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Posts tagged ‘games’

Need some social studies strategies for back to school? How about seven?

After the last few years, there’s not much that surprises me anymore. It’s been such a weird two and a half years of school. (And for classroom teachers, an incredibly challenging and difficult time.)

But I’m always just a little bit shocked when I hear about districts that crank up during the first week in August. As in . . . next week. Seriously? I’m just now starting to figure out the Delaware beach system and you’re going back to school?

But maybe you’re in that same boat, shoving off with kids already in seven days. If you are, this post may be a little too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.

To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are seven great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Ignore the rest.

What not to do

But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:

You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.

The first few days of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.

Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”

So what should we be doing the first week?

Read more

Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tour. Yes. It’s a video game. So . . . yes, it’s also an awesome teaching tool

The video game Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag came about five years ago. And as an avid fan of Assassin’s Creed, my son and his friends were some of the first in line to purchase it. And play it.

A lot.

If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed line of video games, they’re basically an action adventure featuring a centuries old struggle between two groups of people – the Assassins, who fight for peace and free will, against the Templars, who believe peace comes through control of humanity. There’s fighting, walking around, some fighting, sneaking around, more fighting, some running, and then some more fighting. Fairly typical video game.

The thing that makes the series a little different than many other action adventure or first person shooter games, is the creators of Assassin’s Creed have been very deliberate about mixing the historical fiction of Assassins vs. Templars with real-world historical events and figures. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, the setting is the American colonies before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. And there’s a cut scene depicting a version of the Boston Massacre that does a great job of creating the sense of place around that event, perfect for creating a idea of what that event might have looked like and the ambiguity around how the event transpired.

My son experienced the same sort of historical involvement when he was playing Black Flag. Set in the 18th century Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy, Black Flag obviously was telling a fictional story. But to be successful in that story, players need to know a lot about what life was like during that period and in that place. I asked him later about his experience: Read more

Play Like a Pirate – Fun is an essential part of learning

I spent part of the morning chatting with golfing buddy and educational expert Steve Wyckoff. He’s got a way of sucking people into unplanned conversations that end up making everyone smarter. It’s always a good time when it starts with Steve’s signature line:

“So what’s become clear to you?”

This morning wasn’t any different.

We spent perhaps an hour meandering around a matrix that focuses on levels of student engagement. The different quadrants of the matrix ask students to think about how challenging a class is and whether they love or hate it. We’re thinking about using this to get usable data from middle and high school students. As in, “pick a quadrant that best describes each of your classes.” Read more

Using Graphite: App smashing in the social studies classroom

If you’re not spending time on the Graphite web site, uh . . .  what are you doing instead? Because I’m gonna suggest that you’ve got a problem with your priorities.

Looking for a handy site that helps you locate useful apps, games, and websites that also provides ratings and reviews? That also includes teacher feedback? That has awesome search and sorting functions? That organizes all of its goodies by Common Core – giving you the chance to find activities aligned to ELA literacy standards for history?

What you’re looking for is Graphite

. . . a free service from nonprofit Common Sense Education designed to help preK-12 educators discover, use, and share the best apps, games, websites, and digital curricula for their students by providing unbiased, rigorous ratings and practical insights from our active community of teachers.

Their team of professional educators – early childhood development experts, doctorates in education, and teachers with hands-on classroom experience – rates each website, game, and app on Graphite based on their detailed rubric. Every product on Graphite is rigorously reviewed to dig deeper into what and how your students will learn with it.

Start with the basics. Head straight Read more

50+ interactive sites for social studies

Karen Ogen gets the credit for creating an easy to use, visually appealing list of interactive sites aligned by content area. Larry Felazzo gets the credit for sharing Karen’s work. You get the credit for using the list with your kids.

Pretty simple.

Head over to Larry’s site to get Karen’s link and be sure check out some of Larry’s other interactive site links.

Still not enough? Try some of these: Read more

Tip of the Week: Using board games for teaching and learning

Video games and simulations have always been part of my instructional DNA. I started out with a basic but powerfully engaging archeology simulation during my first month in the classroom, used text-based games to teach medieval Japan, added PC based simulations to highlight economic impacts, integrated cutscenes into instruction, encouraged the use of game specific wikis for building content knowledge and have watched first person shooter console games used to embed students into World War II.

I’ve also had the chance to work with a variety of software developers to pilot several different computer and online based simulations. So . . . yes. A firm believer in the use of video games and gaming theory as part of teaching and learning.

But not until recently have I given much thought to using board games in the same way as video games and sims. Most social studies teachers have incorporated some sort of paper-based or board game-based simulation as part of they do. But there is a whole different level of board game out there. This is more than just Monopoly or the simple roll the dice to see what happens to your Gold Rush bound wagon train. Read more