A Word Game for Any Subject
I love to play thinking games with middle school students, don't you? (Especially when they don't really view it as thinking)!
Making the Game
Quite a few years ago (at least 15) I went to a make 'n take workshop, and the person running it had several math and language arts activities made from cardboard circles. For this particular activity, a hole had to be made in the center of the circle, and a shoestring was secured to the bottom of the circle and threaded through the hole. The circle was divided into 32 sections, and each section was labeled with a letter of the alphabet (using some letters, like vowels, twice). As you can see in my OLD and very used wheel below, the sections can be colored so the circle is more attractive:)
How to Play
The rules of the game can be conveniently written on the back (less chance of forgetting them!)
Here they are:
1. Divide into 2 teams (sometimes I divide the class into 3 or 4 teams).
2. Spin the wheel for Team 1 (hold onto the shoestring and spin wheel).
3. A member of Team 1 stops the wheel with thumb and forefinger (so the thumb lands on only one letter).
4. The team must think of a word using that letter, in order to earn 1 point (they have 10 seconds to think of the word...I don't let them use proper nouns).
5. The team may choose to spin again. If they do, they must use their first letter AND their new letter in a word, to earn a total of 2 points. If they think of a word within 20 seconds, their point total is 2. If they can't think of a word, they go back to 0 points and the next team gets a turn.
6. If Team 1 gets to 2 points, they may choose to spin again to earn 3 points (using all 3 letters in a word in 30 seconds), then 4 points, (using all 4 letters in a word in 40 seconds) and so on. If, on any turn, the team can't think of a word, they lose ALL points, and play goes to the other team.
7. The first team to reach 6 points wins.....(this doesn't sound hard to the kids, but once they get to 4 letters, they often end up losing their points. It's tough to get to 6 points because of the combination of letters they end up with.)
8. The time limit is 10 seconds per letter, so as a team attempts to earn more points, the time limit increases. (3 letters = 30 seconds, 4 letters = 40 seconds, etc.)
Students really do enjoy this game and work hard to think of words....it's FUN thinking!
I made a video of the game a few years ago and added it to the Tools for Teaching Teens store (this is a group I collaborate with:-) - feel free to watch it to check out how to make the wheel and play the game!
Click to watch on TPT.
To Read Next:
Making them work in 40-minute class periods
I taught elementary school for 12 years and I loved my math centers! They were great. Math class was always an hour, and we had five computers in the classroom, so having a computer center was always an option.
Then I moved to middle school. Math was 44 minutes (minus time for switching classes.....so more like 40 minutes). How could I fit more than two rotations in a 40-minute period?? I longed for block scheduling (our district has never had it)...that would make it so much easier to complete center rotations! For the first year or two of middle school, I kind of gave up on the idea of centers...the activities I wanted students to complete took longer than 20 minutes. So, that would be enough time to finish 2 rotations, IF students started the second they walked in the door and then had no time to clean up/organize at the end of class. But eventually I needed to get my centers back, so I experimented with a few different set-ups before I landed on a structure that works.
For Teacher Appreciation week, I created two FREE problem solving math wheels (they are in the same PDF file) - they can be used to teach problem solving strategies, be used as a center activity, or be used as a finished early activity. When complete, they can be added to students' binders/interactive notebooks to be used as references all year.
I hope you can use them! Just click the image to download.
To read next:
Surface area is a such a fun topic to explore in the middle school math classroom! To really understand what surface area means, students need to interact with actual three-dimensional objects. Before we talk about the math formulas or how to calculate, we spend time discovering how to find surface area in our own ways.
I give students every-day items to work with. Typically, we use product boxes (rectangular prisms) with different dimensions, and I ask the students to visualize and then draw what the boxes would look like if they were taken apart and laid flat. Most students take about 5 minutes to complete their drawings, depending on how detailed they choose to be, and for the most part, they do a very good job drawing the nets of the boxes. Next, I have them spend a few minutes comparing their nets with group members, deciding whether those nets are reasonable representations of the object (even if they are drawn a little differently), and determining whether anyone appeared to be missing anything (some students will draw only five sides, and their group members are able to help them figure out what's missing).
What skills to middle school teachers need to have? The first skill many people think of is the ability to work well with preteens, as well as a degree in education. That's definitely a good start. But, I’ve discovered that to be successful as a middle school teacher, you need a certain skill set. While I learned some of this in school, most of it I learned through experience.
After all, working with middle school students for years teaches you a few things.
Honestly, I think this is a key skill for every single teacher, no matter what age group they teach. Students aren’t always happy to be in class or eager to learn. This means I have to be persistent and keep working with my students, no matter how stubborn they might be. Of course, sometimes persistence also means taking the time to figure out why a student’s having problems.
I know lots of people use beach balls in the classroom, but I haven't used them in such a long time that I thought I'd share my excitement about finally getting around to getting new ones! I have a little bit of a beach theme in my room this year, so that motivated me to get some beach balls again. I ordered a pack of 12 and am writing different math skills practice on them - so far I have multiplication facts, exponents, fraction/decimal conversions, and common measurement conversions. I have 12 beach balls to fill with math, so I need to decide on more topics. I think I'll do square roots, division facts, math vocabulary...I need to keep thinking:-)
Our math classes aren't that long, but I figure I can squeeze in 5 minutes at the end of class once or twice a week to toss the beach balls around for some quick facts. With so many different beach balls, I could even differentiate and have 3 groups tossing at a time, depending on their needs!
Do you use beach balls - if so, how?
This post is from my old blog, and was written in April, 2015, but I thought it was worth transferring here and sharing:-)
According to the Huffington Post (10/13/14), coloring benefits adults (and I would assume children as well) because it "generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity." In addition, psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala states that when we color, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres. "The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress."
According to PenCentral, coloring benefits adults in helping them to maintain fine motor skills -this requires extra work by your brain to coordinate your actions and muscle control in your hands and arms. Coloring can help delay the loss of fine motor skills as people age. Coloring may also help fight cognitive loss, especially
if challenging pieces are completed every so often.
I didn't necessarily find research to answer my student's exact question, but what I found was quite interesting! If anyone knows of other articles or published research to support the role of coloring in improving math skills, please let me know!
Hi, I'm Ellie! My mission here is to support teachers as they work to provide engaging, meaningful experiences for their students. I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels, and am here to share what I've learned through those years, as well as what I continue to learn. I hope you'll find some ideas or resources here to help you out!