Friday Five: Five Board Games for Your Classroom

Friday Five: Five games for your classroom.

Earlier this week I spent a fantastic day with teachers talking about Gamification, STEM Read, and Games in the classroom! It was a fun day. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to spend the day playing games with a bunch of fun teachers. The only thing that would have made it better would have been some adult beverages. Am I right? New PD idea!!!

Anyway. I digress. Let’s talk games!

Board Games
Our game stack.

Before we started to play we talked a bit about gamification and how to incorporate game elements into the learning environment. You know, things like leaderboards, avatars (not the bending kind), point systems, rewards, themes, etc. All the things that make games fun. There are many ways to use game elements and strategies to engage students in learning. That is a whole blog post in itself. (Read more about Gamification from ISTE – 5 ways to gamify your classroom)

Today, we want to talk board games! There are sooo many to chose from. The list can be a bit overwhelming. Once you find a new game, then you have to learn how to play it. for me, that is my biggest problem. I call it Game Launch Anxiety – the fear of learning how to play a new game. So, the second half of our gaming session let us all get our hands on some games and conquer our fears together.  It was tons of fun.

We had a whole stack of fun games but here are five that are super fun and easy to connect to your classroom.

Five Games for the Classroom

  1. Bring Your Own Book – This is a “game of borrowed phrases.” Each player brings a book of their choosing. A card is drawn and the prompt asks for a phrase, such as “Something you would find in a teenager’s diary.” All the players search their books for a phrase that fits and hilarity ensues. This game is easy to learn and fun to play. I’ve even used this one to spice up teacher PD. Instead of books, we bring lesson plans. Gameplay takes about 15 minutes give or take. I think it would even be fun to play in a foreign language class. First, they find their phrase and then they have to say it in a different language.
  2. Snake Oil – Get your powers of persuasion ready for this fast-paced pitch-o-rama card game! In Snake Oil, you do your best to sell a crazy product to a specific customer.  To start the game, one player selects a customer card. All the other players select two word cards from their hand to create a crazy product. Then they sell, sell, sell! How would you sell a Lava Boat to a Rockstar or some Hug Butter to Newlyweds? The best part, each “salesperson” can pitch over each other. Let the pitch battle begin! The one who drew the customer cards chooses their favorite product and the player with the most product cards wins! This is a great game for building speaking and listening skills, creative storytelling, and persuasive or argumentative reasoning skills. Snake Oil is technically out of print so it might be harder to find but worth the hunt. 
  3. Codenames – Two teams compete to see who can contact all of their agents first using their secrete codenames. But, beware the Assasin! We played the picture version, which I loved! The cards with the codenames (or codename pictures) are placed in a grid on the table. One person from each team provides one-word clues to help their team figure out which codenames belong to their agents. This game seems easy enough but it really makes you think. This game is a good way to stretch those vocabulary skills and think about synonyms. Also, it helps students look for connections or ways to group words or ideas. It is very easy to learn and there are tons of combinations for infinite play.
  4. Doctor Panic – I did not personally play this one but we heard the commotion it caused from across the room. You and your team are doctors and you have a patient to save and communication and collaboration are key. The game lasts only 12 minutes and those 12 minutes are intense. Watch out, if your patient goes into cardiac arrest, one person has to revive them with the whoopie cushion. Yes. The whoopie cushion. This is a hilarious way to build collaboration and communication skills. Great way to start talking about medical careers too. If the sounds of laughter that were coming from our play team are any indication, this one is a riot!
  5. First Martians – This game is beautiful. However, I will confess, this is one of those that gave me Game Launch Anxiety. In First Martians, you have to survive life on the harsh red planet. It is described as an immersive experience where players play through different challenging campaigns to survive on Mars. It looks like there are several different options for how to play. I’ll admit, it looks very interesting but it has a steep learning curve. It has high reviews on Board Game Geek so it might be worth the time investment to learn how to play. If you are doing a Mars unit or reading The Martian by Andy Weir, this might be the perfect game for you. I’m going to add this one to my list of games I need to learn.

More Resources

This was such a short list. How does one only pick five when there are so many great games out there. I could go on and on. Do you have games to share? Or, do you have gamification resources and tools that you use? Share them on my Games Padlet! Leave a rating or comment too.

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Share the gaming love!! I’d love to hear about how you use games in the classroom. Post in the comments.

I don’t think I said “fun” enough in this post. Fun. Fun! Fun!!

If you want to learn more about our Gamification and Games in the Classroom session, follow the link to our slide deck – https://www.slideshare.net/secret/IgaqUEXSGRUTzC 

 

Friday Five: Build Visual Literacy Skills

Friday Five: Five activity ideas for building student Visual Literacy Skills.

In a world full of visual communication, it is important that we teach our students how to be visually literate. Much like building text-based literacy skills involves both reading and writing, building visual literacy skills includes both decoding and encoding visuals.

Here are five ideas for how to build student visual literacy skills in your classroom.

  1. Photo a Day (or Week) Challenge: Give your students a daily (or weekly) photography prompt. Every student takes a picture based on the prompt and shares it with the class. Discuss how each student interpreted the prompt. How were they different? How were they similar? Be sure they use their visual vocabulary as they discuss. How did the photographer use line, texture, color, and all the visual elements in their interpretation? Need prompt ideas? Use your current vocabulary list or words or phrases for the book you are reading. Have students take photos of math concepts. Use a mix of concrete prompts and abstract ideas. For example, how would you photograph blue? Join the global Photo A Day Challenge by following blogger FatMumSlim. Every month she publishes a new set of prompts and a hashtag for sharing. It is fun to see how people around the world interpret the prompts differently.
  2. Tell a story in Five: Start by showing your students five images. Place them in an order and have them tell the story that they see. What happens when you change the order of the pictures? How does the story change? Next, have students tell their own story using only five images. These could be their own images or ones they find online. Have them show their stories to the class and see if their classmates can verbalize what they see. Check out the Flikr group Tell a Story in 5 Frames for some excellent examples of five photo stories.
  3. Wordless Videos: Using your favorite presentation/video creation tool, have the students tell you about their favorite place using only images, editing techniques, and music. No words allowed. This will encourage them to use the visual elements combined with the power of music to help the viewer understand why this is their special place.
  4. Compare and Contrast Picture Books: Many of our favorite classic children’s stories have been told through picture books over and over again. Go to your library and pick up several different versions of the same story. Classic fairy tales are perfect for this. You can even select international versions of the same story.  Have the students look at how the different illustrators interpreted the story. How do the illustrations change the story from book to book? Look at the artistic style, use of color, line, tone, and the choice of medium. How do those choices change how you interpret the story? How much of the story is told through the pictures? Do the pictures help you understand the story or do the pictures conflict with what they are reading? Be sure they use their visual vocabulary in their explanations.
  5. I write you draw: Similar to using pictures books, then I write you draw strategy helps students see the connection between written language and visual language. Have each student write a couple sentences describing a setting or a character. Tell them to use good descriptive detail. When complete, they exchange their writing with a partner. Each student then illustrates their partner’s passage. When complete, have them discuss the results. How well does the drawing work with the passage? Based on the drawing, is there any editing that the author could do with the passage? To take it further, have students work together to write and illustrate picture books. Each student writes their own story and illustrates their partner’s story. This not only builds visual literacy skills but also collaboration skills.

Below are a few (five because it’s Friday!) of my favorite visual literacy resources and informational sites.

Bonus! Visit the Public Domain Review for images to use with your students.

There are so many fun ways to incorporate visual literacy into the classroom. Sometimes it might just be tweaking existing activities to include more image analysis or visual vocabulary. I could keep writing about this topic all day but I will leave some for a future post. How are you building students’ visual literacy skills? Share your ideas and favorite resources in the comments. I’d love to hear them!