of-um

Scally

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was asked for an idea for a program, I suggested something that required children to explore to find out “what happens if” and “how things work”, much as they learn from their exploration of the “real world”. I also suggested that what they learn be consistent and apply at the next level. From that small seed and through the collaboration and synergy of a small group of creative people the “Land of Um” was born.

Because, in my recollections anyway, it was “my” idea, I am very proud of “Um” and enthusiastic about its potential to encourage children to develop the thinking skills involved in solving problems.

Um app

In my class the children worked enthusiastically and collaboratively in small groups on an interactive whiteboard, taking turns to control the “Um” while working together to find the solution to each puzzle. As the level of difficulty increased the children needed to plan ahead, to visualise steps and predict what would happen and the effects of different actions. At each new level and in each new world, while the basics remained consistent, there was always something different to learn and explore. The children never tired of the using the program and were always eager to be the one to suggest the solution to the next problem. It was/is a joy to know that I had a part to play in the design of this program that has so many benefits to learners, not least of which is the fun of working together to solve problems.

How significant are games in your life? What special memories do you have?

If you are interested, there are many more stories about games to read on Charli’s blog.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts on any aspect of this post or flash fiction.