States & Capitals Memory Game

img_0564I love to incorporate games into the day. I mean, we begin the day by playing board games! So why not use games to help students learn their states and capitals?

We have been playing a few games in regards to this subject. Using a few items that I have collected through the years, students are practicing their knowledge of U.S. geography.

Most recently we have been using cards with a state or capital printed on each one to play memory. I have 5 groups of cards so that students can play in small groups. Each group of cards is printed on a different color. I have separated each deck of cards into groups of 4. This way the students are familiarizing themselves with approximately 12 – 14 states and capitals at a time. Students use the aid of a few maps that I acquired along the way. Fortunately, the maps were from an old curriculum set and there are several sets in the classroom.

This is such a fun and easy way for students to learn. They are really getting into it! One student even begged to play it (I had it in the plan for later in the day). She was NOT happy to hear that we weren’t playing it at that moment. THAT is how you know you have a winner on your hands!

Elementary Mornings

I HATE busy work! I am done with the ridiculous morning routine of giving the kids something to do – usually a worksheet – while I take attendance, check in on certain kids, and take lunch count.

So many of us give our students a ‘spiral review’ sheet to work on. Which we then have to check. Which sucks up more precious time during our day. And since we assigned it, we want the kids to at least pretend to take it as serious as we do and actually complete it. Which leaves me being the drill sergeant getting after the ‘usual suspects’. You know, those same students that talk and never complete the assigned morning work.

Yeah, I’m done! My mornings are so much nicer and more relaxed. Over the summer, a colleague and I were talking about things we were going to change in our classroom. She relayed an idea she had read in a blog post. Have the kids do low risk, NO paperwork, play type activities.

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So now my students come in and play games: Uno, Connect 4, Snap Circuits, checkers, or geometric shapes. I will switch out certain items throughout the year, but for now, everyone seems happy. And most importantly, I don’t have to get after anyone for not completing a paper that no one really cares about.

As I said, my colleague gave me the idea. She is using this in her 1st-grade classroom. She allows her students, by table, to choose their daily activity. By contrast, I set out an activity for my students. They have the same activity for a week. This allows them to dig in or really learn strategies of a game. Many of them are learning to play checkers or Uno properly for the first time.

This is a great way to start the day!

NOTE: I would like to give credit to the teacher who originally wrote the blog post, but I don’t know who it was.

UPDATE: Credit goes to Brown Bag Teacher (@brownbagteacher) for the idea and conversation starter.

Mathbowl 2016

WMathbowl 1hile our school didn’t win, we had a lot of fun! I have never seen my students so focused and determined. One student asked if I could assign MORE challenges! Yes, MORE! How awesome is that?

In the midst of it all, we were challenged to participate in a Fai-To! This is where our school and another go head to head. Considering that our Internet went down twice in the past week, I was pleased to learn that we WON the last Fai-To!

There aren’t many classrooms at my school using Mangahigh, so to have 136 points is pretty big for us.

mathbowl 2

To top it all off, I had an IEP for a student on Friday. The parents commented how much the student, who struggles academically, enjoys Mangahigh. The student often asks to try, “Just one more time,” in order to achieve a higher score, beat another student, or gain another medal.

Just another reason to love this program! And to all the winners, congratulations!

Make It Ourselves!

We have been working on division with and without decimals. To help my students gain experience with the computation, I found a game (Four in a Row) in Georgia Math. They enjoy the game, but you always have those few who get board because it’s too easy. And yes, I had some of those. However, these 3 boys didn’t complain. Instead, they asked if they could make their own.


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Credit: J-Jey, Julian, and Adan

The boys chose the numbers and did the division to fill in the boxes with the quotient. This week, the rest of the class was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was a hit.

Now, this same group has decided to recreate another game. It was a multiplication board game, also found in Georgia Math. They are pretty excited.

Why was this so important? First of all, we talk about differentiation but aren’t alway great at it. This allowed my more proficient students to be challenged yet work on the same goals as the rest of the class. Secondly, and more importantly, my students took control over their learning and thought of a way to challenge themselves. What a powerful lesson for all.


Math In the Summer

Unexpected Email

MangahighThis was waiting for me in my Inbox recently; along with the message:

Mrs.N LOOK !!!!!!!!!

Now, this may not look like a big deal, or that the student was playing a game and beat it, but when you look deeper; it’s a big deal. I received this email on June 28. Our last day of school was June 4. This particular game helps to reinforce the concept of the PEMDAS Rule. So this means that ‘J’ has been playing meaningful math games during her summer break! Oh, and that this game covers standards above 5th grade, is just the frosting on the cake.

The Power of Games

Back in November of 2014, I wrote about how I was Gamifying my math homework. I was using Mangahigh. Then in the spring, my school decided to purchase a different system (that had math included) for the entire school. So I switched my math homework to the new system (I was using the free version of Mangahigh). My students were NOT happy.

When I first asked them about their preference, they all agreed that Mangahigh was better. At first they went on about the games, but when I pressed further on the issue they disclosed an interesting revelation. Mangahigh showed them steps, processes, and most importantly, where their mistakes were. After one student explained, “I like Mangahigh better because it tells me why I got an answer wrong,” the rest of the class quickly agreed and expanded on the value learning from their mistakes.

Next Year

After listening to my students go on about Mangahigh, and seeing that students were STILL using it on their vacation, I asked my school to purchase 2 classes. Unfortunately, due to a very limited budget, it’s a no go. So now I’m on to trying to figure out how to finance this valuable tool. As I always say, “It’ll all work out in the end.”