Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Best Games: Once Upon a Time

First up in the Best Games for the Classroom Series, we have Once Upon a Time, a card game that has been popular for a long time.  In fact, it won awards for being such a great game, including a Parent's Choice Award last year.  It inspires the imagination and can be a great way to help students hone writing skills, understand story elements, and explore the fantasy genre.

The object of the game is to use a deck of cards, each showing a story element, to collaboratively tell a story with the rest of the players.  You want to be the first to get rid of all your cards, but you have to do so by describing a story element using the cards in your possession.  At various times, other players can interrupt the narrative and continue it themselves, trying to get rid of their own cards.  Players have to think fast and rely not only on their knowledge of storytelling and fairy tales, but also their own ingenuity to win.  Each player has one card with a possible "ending" to the story, so each player is jostling to try to manipulate the story to their own end and get rid of their cards first.  

From the site:

"Once Upon a Time requires attention and problem solving abilities as the players try to figure out when they might be able to interrupt the current storyteller. It also draws upon players' creativity and imagination as they attempt to expand the plot and develop characters."
Check out the publisher's list of how the game can be useful for students.

The game can get silly and fun, as seen in the video below.  There are also versions of the game where players can make their own deck with elements they choose and draw themselves.  Students can add their own favorite characters, original characters or silly elements to that type of deck.  

The storytelling possibilities are endless with this game.  Watch below to see how players have to think, create a story, and cleverly find ways to use the story elements in their hand:

New Series: Best Games for the Classroom

It's no secret that I love games.  I've posted about several throughout the blog, whether they are original games or adaptations of popular games.  Either way, games are a great way to help students learn and practice skills.

Many students love the occasional opportunity to play games straight off the shelves.  In a classroom setting, it's a good idea to use these games to reinforce what they're learning.

That's why the latest series on the blog will deal with games and ones I recommend to help students think, ponder, practice and use skills we want to see them show all the time.  Games are a great way for kids to show "the ability to think through and solve complex problems, or interact critically through language or media."

Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

8 Ways to Get Students Excited About Reading

Are you looking for some ways to envigorate your students' desire to read, and get them excited to crack open some books?
I've come across several creative ways to get your class motivated to read.  Take a look and see which would be the best fit for your class:

  • Flashlight Friday, which is a great idea I saw on HeadOverHeels' blog.  She has bought small flashlights and finger flashlights at dollar stores and, as a treat, students may use them on Fridays with the lights turned off.  The classroom is aglow with students silently reading with their little flashlights hovering over their books.  How awesome!

  • I absolutely love this idea for a Book Raffle!  The BrownBag and 4thGradeFrolics had an excellent idea to promote new books in the classroom library.  They describe the new books to students, and then allow them to participate in a raffle to see who gets to read the books first.  What a great contest to get students salivating over new books!

  • Speaking of new books, 2ndisoutofthisworld has a "new book box" that showcases new books when they are introduced to the classroom.  Once the kids to have a chance to read the books, they are added to the regular classroom library and replaced by newer books.  Cool system!  The kids will know right where to look to find something fresh to read.

  • HeadOverHeels also has a great printout for having students sign books to recommend them to the rest of their classmates.  Few things are more motivating for young readers than to have them open a book to see several of their classmates read and enjoyed the same book.

  • Young students may really enjoy making a book buddy to read to during reading time.  These cute creations can be made by students or the teacher.  I've also seen teachers buy small, cheap stuffed dolls to use as book buddies.

  • One final suggestion from HeadOverHeels (great blog, btw!):  A Reading Counts Contest allows them to enter a drawing to win a great prize.  They earn tickets for the contest by, you guessed it, reading books!  The more books they read, the more they increase their chances to win.

  • Lastly, Scholastic features a helpful list so that you can suggest book types based on students' interest, personalities and the genres they like.

Hopefully, this list helps you discover a few ways to make reading and finding new books a fun, rewarding experience for your class!  :-)