Saturday, August 14, 2010

Games for the Start of School

One of the issues with August vacations is that I'm already starting to make the switch from my summer self to my teaching self. In some ways, this can be a bad thing--my teacher radar informs me of every misbehavior in a 100 ft radius, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from explaining to random children why it is not a good idea to walk on the dunes at the beach.

But the good part is that I often discover some great teaching ideas while on vacation. This year, I found a neat version of an old game. I found little bags called "Think-ets" while I was browsing in a bookstore. The bags include tiny little objects like miniature animals, shells, dollhouse items, and charms. Small enough to fit in my purse, the bag also had directions for several different games.

I quickly recognized one game--the "What's Missing?" game that saved my life back when I was substituting. I'd put seven different objects on the overhead projector, reveal them to students, and then take one away. The students would have to figure out what was missing. When I used to play this, I'd gather any objects that I could find, like paperclips, marker lids, and even my jewelry. The items in the Think-ets bag are much more appealing. What kid can resist a tiny horse or a miniature copper cup?

While we were waiting at restaurants, we played the "What's Missing?" game several times. Both of my sons enjoyed it! We also tried a game in which one player gathers 5 items, shows them to the other player for about 10 seconds, and then hides them. The other player has to try to guess all 5 items. Well, my five-year old son was very frustrated with this at first. But once I showed him how to make a story out of the items, as explained in the directions, he became very successful very fast.

I realized that this is perfect for the first few days of school! I'm planning to use the set that I purchased to play the games with the whole class, using the document camera to project the items on the screen for everyone to see. These games will help to communicate some very important lessons for the first few days of school:

1. It's important to observe and notice small details
2. The more we observe, the better we are at it
3. Using strategies (like making a story) can help us to improve with remembering

These big lessons will help us to establish a culture of observing, improving, and telling stories. What more could I ask for those first few August days?

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