Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shh, Don't tell them they're learning

It's Day 3 of our 5 Days of Teaching Creatively and today we tackle Toys, Games & Puzzles.  When people have asked me how to get started in home schooling I've always answered "First teach your kids that learning can be fun."  After all, if you've got an enthusiastic student it makes the day go more smoothly, even if they don't like every subject.  To that end, I've always tried to incorporate games or songs where memorizing is involved.  It's like hiding the medicine in a spoonful of sugar,  they're drilling facts and often don't recognize it. 

Geography: This year Schnickelfritz is taking Mapping the World by Heart at co-op class.  We have to drill countries on all the continents at home so that he's ready for the weekly quizzes.  Fortunately for us his grandparents got him Where in the World? for a birthday present.
In the box a three two-sided cardboard maps (one for each continent except Antarctica ), a cardboard spinner base (the other side shows the seas and oceans of the world), and playing cards for every country in the world.  The cards a color coded by continent and each has a number so you can find it on the corresponding continent map. 

Without even playing the game we can practice identifying countries.  I give Schnickelfritz the name of the country and he looks on the map and tell me what number he thinks it is.  Then I  look at the card and see if he's correct. (Truthfully, I should be learning this myself).  I can shuffle the cards so I know he's not memorizing a pattern, like the geography songs they learn in class.

Of course, it's really the games that keep learning fun and Where in the World has instructions for six games of all learning levels.  We've only played the first two.

1. Crazy Countries--Like Crazy Eights, you're trying to discard your entire hand.  You may play a card if it matches the color (continents) or number of the previously played card.  This is for a young child  just becoming familiar with the countries so you can help the pronounce the name as they play the card.

2. Crazy Countries 2 -- You're still trying to match the previously played card but now you're looking at the other listed facts: Major Religion, Exports, Imports, Languages, or Population range.

The higher levels are more about correctly memorizing the Exports, Imports, Literacy rates and other facts of the countries rather than just be exposed to them and I'm not so concerned about that for an elementary student.  Stay tuned next week when we see how Schnickelfritz does on his memorized map of the world.

Math:  (This is taken from a previous post, Math Facts of Fun?  Check it out if you've got younger students to read about Jelly Beans and Knock-Out.)

Muggins is still one of our favorite games and we don't even notice that we're drilling math functions.  The board has holes numbered 1 to 36 around the four sides and uses three dice.  The player scores points for every marble on the board, but there are bonuses for creating a run of 2 or more of your marbles in a row.

In its easiest level, Muggins can still be a game of just addition and subtraction.  By using the 12-sided dice included with the game it's possible to capture all 36  numbers.  Here it's black's turn and I've rolled a 10, 4 and 6.  The 20 (10 + 4+ 6) is already taken by green.  I could make a run of three by capturing the 8 (10 + 4 - 6) or I could stop blue's run by taking 12 (10+6-4).

At the next level of the game we use three regular dice but any of the four math functions.  You either add, subtract, multiply or divide two dice to get a new number and then add, subtract, multiply, or divide that number by the face value of the third die.  You can see where the possible choices of marble placement expand dramatically.
Here are just a few options (assuming I'm blue) with a 3, 4 and 6 :

3 + 4 + 6 = 13,  already occupied
3 + 4 - 6 = 1,  available but it doesn't make a run or block anyone else
3 + 6 - 4 = 5,  this would put an end to one side of black's run
(6*4)/3 = 8,  this would keep black from forming a 4 marble run
6*3 - 4 = 14, this would give blue a run of 3

As the board begins to fill it becomes harder and harder to find numbers to capture.  I can almost see Fritz's gears churning in his brain as he tries to manipulate the numbers to come up with an open solution.  In the official rules of Muggins you are allowed to "bluff," that is try to get away with placing a marble somewhere that you can't reach mathematically.  If you get caught, that marble is removed.  If you are challenged and can explain your calculations you may remove one of the challenger's marbles.  (When we're playing for school purposes, we always "show our work" and explain our calculations so no bluffing allowed).  There's an even higher level of game play where you use two dice as noting place value.  In our sample game I could use the 3 and 6 as 36 and divide by 4 to make 9 (but that's already taken).  I love the age range for Muggins-- 8 to Nuclear Physicist.

I'm Thinking of a Person:

Of course you don't have to buy anything to come up with games for school.  We play this version of 20 Questions in the car and even while waiting in line for the roller coaster.  One person will announce "I'm thinking of a ________ person. " The blank being filled in by one of our school subjects.  It could be a historical person, a Biblical person, or a fictional person from a book we've read.  The guesser may only ask "Yes and No" questions to narrow down the field.  We play until the correct guess is made whether it's more or less than 20 questions.  We're reviewing fact as we form the questions, for example...

Did this person live in the 18th century?
Did this person write a book of the Bible?

It always tickles me that we can play with games and puzzles and log it as school hours.  The possibilities here are endless so you'll want to be sure and visit some of these other blogs and see what they have to share.  And don't forget to check out the 5 Days of Teaching Creatively Giveaway.

1 comment:

Cristi said...

I love the "I'm thinking of a person" game. That'll be a great one to add to my mental bag-of-tricks that I call on when I'm stuck at appointments too long.

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