Last week, Jordan, one of my fifth grade girls, was caught doing something without permission! AND I LOVED IT!
Jordan’s classmate, Koral, was on a trip out of town to attend a funeral. During our book clubs (literature circles), I noticed that Jordan had propped her iPad up in front of her and was talking to Koral on FaceTime. Jordan knew that our class was a safe place to try something new. She also knew that I would approve of anything she did that enriched her education or that of a classmate. So here is Jordan reading Chomp to Koral, separated by a measly 1000 miles.
In episode 6 of the Bedley Bros, Tim describes how 2/3 of his students and their parents opted out of letter grades this year. He addresses the obstacles and shares the triumphs of de-grading his class.
As students work in groups, designate one or more students to silently observe the workers. Call them the Super Spies. The Super Spies silently take notes on positive behaviors and then report what they saw to the class. The teacher should be the first Super Spy to model the types of behaviors that should be reported. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it works wonders.
Watch as Super Spies report positive behaviors to class.
I have been assigning slide presentations to my elementary students for many years. I found myself repeating the same critiques to group after group. Now, I don’t leave “PowerPoint” style to chance. Here are a few of the tips I give my students.
Use VERY small amount of text. A few words that give the main idea for each slide is good. The big NO-NO: Reading your slides to your audience.
Choose one font style for the main points and one for the sub-points. Use these styles throughout your entire presentation. This includes font name, color, and size.
Be careful with overlap. Text that is barely touching a photo is awkward. Text that sits right next to the edge of the slide is awkward.
Dark text on light background or light text on dark background. Contrast! Make it POP!
No bullet points. Duplicate your slides and put your sub-points on separate slides.
Try to fill your slide with one large image.
Faces are better. We all like to see closeups of the human face.
Be careful not to distort your pictures. Grab the photo in the corner, not the edge, to change the size.
Be careful with image size. If you use a small image and resize it to make it large, the image gets very blurry.
Photos are better than clipart. Better yet, make your own pictures by taking photos or drawing pictures.
Cite your source. Always give credit for the images you use.
Overall Design Tips
Avoid using templates. They are cheesy and show little creativity.
Avoid slide transitions. You want your audience focused on the slides, not the switching between slides. NO transition is wonderful!
Simple! Keep your slides clutter free. A nice big clear picture with 3 words to focus the audience is great!
Avoid creating a “The End” slide. If you have a conclusion, great. Otherwise, just make a main topic slide as your last slide. Don’t make a slide that says, “Thanks for watching,” or something similar.
Advanced Tip: Use the rule of thirds. Draw a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Place items where the lines cross. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but the main thing: try to avoid centering things on the slide.
Note: These tips definitely limit creativity, but my purpose is to teach my students to first create a good clean slide show. Once that is accomplished, then I encourage the students to break the rules…with purpose. It’s similar to learning a new instrument. We first need to learn our scales and copy the masters. Later, we develop our own style and can artfully break the rules.
Screencast Instructional Video: 12 PowerPoint Tips for Kids
What makes a quality educational math game for kids?
A perfect blend of strategy and skills.
Almost every kids’ online math game involves one or the other, but rarely both. Normally, math games involve the player solving a math problem and, if they get the answer correct, they get to play a game.
I make a distinction between a game that makes you smarter and a game that teaches you math.
Angry Birds definitely can improve critical thinking skills along with other brain functions, but does it teach you to solve an actual math problem? Not really. Sudoku helps the player to learn deductive reasoning. It’s a great thinking game. It involves numbers, but doesn’t teach any actual math that will help a child in school.
Now don’t take me wrong. I think that thinking games are awesome and I encourage my students to play Flow, Little Alchemy, and several other great strategy games. There’s just something beautiful when a game-maker comes up with a strategy game that actually teaches kids math vocabulary or math skills. Calculation Nation is a math game website produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM.) All the games (with the exception of Slamball) teach basic math skills while engaging the player in addictive strategy. For example, Times Square requires the player to constantly do multiplication facts in his/her head. Players must also keep track of offensive and defensive moves to obtain 4 in a row.
Another math game website to check out is GregTangMath.com. Greg has developed some excellent thinking games that kids love. My favorite game is Kakooma.
Another aspect of math games that I desire for my kids is the ability to play another real live kid. This makes the game much more exciting. Calculation Nation offers this option.
What are your favorite digital math games?