Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How I Gamified My Classroom: Mini Games

I remember playing Mario Party 2 as a kid on my Nintendo 64. After reading Explore Like a Pirate I played it again to see if I could find the different game aspects he talked about. Some were easier to find than others, but one that jumped right out was mini games! Of course, this game within the game, was the best part! 

That being said, this post is all about mini games to use in your classroom!



Mini games are a great way to practice skills. You can make them as simple or as complicated as you want. I prefer to keep it easy! Here are some quick tips I have for playing games:


1. Everyone does every problem. Keep them engaged and you'll have less problems to deal with.


2. Use something easy to write on like white boards, scratch paper, journals, etc. Don't make it too complicated, and everyone doesn't need to use the same thing. 


3. The fewer teams you use, the better off you'll be. I recommend a max of 4 teams, but I usually end up using 2 teams. 


4. Number off everyone on each team, so every team has the same numbers. Have students solve the problem, or answer the question, etc. and then call out a number to see what their answer was. This helps keep them on their toes. 


I've written out more detailed procedures I've used in previous posts. This is the spark notes version for those of you who've read about my games before. If you're just tuning in now, be sure to check out the other mini games I play at the bottom of the post!

 This game is called Mystery Boxes!


The boxes have point values hidden behind. The point values range from 0 - 100. 

Let's say I'm using two teams. I write a problem on the board, let's say 1+1=, and the students have to solve it. I call on team mate number 3 from both teams, and they both show me their answer. Both teams have 2 as the answer, so both students get the chance to choose a mystery box. Team 1 chooses box 1, and let's say there's 5 points behind it. Team 1 earns 5 points! Team 2 chooses box 28, and let's say there's 50 points behind that one. Team 2 earns 50 points!

Click the video for a sneak peek of what's inside the product!



Click the image to view this product in my TpT store!




If you haven't read about the other mini games I play in my class check them out below!



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How I Gamified My Classroom: Items

This post is all about one of the baby steps I took to add game elements into my classroom- using Items! 



I was a little skeptical about using items at first. I'm horrible at remembering to hand out things like tickets, deal with punch cards, money for a classroom economy, etc. In the past I've used item like things for little rewards, and it was never as motivating for the students, or myself,  as I wanted it to be. This time I was really motivated, and so far it's working out okay!

The items I'm using now give the students an advantage in a game that we play. I already play learning games in class so this was an easy way to add gamification into my classroom. Each item has  different "power" and can be earned by doing different things. Some items are worth game points, which can be used to break ties, as a starting score, etc. 




Sea Shells: This is a very low level item. It's worth only 5 game points, so it's not very valuable. I used this a lot at the beginning of the year, but not so much now. 


Sword: Similar to Sea Shells, this is worth game points. It has 3 levels, but my students have only earned the level 1 sword so far. Level 1 is worth 10 game points, level 2 is worth 25 game points, and level 3 is worth 50 game points. 


Treasure Chest: This is a favorite item in my classroom right now. The treasure chest allows the team to earn double points for the next 3 rounds. 


Mutiny: This item allows students to "curse" a player on another team. I haven't had the chance to get more creative than a "silent" curse. When a player has been hit with a silent curse they have to remain silent the entire game, OR their team loses all their points! 




Mapquest: This item isn't exactly for use in a game, but it's something that students will definitely need during the school year. It allows one of their missing classroom supplies to be replaced. It's only the end of the first quarter and I already have many lost or broken homework folders, so it's time to cash these babies in!

Jolly Roger:I haven't introduced this item to my class yet, but it is coming soon! This item will allow the holder to bend the rules in a game. I'm really excited to see how this one plays out!

Conch: This item will allow students to call out to another student to help them during a game. If someone has the conch they can play it and ask another player to help them, or if another student is struggling they can play it to go help them. I haven't used this one yet, but it'll come into play soon!

Pieces of Eight: This one.. I haven't quite figured out yet or introduced. It will be a set of 8 coins that the students will collect, and on their own they are useless. As part of a set, the student in possession of all eight will be unstoppable. I have no idea what that looks like yet, but I've got time to figure it out!

I've hidden items around my classroom inside books, but most of them are tied to returning homework assignments and completing work. Since it is something relatively new, my class hasn't completely figured out how to use items. But, they excited about it, and it's fun for me to watch!

Check back next Wednesday 10/26 to read about the mini games I play in my classroom! I've posted about some of the games before, but this post includes some new ones, too. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Five for Friday

I can't believe that it's already time for another Five for Friday with Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching. Time flies by when you're relaxing on Fall Break.. Here's a bit of what I've been up to!



Every year we go to Oktoberfest. This year has to be my favorite time we went. Just low key relaxing outside listening to good (sometimes..) music!




Do you remember the Explore Like a Pirate linky this summer? It gave me tons of great ideas to add gamification elements into my classroom, so I'm writing a mini series about the ways I gamified my classroom during first quarter. I hope to add 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter as they come up, too! Click the image to see the original post.

Oh, and make sure you stop by again on Wednesday to read about how I used Items in my classroom!




I have been waiting for this book for a long time! My absolute favorite author, Jodi Picoult, has published another book. I just started reading it, and I'll probably end up reading the rest of it this weekend. If you haven't read her books yet, you need to start now. She is amazing!


My whole condo needs an upgrade, and slowly but surely we are getting there! Welcome.. new dining chairs and the gigantic coffee table!



Please excuse the mess in the background.. Things got a little super messy before Fall Break, and I spent the break tidying up. So it looks much better now! 





This has been in the works for a while.. I forgot how busy the beginning of the year is! Anyways, the November edition of The Ultimate Reading Challenge is now in my TpT store. Click the image to check it out!



Read what the other bloggers have been up to by clicking on the button to go back to the linky!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How I Gamified My Classroom - First Quarter Edition

This summer I read Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera. It gave me a bunch of great ideas to make my classroom more fun and engaging. Some are definitely more easy than others, but in the end I think they would all be worth it! 


Anyways, I decided to take baby steps. I tried out a few ideas during the first quarter, and I can't wait to share them all with you! Rather than write one looooooooong post about the things I tried, I decided to break it down into several smaller posts. 


In the upcoming weeks I'll write about how I used different game mechanics in my classroom. I'll write about what worked well, what didn't, and what I'd change.


Join me next Wednesday, 10/19, as I talk ramble on about: Items!


Oh, and if you're interested in learning more about gamification, check out these posts:

A Whale of a Tale: Theme and Storytelling

Pulleys, Ropes, and Rigging: Game Mechanics to Outfit any Journey

Tools and Treasures: Stockpiling Items and Earning Badges

X Marks the Spot: Finding Joy in Playful Assessment

Monday, October 10, 2016

Danger Cards

I'm so happy I read Explore Like a Pirate this summer! I got so many great ideas for ways to engage students, and one of my favorite things was the mini game aspect. I already play learning games in my classroom, and I was able to get some new ideas for easy games. 

On my Instagram, I recently posted about Danger Cards, and here's how I play this fun and easy game!


P.S. this is perfect for those Friday afternoons when your class is crazy and you're just ready for the weekend. 

But, it's also works great when you just need a fun and easy way to practice a skill!


I have the same rules and procedures in every game, so when we learn a new game it takes about 30 seconds. Very little actually changes, which makes it so much easier for me!

The rules and procedures I use for every game are:

1. Divide the class into teams. I either use 2 or 4 teams depending on the game and how much time we have.

2. Number off everyone on each team. 1 - however many students you have. Each team should have a number 1, number 2, number 3, etc. 

3. Everyone solves every problem. Gotta have that engagement!

4. Be quiet when solving the problems. I do not give warnings in games since it is usually a reward, so if this rule is broken that student will be out, or their team will lose points, move back, etc. The consequence depends on the game. I've found that if you are consistent with this then you have very little problems with students talking while solving the problems. 

5. Give the students enough time to solve the problem. Depending on what the problem is, and the strategy I want them to use, it usually takes between 45 seconds and 1 minute. Ultimately you need to keep the game moving forward, or you'll lose the students. If I call on a student and they have not finished the problem then they earn an out, don't get points, whatever makes sense with the game. 
*With Danger Cards, the students don't get an opportunity to choose a Danger Card.

6. Call out a number, and the student on all teams with that number show the answer. 

7. If it's right - they move forward, get points, get to choose something, etc.. If it's wrong, they move backward OR stay in the spot, lose points, nothing happens, etc. These are all variations on the game, so it'll vary with the game! 
*With Danger Cards, a correct answer will earn the opportunity to choose a Danger Card. A wrong answer doesn't earn or lose points.


Here's the nitty gritty with Danger Cards. 

The Danger Cards have a point value on the inside. The students could earn points, lose points, or choose a card that has 0 points. Prior to the start of the game, one student from each team gets to peek inside one card. They can tell their team the point value, so they can use that as part of their strategy.

P.S. most of my students haven't figured out the strategy aspect of this game yet. I think 2 out of 30 have figured out how to trick others into losing points, but that's it!


Anyways, back to the game.


I present a problem, and the students solve it. I call out a number, and any student with that number shows me their white board. If they get the answer right, they get the opportunity to choose a danger card.

Let's say 4 students had the correct answer. I roll the dice to see which student gets to choose a Danger Card. The student chooses a card, but doesn't let the other 3 students see it and doesn't say anything. The other 3 students will decide if they're going to play or pass, depending on their reaction to the card. If they play, they take the point value on the card. If they pass, nothing happens. The 3 students decide if they're going to play or pass, and then the student who saw the card says if they will play or pass after everyone else has cast their vote. If the student says PLAY the class erupts into cheers because they know they'll earn points. If they say PASS, it goes silent because they know that it says something that's not good.

I think that sounds more complicated than it is, and it only takes about 10 seconds or so. I think they like the unknown aspect of the cards because they love love love playing this game!


Looking for other EASY games to add to your day? Click the images below to read about other games I play. 

 Sink or Swim


Math Baseball


What games do you use in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fall Break Sale

I'm stopping by for a quick post to let you know that I'm having a sale!



My TpT store will be on sale for 20% off  Monday - Wednesday. Click the image to visit my store!

Check out some of my fall favorites below:


This research project includes: 

→ Bat Research Journal and graphic organizers
→ Game templates - word search, unscramble a word, write a story with questions
→ Templates for each side - fact and opinion, informative paragraph, and fun facts
→ Parent letter
→ Rubric





This primary friendly portfolio includes:
→ multiple graphic organizers for research
→ vocabulary words and pages
→ writing prompt for a friendly letter with pre-writing graphic organizers and publishing page
→ informative paragraph pre-writing graphic organizer and publishing pages





Included in this pack:

→ Master sheet of October paragraphs
→ Individual October paragraphs on half sheets for students to check their work 
→ Sentence pieces for 6 mixed up paragraphs with October themes
→ Recording sheet




Included in this pack:

✓ calendar template for reading log
✓ game board template for reading log
✓ templates for friendly letter, Venn Diagram, Halloween Story
✓ spelling tic tac toe template
✓ reading brochure with suggested activities and websites to check out in October


Happy shopping!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Five for Fraturday

I'm a day late... again. I know, I know. Better late than never though, right? 

Here's a little of what I've been up to lately.



I have taken over the role of Cheer Coach for the older students at my school. It's been a lot of fun, but way more work than I was expecting! The girls on my squad have little to no cheer experience, and we were able to get our stunts up the first shot! 





I was so proud of them! 







I play math games in class a lot. It's an easy and fun way to get the kiddos to practice a skill, and takes little to no prep on my part. My class has a favorite game called Danger Cards. Check back on Monday for a post about how I play this game!







We made 3D models representing a story that we read this year. The students had to work together to construct the beginning, middle, end, and depict the characters - all using images! 




Shhh.. Don't tell the cheerleaders. I made bows for them to wear at the games. 





I am officially on Fall Break! This was so me yesterday. This break is much needed. 

Happy weekend!


Click the image to go back to the linky.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Welcome to... The Bat Cave!

This post is a little bit late... as in a year late. Every October I teach a nonfiction research unit about bats, and I decided to really go all out with it last year!


I've been super inspired to keep my students engaged each year. I had been wanting to transform my classroom based on a theme, but was always so nervous to take the plunge! This was the first time I did anything like this, and based on the feedback I got from my students is something I definitely plan to do again. So... welcome to the bat cave!


Prior to entering the classroom I told my students we were going on a research expedition into a cave to study bats. At first they were like um, okay, but once they entered the cave they were super excited! Within about 7 seconds, one student immediately turns back to me and says "This is so fun".






The pictures are pretty unimpressive because well, the lights are off. What really sold it was the sounds.



I had this playing on repeat for most of the time we were in the bat cave. I projected it on the smart board, but put a screen shade up for 2 reasons: 1. It was already really dark and we needed some light to actually get work done, and 2. I didn't want them to see the background. Update for this year: Create a playlist in YouTube so I don't need to run up to the computer to press play again every few minutes. 


The students were required to read leveled books and create a poster about what they learned from the book. This was part of a jigsaw activity and the books were leveled. They gave short presentations to the class, and after each one we recorded interesting facts in our Bat Scientist Research Journal. The note taking part was mostly teacher directed since in October of 2nd grade the most of students aren't really ready to accurately and independently determine main idea and details from presentations. 


The funny part is that this is exactly what they were going to do, but we did it listening to a quiet clip of bat sounds in the background and with the lights off. Some students brought in flashlights and I had a few set up around the classroom, which is something I will make sure I plan for ahead of time. We needed more light, but I didn't expect to get a ton of flashlights since I send out a Remind message the night before when I realized that we wouldn't be able to see. Update for this year: Give them at more notice about the flashlights!


Check out my resources that go along with this:


This would be appropriate for 2nd - 5th grade. The higher the grade level the less teacher support you provide and allow the students to work more independently. This is a research project, so the forms provided would be appropriate for multiple grade levels. 




This is another research project which includes the following: a paper bag craft, research journal, vocabulary pages, friendly letter writing, and informative paragraphs.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm still here!

Oh my goodness.

I am still here.. with plenty of great ideas to share! 

This has been the craziest start to the school year.. like ever. In a nutshell.. I had a sick kitty, a new principal, to set up my classroom again since we got new carpet, started my National Board certification, and I started coaching the middle school cheer squad at school. All that in addition to the craziness that is the start of the school year!

Things are starting to level out, so I'm hoping to have time to sit down and write down all of the amazing things that have been going on in my classroom this year. 

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to share about my new favorite game to play with my students - Danger Cards, all things Bat related in 2nd grade, and some ideas you may be able to use with Google Apps for Education. So.. stay tuned! There are great things in the works!

I just need time to write about them. 

So.. in the meantime..

Go have a pumpkin spice latte for me, and check back here again soon!