Posts Tagged ‘experiential learning’
Toy take apart and hacking is a high engagement activity that works for kids of all ages, including adults who haven’t lost their sense of kid, and both genders. I have done it multiple times during my summer maker camp for elementary level kids, with my gifted elementary students, and at conferences as part of teacher professional development.
Here is a description of this activity from the tinkering studio at the Exploratorium:
Do you ever wonder what’s inside your toys? You’ll make some exciting and surprising discoveries about their inner parts when you don some safety goggles and get started dissecting your old stuffed animal, remote controlled car, or singing Santa. Use screwdrivers, seam rippers, scissors, and saws to remove your toy’s insides. Check out the mechanisms, circuit boards, computer chips, lights, and wires you find inside. Once you’ve fully dissected your toy, you can use the toy’s parts, your tools, and your imagination to create a new original plaything. (https://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/toy-take-apart)
Toy take apart and hacking addresses a lot of cross curricular standards including:
- Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool. (NGSS)
- Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem. (NGSS)
- Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (NGSS)
- Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace. (ELA CCSS)
- Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. (ELA CCSS)
- Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. (ELA CCSS)
- Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and maximize creative efforts. (21st Century Skills)
- Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in which the innovation will occur. (21st Century Skills)
- Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real world limits to adopting new ideas. (21st Century Skills)
- View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes. (21st Century Skills)
- Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and innovative ways. (21st Century Skills)
Frontloading and Framing the Experience
(For background information about this idea, see Don’t Leave Learning Up to Chance: Framing and Reflection)
To help frontload and frame this activity, participants are given the following scenario:
You have been hired to create the newest, most exciting handheld game to hit the market in years. You can decide the type of game, the population for whom you want to design it for – age range and gender, the goal of the game, the rules, any functions. The sky is the limit but there is one caveat – you need to recycle parts from old handheld games, ones made a decade or two ago, to create your prototype. Here are some questions to consider as you make your prototype –
- How will you decide what to make?
- What factors do you need to consider as you make your game?
- What actions can you take if you get stuck using the tools? Coming up with ideas?
- How can you ask for help as well as support others during the toy take apart and hacking?
I like to use the older handheld games as they contain lots of interesting parts and can be bought fairly cheaply in lots through ebay. First, the toys are passed around so participants can examine and learn about them.
Participants select the toy they want to take apart. Using the various screw drivers, scissors, wire cutters, and hammers that have been laid out on a work table, the toys are taken apart as much as they can be taken apart.
After the participants fully take apart their toys, they are asked to create a new game out of their parts and parts discarded by the other participants. I use hot glue guns but soldering of parts can be done, too.
The criteria that I give to the participants for their game creation includes:
- The creation must be a new game – one that the participant hasn’t heard of nor played.
- The parts need to be used creatively – not the same way they were used in the original game.
- The specifications for the game need to be developed and written as a poster are –
- Name of the Game
- Age Level Recommendations
- The Rules
- How to Play
Participants then share their designs with the rest of the group.
(For background information about this idea, see Don’t Leave Learning Up to Chance: Framing and Reflection)
After finishing their projects and sharing, participants can reflect on their experiences through:
Through a conversation with other participants; a presentation using Google Slides, Prezi, or Adobe Spark; or a blog post – your choice, address the following questions –
- Describe the game you made – why did you make that type of game?
- What changes did you make to your original design? Why?
- Did you get stuck at any point during the activity? Taking apart the toy? Coming up with a design? Using the tools? Making your game? If so, how did you get unstuck?
- What will you do the same/differently if you do a similar activity in the future?
For more information on toy take apart and hacking, visit http://www.makereducation.com/toy-take-apart.html.
A slideshow of participant engagement in this activity . . .
I am facilitating two mini-workshops at ASCD Empower 17 and the 2017 ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence on using a framework for implementating maker education activities. The description for my session is:
Providing a framework for maker activities helps ensure that their use is intentional and that meaningful learning is extracted from these experiences. The educator, using such a framework, becomes proactive in framing or frontloading the maker experiences and in debriefing or processing them to increase the chances that learning occurs. Framing or frontloading is making clear the purpose of an activity prior to actually doing it; it helps to set purpose and intention for the activity. Reflecting on the maker activities can occur through a variety of methods: talking, writing, sketching, and using technology such as Web 2.0 tools and social media. During this interactive presentation, participants will experience this framework through maker activity that is introduced through framing or frontloading and then by directly using reflection techniques upon completion of the activity.
The slides for my session:
As a preface to this post, my belief is that deep learning does not occur through sit and get. Deep learning occurs through experiential, authentic, interactive, collaborative instructional processes. If deep learning is desired for teacher professional development, then it should reflect best practices for teaching and learning.
Professional learning must focus on creating safe and productive spaces for teachers to begin planning and experimenting with the concepts that have been shared. Too often, facilitation centers on giving strategies to teachers rather than coaching them on how to deliver the strategies to students. As a result, teachers leave the session with a toolbox of ideas that are never implemented. Instead, more professional learning time should be spent helping teachers plan, develop materials, and practice delivering the strategies with colleague support. (http://inservice.ascd.org/personalized-professional-development-moving-from-sit-and-get-to-stand-and-deliver/)
When I design teacher PD-related workshops, I am guided by the following principles:
- Teachers need time to tinker, play, and experiment with instructional materials and resources especially with new forms of teaching/learning technologies.
- For skills development, such as using new technologies, scaffolding and increasing complexity should be a strong component of the PD process.
- Teachers need to be offered lots of instructional suggestions and resources so they can tailor their PD learning to their own teaching environments.
- Intentional and active reflection and goal setting should be included to increase the chances of transfer of learning.
Tinkering With Instructional Materials
Teachers and librarians, like their students, need hands-on experience with tools and with playing to learn as that helps them build creative confidence. (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/crafting-professional-development-maker-educators-colleen-graves)
Teachers, during PD, should be provided with time, resources, and materials with which to play. It sets the expectation that they will be active agents of their own learning. It gives them the message it is okay to play and experiment with the materials; that tinkering is often needed as a part of learning new skills.
Scaffolding and Introducing Complexity
As teachers, we have come to learn over the years that we should never expect our students to fully understand a new idea without some form of structured support framework, or scaffolding as the current buzzword defines it. The same, of course, should be the case in supporting learning for our fellow teachers. (http://mgleeson.edublogs.org/2012/03/10/when-it-comes-to-technology-teachers-need-as-much-scaffolding-as-students/)
Once teachers get familiar with instructional materials and resources through tinkering, they should be guided through a series of skills that are increasingly complex; that honor the process of scaffolding. As with tinkering, this should be a hands-on process where teachers can try out these skills with facilitator and colleague support and guidance. As confidence is built through success with basic skills and strategies, more complex skills and strategies will be more welcomed by teachers.
Lots of Instructional Strategies and Resources
Even with fairly homogeneous groups of teachers, their teaching and learning needs can be vastly different. They often teach different groups of students, different grades, different content areas. They often have different backgrounds, years of experience, and personal and professional interests. As such, they should be provided with lots of instructional strategies and resources to help them make direct connections to their own teaching environments. Given the plethora and free resources that can be found online, curated aggregates of resources can be provided to the teachers. Time should be allotted during the PD training for them to examine and discuss these resources with their colleagues.
Transfer of Learning Through Reflection and Goal Setting
Reflection is essential for learning. In order to “make meaning” of an experience, the learner must have an opportunity to reflect on or process the experience. To help ensure that program participants transfer learning and training experiences into real-world applications, we must be intentional about both engaging the learners and creating opportunity for meaningful reflection. (https://www.e-volunteerism.com/volume-xvi-issue-1-october-january-2016/training-designs/enhance_learning)
Facilitators of teacher professional development need to be more intentional to include specific strategies to help insure that learning is transferred in teachers’ educational environments. Reflection and goal setting, two powerful transfer of learning strategies, should be built into teacher professional development.
A Recent Example
Because of on my request, my district gifted education supervisor purchased 3 sets/3 dozen Spheros. As a follow-up, he asked me to facilitate a teacher professional development workshop on their use.
The schedule for this afternoon workshop was:
- Short Introductory video about Sphero in schools: Gain Attention and Provide a Context
- Orienting and Simple Driving the Sphero: Tinkering
- Using the Draw Program: Tinkering
- Video Tutorial and Practice of Simple Block Programming: Increasing Complexity
- Build a Project-Chariot or Tug Boat: Increasing Complexity and Instructional Resources
- Review Curricula for Use in the Classroom: Instructional Resources and Transfer of Learning
- Final Reflections – Sharing about one’s own processes and possible applications in one’s own classroom: Transfer of Learning Through Reflection and Goal Setting
- Email Exchange – for sharing how the use of Spheros are being implemented in the classroom: Transfer of Learning
The slide presentation used and shared with this group of teachers:
Workshop photos showing teacher engagement:
This year I have been focusing on design challenges and design thinking with my gifted elementary students, grades 2nd through 6th. Last semester I introduced a series of activities to have them explore, learn about, and interact with design thinking principles and strategies. For a description of those activities, see https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/introducing-design-thinking-to-elementary-learners/
To re-introduce design thinking again for this spring semester, this week I asked them to do the Extraordinaire Design Studio:
The Extraordinaires® Design Studio is a powerful learning tool, that introduces children to the world of design, teaching them the foundations of design in a fun and engaging way. Your clients The Extraordinaires® are over the top characters with extraordinary needs, it’s the job of your student to design the inventions they need to fit their worlds. Choose your design client, from a rap star to a vampire teen or even an evil genius plotting in his lair. Look at the exceptionally detailed illustrated character cards to learn more about them, their world and their needs. Once you’ve chosen your Extraordinaire, pick a design project. It could be a communications device for a soldier or a drinks carrier for a circus acrobat. https://www.extraordinaires.com/shop/the-extraordinaires-design-studio-deluxe
To play, the character cards are laid out and then the inventions or gadgets are randomly placed on the character cards. The learners can then select which character/invention pair for which they would like to design.
After drawing out and labeling their inventions and gadgets, they took pictures of them and posted their images along with a short description on a blog post. Some example learner work follows:
TJ selected a hover chair for an astronaut.
Sebastian selected a communication device for a fairy.
Will selected a drink carrier for a wizard.
This activity was a high interest, high engagement, high yield instructional task. Some learners had a little trouble getting started but once they did, their designs and inventions were fantastic. I think the fanciful nature of the cards helped engagement. The company has a free app to go along with their set for the designs to be uploaded and described. This app did not do what was promised so I cannot recommend its use.
What I think this type of design challenge does especially well is to introduce the idea that design thinking often encompasses designing a specific type of product for a specific type of client. It does a good job of introducing learners to the core of the design thinking process:
The Design Thinking process first defines the problem and then implements the solutions, always with the needs of the user demographic at the core of concept development. (http://dschool.stanford.edu/redesigningtheater/the-design-thinking-process/)
This set does cost some money but there are other free options:
- Maker Education Card Game that I created
- Destination Imagination Instant Challenge
Maker Education Card Game
This game, which I first introduced in the Maker Education Card Game, is a card game that ends with the makers making something based on selected cards. Each maker picks a card from each of the three categories:
- The Thing or Process
- The Product
- The Population.
For example, a maker may choose, Create a Blueprint from The Thing or Process category; a New Toy from the Product category; and Adults from the population category meaning the maker would create a blueprint for a new toy for adults. The educator and makers can choose whether it is a “blind” pick or one in which the makers see their options. (Note – I would love to increase options in all categories. If you have additional card ideas, please leave them in the comments section).
Destination Imagination Instant Challenges
Destination Imagination offers similar design challenges
The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic Challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. Our participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem solving process. https://www.destinationimagination.org/mission-vision/
Randomly choose one or more items from A and one or more items from B, C, D or E and get busy.
I absolutely love all of the new robotics toys that have been coming out for elementary age learners. I have been using them for my summer maker camp, with my gifted education classes, and for my upcoming Saturday morning program. One of my gifted girls noted, “Where do all of these robots come from?” I laughed and told her, “It’s actually has become one of my passions. Collecting them has become a major hobby of mine.”
I usually use them for an hour per week with my two groups of gifted learners. I am an advocate of student-centric learning and giving them choices as to which instructional activities they would like to engage. For their robotics hour each week, I am giving them the following choices with their goal of using five of the robotics to complete five of the tasks provided.
My robotics-type devices include:
- Dash and Dot
- littleBits: Gizmos and Gadgets; Arduino
- Jimu Robot
- Finch Robot
- Osmo Coding
- Adafruit Circuit Playground
- Let’s Start Coding
The craft activity involves letting the students make a stylish necklace for themselves, where their names are spelled out in binary using black and white beads. See https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/10/19/activity-day-girls-craft-idea-binary-code-necklace/ for further directions.
Several board games that teach children computer coding concepts have been brought out recently. They make a good complement to online learning games and enable techie kids to have some fun family time away from a computer screen. http://www.techagekids.com/2015/11/board-games-teach-coding-kids-teens.html
After learning a little bit about Robot Turtles, Code Monkey Island, and CodeMasters, play one or two of them.
We are caught in an infinite loop! Someone has re-written our classroom code and we are stuck. We will keep having the same day over and over unless we can find the correct code to de-bug the system. The correct code has been locked in the Breakout EDU box – once we figure out the combos, we will can escape the loop and move forward. http://www.breakoutedu.com/caught-in-the-code
The teacher will walk the group through this task.
Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, just like biology, chemistry or algebra. https://code.org/about
As an introduction to robotics and computer science, do a few hours of tutorials via Code.org. The site, itself, offers a number of different tutorials, within their Hour of Code page – https://code.org/learn. Feel free to do the ones that look interesting to you.
After creating an account at CoSpaces using your school gmail, create a scene and use their Block coding to animate the people and objects in your scene. How-to directions can be found at https://youtu.be/0x-jdrwE7Ng.
“The app enabled ball that does it all” – that’s the tag line for Sphero 2.0. Sphero is robotic ball that connects to your smartphone or tablets over Bluetooth. It has built in multi-color LEDs that gives it light effect in combination of colors. It is waterproof, too. The free SPRK education program (which can be used with both Sphero and Ollie) has series of lab exercises to teach kids programming and robotics concepts. http://getstemgo.com/toys/sphero-and-ollie-robots-all-you-need-to-know-review/
The Task: The Maze
Program the Sphero or Ollie with the SPRK Lightning Lab app to navigate your own original maze made out of obstacles and materials in the learning environment. To complete this challenge, you must gather data about the best route through a maze and figure out how to build a program so Sphero can successfully navigate through the mayhem. More about this lesson can be found at https://sprk.sphero.com/cwists/preview/177x.
The Task: Painting with Sphero
Using a large piece of paper, different types of finger paints, the Sphero with the nobby cover, and the Lightening SPRK app, create a Jackson Pollack type painting. The full lesson plan can be found here – https://sprk.sphero.com/cwists/preview/152-painting-with-spherox
A “cleaner” alternative is to do a light painting with the Sphero using a long exposure app – see https://sprk.sphero.com/cwists/preview/78-light-paintingx
The Task: Battlebots
With a partner, create a Battlebot out of the Sphero or Ollie, cardboard, Popsicle sticks, and skewers. Challenge another team or two to a Battle. Last team with a balloon intact wins.
More lessons can be found at https://sprk.sphero.com/cwists/category
Dash & Dot are real robots that teach kids to code while they play. Using free apps and a compatible tablet or smartphone, kids learn to code while they make these robots sing, dance and navigate all around the house. Sensors on the robot mean they react to the environment around them. https://www.makewonder.com/
The Task: Rolling the Code
Using the Blockly app, complete the Dash and Dot Robots: Rolling for Code activity as described in http://www.thedigitalscoop.com/the_digital_scoop/2015/01/dash-and-dot-rolling-for-code.html
The Task: The Xylophone
Using the Xylophone and Xylo app, program Dash to play at least three songs.
Explore the possibilities of inventing with the Gizmos & Gadgets Kit. The Bits components snap together with magnets, for quick alterations on the fly. Chock full of motors, wheels, lights, servos, and more. The kit boasts 13 littleBits and instructions for 16 inventions. https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/littleBits-Gizmos-amp-Gadgets-Kit-2nd-Edition/productID.5064612700
Control Ozobot with colors! Draw OzoCode color codes on paper or a tablet and Ozobot uses optical sensors to respond—spinning, speeding up and more at your command. It comes with an OzoCode chart and over 20 games and activities. Color coding masters can move on with free Ozobot apps and the OzoBlockly editor, which introduces block-based programming. http://ozobot.com/
Quirkbot is a microcontroller toy that anyone can program. It is compatible with the open construction toy Strawbees and can be used along with readily available materials like regular drinking straws, LEDs, and hobby servos (motors) to create a wide variety of hackable toys. Let your creations express themselves and interact with their environment through sound, light and motion. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1687812426/quirkbot-make-your-own-robots-with-drinking-straws
Go through the tutorials found at https://code.quirkbot.com/tutorials/getting-started/ and then build at least one of the Quirkbots found at https://www.quirkbot.com/build. Teacher’s guide can be downloaded: quirkbot-educators-guide-v0-9
The LEGO® Education WeDo 1.0 is an easy-to-use concept that introduces young students to robotics. Students will be able to build LEGO models featuring working motors and sensors; program their models; and explore a series of cross-curricular, theme-based activities while developing their skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as language, literacy, and social studies. https://education.lego.com/en-us/products/lego-education-wedo-construction-set/9580
Build one or more of the robots. Use Scratch to program them. These Scratch examples can help: https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/1302388/.
Create a humanoid robot with UBTECH’s Jimu Robot Meebot robot kit—and program it with the free Jimu Robot app on your iPhone or iPad. The kit’s six robotic servo motors give your robot smooth, life-like movement. Use the easy-to-follow 3D animated instructions on the Jimu Robot free app to build your MeeBot. Then employ the app’s intuitive programming function to devise an endless sequence of actions for him. http://www.apple.com/shop/product/HK962VC/A/ubtech-jimu-robot-meebot-kit
Make a Jimu robot using the Jimu app.
The Finch is a small robot designed to inspire and delight students learning computer science by providing them a tangible and physical representation of their code. The Finch has support for over a dozen programming languages, including environments appropriate for students as young as five years old! The Finch was developed to catalyze a wide range of computer science learning experiences, from an entry into the basics of computational thinking all the way to writing richly interactive programs. http://finchrobot.com/.
Use Scratch Programming to, first, do the basics found at http://www.finchrobot.com/teaching/scratch-finch-basics, and second, to do one of the projects found at http://www.finchrobot.com/teaching/scratch.
Using the MaKey MaKey you can make anything into a key just by connecting a few alligator clips. The MaKey MaKey is an invention kit that tricks your computer into thinking that almost anything is a keyboard. This allows you to hook up all kinds of fun things as an input. For example, play Mario with a Play-Doh keyboard, or piano with fruit! https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11511
The Task: Hacked Poetry
Program the Makey-Makey with Scratch to read a poem – attach Makey Makey to four drawings made by pencil that represent that poem. Idea for this came from Makey Makey Hacked Poetry Month Part I.
The Task: A Small Group Project
With one or two of your classmates, do one of the projects found at http://makeymakey.com/guides/
Osmo Coding uses hands-on physical blocks to control Awbie, a playful character who loves delicious strawberries. Each block is a coding command that directs Awbie on a wondrous tree-shaking, strawberry-munching adventure. https://playosmo.com/en/coding/
Play the game for 45 minutes and use each of the types of coding blocks during that time period.
The Arduino Bit is a tiny computer called a microcontroller. It brings the power of programing to your littleBits circuits, allowing you to create complex sequences of actions and explore new levels of logic and timing. https://littlebits.cc/bits/w6-arduino
For this advanced option, watch the getting started video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXQ9d3qJt3Q and then do one or more of the tasks found at http://littlebits.cc/inventions/explore?q=arduino&page=1&per_page=9.
You can use your BBC micro:bit for all sorts of creations, from robots to musical instruments. This little device has a lot of features, like 25 red LED lights that can flash messages. There are two programmable buttons that can be used to control games. Your BBC micro:bit can detect motion and tell you which direction you’re heading in, and it can use a low energy Bluetooth connection to interact with other devices and the Interne. http://microbit.org/about/
For this advanced option, do two of the projects featured on http://www.makereducation.com/microbit.html
Circuit Playground features an ATmega32u4 micro-processor with contains within it: 10 x mini NeoPixels – each one can display any rainbow color; Motion sensor; Temperature sensor; Light sensor; Sound sensor (MEMS microphone); Mini speaker (magnetic buzzer); 2 x Push buttons – left and right; Slide switch; 8 x alligator-clip friendly input/output pins. You can power and program it from USB. Program your code into it, then take it on the go. https://learn.adafruit.com/introducing-circuit-playground/overview
For this advanced option, do one of the projects featured on https://learn.adafruit.com/category/circuit-playground.
We’ve made it easy to learn the fundamentals of all coding languages, like methods, functions, and statements. Your code will control electronic lights, speakers, buttons, sensors, screens, and more. Follow 14 step-by-step lessons to get the basics down. Tinker with already-working programs. https://www.letsstartcoding.com/
Bloxels® is an innovative video game development platform that allows you to create your own video games. With easy-to-use physical and digital tools, you decide what the game looks like and configure how it is played. You tell the story of the characters and design their looks. You create the obstacles and the power-ups. http://kids.bloxelsbuilder.com/
Bloxels really isn’t a robotics nor coding platform, but because of the interactivity of physical objects with technology, I include it as part of my robotics kit.
Watch the tutorials found at http://kids.bloxelsbuilder.com/full-tutorial and build a game that uses five rooms where each of those rooms include characters, backgrounds, hazards, and powerups.
I work part time with gifted elementary students at two Title 1 schools where most of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches; and where they and/or their parents are learning English as a second language. What I quickly discovered about my students was that many were lacking in foundational skills in ELA and in math. Sadly, the instructional method used by way too many schools, especially those considered low performing like mine, is to give students lots of worksheets to teach such skills. I don’t like worksheets. I didn’t like them when I was an elementary student and don’t know too many elementary students who say, “I love doing worksheets.”
I have been using games in my classrooms (elementary and higher education) for decades. My use of games has included board games, team building and cooperative games, and more recently, video games. In order to help my gifted students learn some of the foundational skills, I integrate a variety of these games. This post is split into two parts:
- Personal Observations About the Use of Games for Learning
- Example Games Used to Teach and Reinforce
Personal Observations About the Use of Games for Learning
There has been a lot written about using games for learning. Research generally supports their use for learning:
Across 57 studies that compared teaching with a game to using other instructional tools, incorporating a game was more effective (SD .33). Using a game improved cognitive learning outcomes along with intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes. Researchers looking at other collections of studies have found that games help students retain what they’ve learned.
I have written about the teacher as an ethnographer and the teacher as a reflective practitioner. In line with these beliefs, I have made my own personal observations about using games with gifted elementary students at low performing schools.
The Desire to Win is a Motivator
One of the biggest draw in the use of games is that students want to build their skills in order to win the game. Most, if not all, of my students embrace and engage in competitive games with the goal of winning. The need to win is a strong motivator; and to win they need to develop those skills. Even in group team building and cooperative learning, learning basic skills in order to be successful is a great motivator for learning basic skills. The same can’t be said of worksheets. The major reward for completing a worksheet is a grade from the teacher. For many students, this type of reward is not all that motivating.
A Sense of Fun and Play
When games are used for learning, excitement and joy become part of the learning process. My learners’ excitement is seen with their squeals of joy, big smiles on their faces, and jumping out of their seats when they succeed in the games. Doing worksheets is not fun and they do not elicit playful responses. They is limited joy in learning through worksheets.
Learning Doesn’t Feel Contrived, Pushed, nor Painful
Most children play games and many adults do so, too. Games seem to be part of human existence. Thus, when games are introduced into the learning environment, they feel natural to the learners. On the other hand, worksheets are not part of learners’ lives outside of the classroom. This translates into worksheets feeling contrived and pushed. Doing worksheets is often painful for the learners.
Noise is Expected
Games often include vocal elements. Learner voices and noise are expected and accepted when games are played. The opposite is true for doing worksheets. The expectation is that there is silence in the classroom while students work through their worksheets.
Increased and Engaging Repetition of Concepts
In general, repetition is needed to gain and remember basic skills. Usually this occurs through memorizing and repeating core skills. Games often offer the repetition of basic skills in a fun way as learners work towards completing the game challenges. Doing multiple worksheets can provide the repetition but not the engagement.
Learners Spontaneously Help One Another
Even in games that ask learners compete (see the second part of this post for examples), they often help one another out when one of their peers get stuck. This type of peer assistance is not promoted, may even be seen as cheating when students are completing worksheets.
Natural, Immediate, and Continual Formative Assessment
Most games offer continual feedback on learners’ performances. Games provide immediate feedback about the degree of success with a challenge as this function is built into the game mechanics. The same is not true for worksheets. The teacher is the one who often reviews and grades the worksheet. Feedback does not tend to be immediate nor continual with the use of worksheets.
The above characteristics equal increased engagement, and increased engagement often means increased learning. I have to wonder if one of the reasons my learners didn’t develop foundational skills is that they weren’t engaged in their learning processes; that they just went through the motions of doing the worksheets.
Examples Games Used to Teach and Reinforce Basic Skills
In this game, students were separated into two groups. A pile of several sets of Alphabet bean bags were placed about 25 yards from the starting line. In a relay type game, group members ran one a time to pick up and bring back to the starting line one bean bag at a time. The relay continued until all of the bean bags were picked up.
The groups were then asked to create as many words as they could using the letters they collected. Letters could be reused after a word was created. Point values were: one point for words of 2 to 4 letters; two points for words with 5 to 9 letters; and 3 points for words with 10 letters or more.
Words with Friends
I created a class account with Words with Friends EDU:
The success of this game was better than I expected. The learners had never heard of nor played Scrabble so I was excited to see their level of engagement. They loved challenging one another; learning how the point values worked; and exploring the power words and their definitions.
Basic Number Sense
Similar to the word fluency games, I have been using a variety of both analog and digital games to increase my learners’ knowledge and skill with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and divisions.
Some of the analog math games I’ve used include”
- Sumoku – http://www.blueorangegames.com/index.php/games/sumoku
- Equate: The Equation Thinking Game – http://www.playequate.com/equate/
- Tri-Facta – http://www.hand2mind.com/item/trifacta-multiplication-division-game/7173
- Games with Playing Cards and Dominoes – http://www.education.com/activity/fourth-grade/math/
Some of the digital games I’ve used include:
- Prodigy Math Game – https://prodigygame.com/
Parting Shot: One of my gifted students yelled out this week during class (I meet with one group for a half a day and the other for a full day): I love coming to my gifted class. It is so much more fun than learning. On one hand, I was happy to hear how much he enjoys the class. On the other hand, I was saddened that: (1) he didn’t see our fun activities as learning, and (2) his regular classroom lacked such fun.