Book Party!

Students engaged in recommending books to each other during a recent book party.

Students engaged in recommending books to each other during a recent book party.

So what book are you reading these days? And what made you decide to grab that book and read it? Most likely, you heard about it from a trusted friend, relative, or colleague. Do kids recommend books to each other? From my experience, the answer is NO. They aren’t naturally talking about the books they love at recess, on their cells, or online. That’s where you and I come in. We need to provide class time and clear guidance for our students to learn how to recommend books to each other. I train my students at the beginning of the year to record, in their binder or on their iPad, a “Books to Read” list. This list should include the title along with how they can find the book. If it’s in the library, then the author’s last name is usually sufficient. If a friend will loan them the book, then write the friend’s name next to the book title. As students finish reading their current book, they look at their “Books to Read” list to choose a new one.

This is where the Book Party comes in. Students learn to roam around the classroom “party-style” and just informally chat with one another about the books they love. All students must be carrying their list. Students are allowed to gather in groups of 2 or more. The only “rules” for the Book Party is that all students must be either talking about a book they love, listening to someone else talking about a book, or writing down a book recommendation on their “Books to Read” list. One key to helping students to stay focused is for the teacher to constantly scan the room checking for students who appear to be off task. Book parties normally last about 5 minutes. Sometimes, at the end of the book party, I will ask students to hold up the number of fingers to correspond to how many books they added to their list. Here is a brief video peek at my students conducting a book party.

What is a quality math game?

By Tim Bedley


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 FlowLittle 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?