christmas guess the word game

holiday guess the word game teachmama.com

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

My kids are basically a captive audience at breakfast, and they have been for a long, long time.

Whether they’re staring at the cereal boxesreading the newspaper, chatting grammar, or doing brain teasers, it always seems like they are waiting for some sort of activity while they throw back their Cheerios or waffles.

Because they love the Guess the Word Game that we play at their Halloween class parties, we made a holiday version.

I like the simplicity of this activity, it’s mobility, and the many different ways you can adjust the rules.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Christmas Guess the Word Game:

The premise of this game is super-simple: one person holds up a card with a word on it and tries to guess what it is.

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

 

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

But here’s the thing: the card holder does not look at the word.

And everyone else gives one-word clues to help the person guess it.

We play in a few variations:

  • the fewer words it takes to guess, the better;
  • the person who can guess the most words in row wins;
  • for a challenge: all of the clues must begin with the same letter; or
  • all of the clues must rhyme with the word on the card;
  • add a timer.

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

Fun, simple.

And when the kids help me generate a list, sure, they know what’s coming, but it’s still fun.

They feel more a part of the game when they are the co-creators.

Want to download the cards?

The Christmas Guess the Word Game is here to download as a pdf if you’d like: christmas party word guess game

The last page is blank so you can add your own!

(If you choose to share this post, super! Please just link to this post instead of the attachment page, though! Thank you!)

 christmas guess the word game christmas party word guess game

 

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out: 

Follow along on pinterest:

 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board christmas ideas for kids and family on Pinterest.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

video game for improving decision-making skills @QuandaryGame | teachmama.com

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quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

I’m always on the hunt for worthwhile ways to sneak in some fun and learning into my kids’ days.

And though I’m super careful about screen time, I’m rather impressed with a game that I’ve recently been introduced to: Quandary.

Not surprisingly, my little game-testers were eager to try this digital game that is structured to develop ethical thinking skills.

It’s interesting. It’s different.

And it really gets kids thinking.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quandary–Video Game for Improving Decision-Making Skills:

 I, too, was a little skeptical when it came to looking at this game.

I wondered, how on earth could a video game really deal with decision-making and critical thinking and ethical issues? 

But this one really, truly does.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

Fast facts:

  • Quandary is a game that provides learning experiences that let kids practice distinguishing the difference between facts and opinions.
  • It is a game that allows kids to explore decision-making.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

  • It’s a game that gives kids a chance to learn about a problem, hear situations from various community members’ perspective, reflect on those opinions, and then decide on the best possible solution.
  • It’s a game that aims to support not learning of new content but learning of new skills.
  • And it’s a game that provides a ton of discussion between adults and kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Designed for players ages 8 and older, there is a lot of reading with Quandary, truth be told.

Players read the scenario first to understand the problem.  The layout is similar to a comic book or graphic novel, and many kids today are quite comfortable with this genre.

The cool thing, from a Reading Specialist’s perspective, is that when players click the text, the text is read aloud.  The combination of visual and audio reading is a huge support–even for older readers.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Owen, my forever gamer, was big into trying this game, so one evening he, Cora, and I sat down together to look at it.

It was a lot for Cora, who is 7 years old.  It was a lot for Owen, at 9 years old, but he was in the mood for a challenge and was really willing to read through each scenario and description and make the right decision.

The first time he played, we worked together to figure out the steps and try to earn points for organizing statements of fact, opinion, and solution. We talked about the best ways to organize characters into groups of people who would agree with our decision and those who would disagree.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

My friends, Quandary is not a game to start at 8:30 pm on a school night. It’s a game to play when your brain is sharp and your kids are in the mood for a little brain challenge.

Overall, Owen liked that:

  • the levels were fun;
  • there were different episodes to choose from;
  • the game helped him with problem-solving skills.

Owen wishes that:

  • there were more episodes (currently there are 3);
  • that it might be a little easier–it could be hard for younger kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

I liked that:

  • the game is free (yay! free is good!);
  • the game is totally different–a new and unique concept for kids;
  • the game is created to be used alongside kids–super starting point for discussion;
  • the game moved areas in the brain that are often dormant for kids.

The website covers a ton of FAQs for parents, and a very comprehensive FAQ section which I definitely had before exploring the platform. It’s also got a boatload of resources for teachers that would be super helpful for getting this game into the classroom. The possibilities are there, and I’d love to see this kind of discussion-based game be used more in that way.

Totally worth checking out. I’d love to hear what you think.

Think you’ll check it out? Let me know!

Have questions? Ask away! Or chat with the Quandary folks at @quandarygame on Twitter and or Quandary Facebook page.

 

fyi: This post reflects a collaboration with the Women Online and Quandary. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three gamers.

halloween printable games for kids

halloween printable games for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

Need two quickie Halloween games for your kids?halloween printable games  teachmama.com

Maybe for a Halloween class party or for some after school fun?

Want to up the fun factor of a playdate or just get a little more into the Halloween spirit?

Here are two Halloween printable games for kids that my kids liked and that we’ll be using for class parties this year.

Simple but fun. Tic-tac-toe and Halloween Follow-the-Path.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Printable Games for Kids:

Half the battle of sneaking in some fun learning for our kids is knowing where to look for things.

And that goes for class parties and church parties and playgroup parties as well.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

So when I became a room parent for the 6580987420 millionth time this year, I decided I was just going to share anything and everything I make. Because really? No need to reinvent the wheel.

And no need to make things difficult for good people who really just want to make things fun for their kids.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Two games. Super simple.

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Download our Bat Follow-the-Path Game here: follow the path game halloween

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe:  Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

We’ve long played Tic-Tac-Toe in our own way with our own flare–this time, we’re rocking it out with a little Halloween fun.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Download our Tic-Tac-Toe boards here: tictactoe board | teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 And that’s it!

Super-simple, totally fun games that you can print on regular paper or cardstock, use, and enjoy.

Need some more? Got a couple Halloween class parties planned for you here:  

 (No joke. . . you can thank me later! Just click the picture!)

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

 

halloween class party ideas

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means that every time you purchase something using one of our links, we get at teeny, tiny percentage of the sale. so. . . thank you for using them, friends!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.comI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Halloween class parties.

Haven’t these been held for years and years and years?

Right.

So why are we all searching around and surfing the internet and looking high and low for ideas?

Here’s everything you need for a rockstar Halloween class party.

All wrapped up in a pretty little package. Just click the links, add them to your cart, and it will all end up on your doorstep.

Print out the games, put on your witch hat (Come on. You better have a witch hat if you’re planning a Halloween class party for your kid!), and make your copies.

This party. Will. Rock.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Party Ideas for Kids and Classrooms:

You cannot do this on your own. You need help.

Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have a huge budget and tons of volunteers at your fingertips, you’ll need to solicit funds and help and then get this party moving on party day.

Plus, it’s tons more fun when you have other great parents helping.

Here’s everything you need to rock this party:

1. Get in touch with the teacher.  Tell him or her that you are the Room Parent and that you’re ready to rock this party. (Just kidding. . . )

But ask the teacher:

  • the timeframe for the party;
  • what he/she would like to do and when;
  • about any food allergies in the classroom;
  • to tell you anything and everything you need to know in order to plan a great party for the kids.

Then? You’re good to go.

2. Send out a class letter. Send a note introducing yourself and asking for H-E-L-P.

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

I like to have a little part on the paper where parents can cut (or rip) and send back to me telling me how they are able to help.

Or if you’re tech-savvy and want to use a service like VolunteerSpot, send the link to your event in the letter.

Feel free to use our letter–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party letter BLANK  or a word doc: halloween party letter BLANK

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

3. Send out a second class letter requesting contact information. Not even kidding.

Some parents might not return the letter because they’re not able to help with the party, and that’s cool.  This is new for me this year, but I’m hoping that it makes communication streamlined like never before.

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

Because teachers in my kids’ school cannot share parent emails, this is what we must do.

Even if parents aren’t into volunteering time, items, or money for the event, I want to keep them in the loop. Right?

You can download the Wanted: Contact information here: parent contact request wanted _ teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

4. Make a plan.  A party plan. Because for all of the parent helpers and the classroom teacher, they need to know what’s going on.

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Some pointers that make the party move smoothly:

  • have an easy activity that kids can do at their seats while others are getting into costumes: coloring pages, mazes, word search, or guess the word;
  • find a fun way of dividing class into smaller groups: have kids pick one of three different foamy stickers, have three different spider rings, etc;
  • make sure parents put snacks on plates while kids are on parade so that snacks are ready quickly;
  • give kids snack first because really, that’s all that most of them want;
  • provide a goodie bag at each game station that kids take from station to station;
  • have at least one group activity: freeze dance, hot pumpkin, pumpkin match, etc.

Here’s the plan we’re using this year:

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Feel free to use our party plan–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party plan 2014 or a word doc: halloween party plan 2014

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

5. Get everything you need for the party.

Delegate if you are able because some parents really want a job to do; they like to pick up water bottles, prizes, or cupcakes, so let them!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

Here’s our shopping list with links for you to grab and have delivered to your doorstep:

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

6. Assign one volunteer to each game station:

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.com tick

 

Guess the Word: Play this while kids are eating.  It’s much like the one we did for our Valentine’s Day party last year, but this time it’s with Halloween words!

You can download Guess the Word (Halloween) here: halloween party word guess game

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

Game Stations:  (quick, 10-minute stations will keep the party movin!)

  • Stamp Games: Put the kids into pairs and let them play for this game station! Kids will grab a small Halloween stamper and use it as the pawn for the Bat Follow-the-Path game and then use it as a stamp for Tic-Tac-Toe!

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe: Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

Check out how we use Halloween Tic-Tac-Toe here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Check out how we use Bat Foll0w-the-Path here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

  • Lego Match: Lego bricks and some Halloween inspiration is all you need for this one!

Check out the Halloween Lego Game post for more.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

  • Spider Web Craft: Paper plates, white yarn, and spiders. And crayon resist Halloween magic happens. No glue makes it super-simple, and if you encourage kids to use a little bit of water and paint on their brushes, the webs will dry fast enough to take home that day.

Check out the Spider Web Craft post for more.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

Pumpkin Match:  Grab some pumpkin cut-outs and some black 2″ letters and numbers.

So fun and this will get kids up and moving!

We cannot wait to get this Halloween party started!!

What’s your go-to Halloween party plan for kids? What works? What do you, the kids, or the teacher love? Let me know!

Need some more ideas? Check out:

halloween-class-party-ideas-cover

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post, which only means that any time you purchase something using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage. thank you!

pumpkin match game

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

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pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

This game was surprisingly more difficult than I expected it would be for my 10, 9, and 7 year olds.

I don’t know if they were just not in the pumpkin-matching mindset or if they need more matching practice or if the pumpkin faces were just a wee bit too similar–but it took them a while to match the 24 pumpkins.

Hoping that it’s not too tough for a Halloween class party later this month because I think it would be and ideal way to get kids up and moving and thinking and interacting.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pumpkin Match Game:

Pumpkin Match is super-simple, and it took all of several minutes to create.

I used one pack of pumpkin cut-outs, a pack of letter and number stickers, and that’s it.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

Though my initial plan was to create faces on the pumpkins using permanent markers, it didn’t work. The pumpkins were too glossy and the shapes got really grainy.

So instead I grabbed the letter and number stickers and went to work.

 

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

I used numbers for eyes and letters for mouths and cut here and there to try to make the silliest faces I possibly could. And they turned out super cute.

Then I cut the pumpkins straight down the middle. And I mixed them all up.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Maddy, Owen, and Cora all had an absolute blast trying to find pairs in this simple Pumpkin Match Game.

I will definitely use this for future Halloween class parties, though I may mix things up a bit.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

Depending on class size, I may take the number of students, divide it in half and use that many pumpkins. Then I’ll give each student a pumpkin half and have them find their match.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Whoops! This pumpkin above is not a match! 

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Or I may:

  • give each student one piece of a pumpkin and have the other pieces hidden around the classroom to get them up and moving a bit;
  • use half of the pumpkins for round one and then introduce more pumpkins each round;
  • give each student two pieces and have them try to find the two people they ‘fit’ with;
  • take it outside and make it a pumpkin race–after they find their match, they race to put their finished pumpkin on the playground line or in a big circle: the pumpkin ‘patch';
  • challenge the students to figure out which numbers and letters are hiding in their pumpkin’s faces;
  • place half of the pumpkins all around the playground or classroom floor and hand out the other half to the students and have them match up their pieces.

The possibilities are endless! Halloween is so much fun!!

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

fyi: I am proud to be a #staplesclassroom partner and received my pumpkin cut-outs from my friends at Staples.  This post was written as part of the #staplesclassroom campaign. Please check out my Staples post about rocking some fall classroom decorations.  

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

 

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class partyI love this simple and sweet spider web craft. Love it.

And I think it’ll be perfect for a Halloween class party or playdate activity.

No matter the children’s age, kids would totally dig it because anything crayon resist is super-fun.  And way spooky.

Simple. Quick.

No glue. A little spider surprise. Big win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Simple Spider Web Craft:

I saw this spider web art project first on my pal Zina’s site, Let’s Lasso The Moon.  It was a guest post by the crazy creative Jean of The Artful Parent.

But you’ve probably seen it before in other spots, as have I. Jean, however, rocked it in her blog post. So beautiful.

With Halloween class party on the brain, I tried to think of a way to adapt the spooky spider web craft for a class party.  Cora’s class party.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

So we went with paper plates and plastic spiders.

All you need for this are:

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 4

And it’s simple.

We talked about what spider webs looked like before we got drawing on the paper plates. We drew a few on paper, making an X with another X through it, and then we connected each of the lines with a curved inside line.

It was a little tough to draw the spider web on a white plate with a white crayon, but you can do it. The practice helps.

 

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 2

 

Once you draw the web, you grab your watercolors and paint over the web. It magically appears! 

I cut a teeny slit at the end of the web and added a small piece of white yarn, about 6 inches. I taped the back so it would stay put.

Then we tied a small spider to the dangling part of the web–and there you have it–a spooky, simple spider web craft!

 

What I like about this for a class party activity is:

  • that it will take only about 5-10 minutes to complete from start to finish;
  • that there’s no glue to dry;
  • that a light, almost dry coat of water colors will make the web pop and the color will be brighter;
  • that kids can make their web as elaborate as they’d like;
  • that they can take the craft with them that very day-just stick it in their folder!

Will it work for you? For your kids? Your class party? Let me know!

 

 

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to Zina of Let’s Lasso the Moon and to Jean of The Artful Parent, for sharing their awesome ideas!  

Affiliate links are used in this post.

 

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

sponsored post

 

 

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse  teachmama.com

Fire safety and learning? Right.

Fire safety is one of those topics that seem to only come up either at a school assembly or when something awful and scary happens in the news.

But it’s a topic–like many difficult topics–that I truly believe should be a frequent, familiar conversation for families.

So when I was asked to take a look at a new app from sparkyschoolhouse.org, you better believe I was game.

It’s an app that does, truly combine important information about fire safety along with fun learning.

I’m thrilled to see the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doing what they can to be present, ‘in the mix’ of today’s many apps on the market.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Very simply, this is an app you want on your iPad, tablet, or phone. Any mobile device you use, throw it on there.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Because really? It’s got what every parent wants in the complete app package: reading, games, and learning in an easy-to-use platform.

Kids will want to use it because there’s variety, and parents dig it because it all counts. 

I’ve caught Maddy, Owen, and Cora all using the app on separate occasions even after I introduced it to them a few weeks ago. And for me, that’s a serious win.

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app and story experience–one of those cool ways that learning and games are integrated into a story. The plus? It’s really well done.

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

Be forewarned, though: ‘What’s that sound?’ song will be stuck in your head for days on end. But maybe it will remind parents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms?

Overall, the kids and I liked the following elements of Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms:

  • the game. Players help Sparky collect smoke alarms around town and collect batteries as well–because he does have to recharge, after all.
  • the graphics. Simple and clear but not too babyish.
  • the learning. After each section, kids were doing math problems to unlock the next level! Owen totally loved this part.
  • the story. Engaging enough for older readers, with words that are highlighted as they’re read–which is always something parents should look for.
  • the video. Funny. And catchy. And cool.
  • the resources. Tons of resources–printables which include reading, math, word problems. Lesson plans for teachers. Simple, printable games to use as extensions if you have a family discussion about fire safety.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app created by NFPA, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word about fire safety, and it’s been around for years and years. I know I totally remember Sparky the Fire Dog from way back when I was in school, so it’s cool to see him back in action, rocking and rolling in apps that work for today’s kids, too.

Check out the site and Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms app! iTunes  |  Google Play

What do you think? I’d love to hear  your thoughts on this app!

 

fyi: This post is written as part of a partnership with NFPA. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know | teachmama.com

As a paid Quaker Classroom AmbassadorI am eager to share information about Quaker Up For Classrooms.   how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know School is underway for us, and what I’m realizing more and more is that it’s sometimes tough to get my kids to talk about school. As a parent, I’m curious. I want to know everything:

  • Who did they sat with at lunch?
  • Who did they play with at recess?
  • How do they like their tablemates?
  • What book did they start in Guided Reading?
  • Who hosted the morning tv show?

But it’s hard. The kids are tired at 3pm, they’re even more tired at 7pm, and the last thing they want to do is talk to boring old Mom about school. So I have to get creative–and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully these tricks for getting kids to talk about school will help you get a little more info from your little loves about what goes on in their lives, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Kids to Talk About School:

The most important thing here is that we really have to read our own kids, not be too pushy, and try to let the conversations evolve naturally.  And we need to listen. Seriously. I know–not always easy. So I’ve found that with my three kids, I’ve tried three different approaches: 1. direct questions; 2. group questions; 3. distracted questions. how to get kids to talk about school direct questions  teachmama.com 1.  direct questions: Most often, numero uno–direct questions–are a complete and utter fail for me. Save for those rare occasions when the stars are aligned, the odds are rarely ever in my favor for this technique. I ask questions, and I get quick, abbreviated responses that hardly make sense.  Even with open-ended questions the kids don’t want to chat this way with me.

me: How was recess? (This must be a subject they’ll want to talk about! )

kid: Fine.

me: Whadja play?

kid: Lotsa stuff.

me: What was your favorite game?

kid: Everything.

me: Who’d ya play with most?

kid: Everyone.

me: Awesome.

Never fear. Numero dos and tres have yielded better results for me. how to get kids to talk about school group questions  teachmama.com 2. group questions: Group questions often work for us. They often work especially around the dinner table and when we’ve got an audience, even if that audience is Dad. Because really? Dad’s mucho awesome. He’s not hangin’ around the house as much as me, so he’s almost extra-special something. And if we mix things up a bit, they almost always work.

  • Speed answer: Go around the dinner table and everyone gives a quick, one or two word answer to the same question.
  • Ball toss: Everyone answers the same question, though not at the same time.  The speaker holds a ball. He or she tosses the ball to the next person, and that person answers. This one is great for after school, after snack, out in the back yard.
  • Hula hello: Give kids a hula hoop and they answer as many questions as they can while hula-hooping.
  • Question train: You start with one question and choose a person to answer. That person answers and asks another question to the next person. And so on and so on.

how to get kids to talk about school distracted questions  teachmama.com 3.  distracted questions: One of my dear friends suggested that chatting with tweens and teens is best conducted this way–while you’re both doing something.

  • Snack chat:  While everyone’s eating a snack and before homework starts, chat school.
  • Kitchen helpers: Having one kid help prepare dinner has been hugely helpful in opening the door to conversation about school. While kids are cutting veggies, mixing mac and cheese, or emptying the dishwasher, they often want to talk to pass the time.
  • Travel convo: When kids are held captive in the car and as you’re schlepping everyone from soccer and piano lessons and then back again, ask questions. Though often for me, my kids really want to zone out in the car, sometimes, they’re pretty chatty. Again, depends on the day.
  • Chore chats:  Many times I remember chatting with my mom while she (or I) was ironing or folding wash. Not sure why, but maybe there’s something there for moms and daughters.
  • Game gabble: Owen is a gamer, and he always has been. So often he’s opened up most to me or my husband during games of War, Battleship, Monopoly, or Rummy. Again, it’s the busy hands and relaxed atmosphere that may help.

how to talk to kids about school | teachmama.com

print it out: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com

Now.  What should you ask? Though I’m no expert, from what I’ve heard and read, you should do a whole lot more listening than talking. We want our kids to know that we’re listening to what they say and that our ears are open. So put the cell phones down. Close the laptop. Let that iPad rest. And when you do say something, paraphrasing is key. It’s like putting money in the bank. When you paraphrase, you’re simply putting what your child just said into your own words. When you paraphrase, it lets your kiddos know that you’re listening. And sometimes when you ask questions that count–that get them thinking or get them interested, they’re more likely to answer. Consider asking: 

  • What book are you reading?
  • What was the best part of your lunch?
  • Who was absent from class today?
  • Who was on the morning announcements?
  • What did you play in PE?
  • Will you let me guess your favorite part of the morning/ afternoon/ day?
  • If your day was a movie, what would the title be?
  • What color was your day?
  • Which Olympic medal would you give today?
  • What do you hope is different tomorrow?

And really? Cross your fingers. But first, print out this pretty little cheat cheet: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com . . . and have an awesome year!

Do you have any secrets that work for you? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments! Check out the other two posts that will help make this year awesome: happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal           easy ways to support teachers: back to school #quakerup | teachmama.com

fyi: Thank you to Quaker and AdoptaClassroom.org for creating this program. I am proud to be a Quaker Classroom Ambassador.  Quaker is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Quaker or its affiliates, but solely by teach mama media, llc. 

teach kids game playing etiquette

teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

Originally published 12/7/09 but republished today because, well, it’s worth it–

 

teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

When I first started teaching, in order to make ends meet, I ran several after-school activity clubs at an elementary school near the high school where I taught.

I headed anything from Craft Club to Calligraphy Club to Board Game Club to Chess, Checkers, and Mancala.

I ended up doing about a million sessions of Chess, Checkers, and Mancala because the same group of kids signed up for every single session for three straight years.

What I learned–among many things–is these little “gamers” were skilled at the games but were not skilled at game playing etiquette.

They knew the rules, but not that they couldn’t be sore losers or no one would want to play with them next time. They could talk a good game but cried when the first guy jumped his king. All I needed was one big, unstoppable, messy, dramatic (and I mean dramatic) tear-fest with a few first, second, and third graders before I knew something needed to change.

So I organized detailed tournaments to guide their games, but I also set up two specific rules that every little player needed to follow. And that’s today’s Quick Trick.

  • Game Playing Etiquette: Since Owen and Maddy have officially moved into ‘game playing’ mode, they, too, have officially demonstrated some really frustrating sore-loser behavior. And rule stretching. And crying if one person draws a better card. And quitting if the next person completes a longer snake in Hissss, a higher card for WAR, a smarter move in checkers.

So recently, I’ve had to enlist my old ‘Chess, Checkers, and Mancala’ rules on my own little ones, and it takes a lot of practice. It’s a work in progress.

Here’s the skinny in two steps:

1. Before games begin, everyone shakes hands, looks directly into their opponent’s eyes, and says, Good luck.

2. At the end of the game, same thing: players look directly into their opponent’s eyes, and–win or lose–they say, Good game.

For my Chess, Checkers, and Mancala guys, if they forgot a step, the game was declared null and void, and an immediate re-start was in order, no matter how far they were in the game. I had to witness each handshake to make the games official. (Gosh, I was tough.)

With Maddy, Owen, and Cora, I haven’t been that hardcore, but usually someone remembers before we start.

And yes, these messages might seem cold, impersonal, and forced, but my intention was to get the players to look at each other and touch each other so that they remembered they were playing with a peer and not their parent (who might usually let them get away with this kind of behavior).

I also knew that some guys did want to cry at the end if they lost, so ‘good game’ might be the only thing they could manage to say.

It’s certainly not an instant remedy for sore losers or bratty players, but I think–hope–pray?— it may be a step in the right direction. Only time will tell. . . .

Until then, good luck!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

backyard chopped challenge: creative outdoor fun

back yard chopped challenge teachmama.com

Many of my longtime readers will think I’ve officially lost my marbles after reading this post, and maybe I have.back yard chopped challeng

I just think it’s worth sharing because though there isn’t any serious learning going on, my kids were sure using their brains for this one.  And their creative juices were a’ flowin’.   And their bodies were moving. And there was a whole lot of laughing.

And they were outdoors, unplugged, and doing just what they wanted.

And really? It was so much fun.

It’s just a quickie reminder to get those kiddos outside and to see what happens. Because this afternoon? We were all totally surprised at where the day took us.

We had a backyard ‘Chopped’ challenge. As in, Chopped, the Food Network show, in our backyard.

Except where on Chopped the chefs compete using food, in our Backyard Chopped Challenge, the kids competed using plants, sticks, and flowers as food.

For realz.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard ‘Chopped’ Challenge–Creative Outdoor Fun:

My kids are huge, huge fans of  The Food Network and will watch just about any show they run.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

Chopped is a fave; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is top of our list, as is Guy’s Grocery Games and Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Every single summer, we make the Next Food Network Star a fixture and the highlight of our Sunday evenings. We’re hooked.

And when Rachel v. Guy: Kids Cook-off was on, we were literally glued to the screen and watched each episode too many times to count.

I like most of these cooking shows because quite often, my kids want to cook. They want to try new foods, new recipes, and new dishes in the kitchen.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challenge  teachmama.com.png

 

A few days ago Maddy, Cora, and their neighbor pal were just hanging around out back while Owen was at basketball camp. The kids were just poking around the plants, playing with bugs and making designs.

I brought out a few recyclables for them to use—some popsicle sticks, plastic takeout containers, jars and yogurt containers.

I gave them a challenge: use anything in our yard to make a pizza.

They immediately got to work. They ran. They scrambled. They collaborated (Cora and our neighbor) while Maddy rolled solo. They wanted me to time them, and when they were finished, they wanted me to judge them.

back yard chopped challeng

So? I said, Okay. Let’s make it official. We’re doing a Backyard Chopped Challenge, then. Who’s in? 

They were.

So everyone decided to work individually, and they wanted some guidelines. They wanted five minutes for each round, and they wanted three rounds. And they wanted separate work spaces. (Clearly they’ve watched too much Chopped. . . ).

Anyway, that’s what we did. And I was amazed. Blown away. Totally surprised and excited by their dishes.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

(from the pizza round)

We played three rounds:

  • kid lunch
  • fancy dinner
  • dessert

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

I judged not after each round but at the end. I knew I wanted each child to win one round. (Come on. You know I’m like that. . . )

The focus was both on their dishes and on their description. They had to convince me that their dish was the best and use clear and colorful words to describe what they made.

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

Cora won the first round. Her sandwich was incredible, and she included a chocolate chip cookie! She had to win!

Maddy won the fancy dinner round. Her meal was a spin on a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with chicken (easy to forget.. . ) and cranberry sauce!

Our neighbor pal won the dessert round. His Hawaiian cookies actually had purple flowers on them! They were gorgeous!

 

It was fun. Seriously fun.

And the coolest thing? They’ve played it several times since then.

Woot! Three cheers for bringing the cool to the back yard and for crazy creative kids.

Now I’m off to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. . . 

best summer learning idea for kids: tabletop surprises

the best summer learning idea for kids teachmama.com

the best summer learning idea for kids | teachmama.com

We’re continuing to rock it out with our tabletop surprises–simple, meaningful, and fun ‘surprises’ on our kitchen table every day.

Whenever Maddy, Owen, and Cora feel inclined to hit the table, they do.

It’s really worked, and I’m thrilled. Some days, obviously, are better than others. But for the most part, the tabletop surprises have been the best summer learning idea for our kids.

Letting them use their brains on their own time. In their own way.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Best Summer Learning Idea for Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

Keeping their brains moving . . . week four.

 

monday:

sudoku! online and offline so that everyone is happy. . . #tabletopsurprises #summer #math #smart #hard #brainy #brainteasers

tuesday:

engineering. #tabletopsurprises #creative #summer #familyfun #keepthembusy

 

wednesday:

awwwwwh. bringing back the faves. find a favorite children’s book. read it. then learn about the author online. luckily there are a ton of fabulous sites with lists of author websites and luckily we have them all listed on teachmama.com….add an Author Hunt sheet to the mix, and you have a winner! !

 

thursday:

story starters! SO sad, @storycubes could NOT find my story cubes so using @thinkfun last letter cards and imagery lesson resources from the classroom …it works! 

 

friday:

letters to family members! (with an example letter explaining the day’s #tabletopsurprises )

 

Check out all the fun we’re having this summer! 

Follow along on Instagram and leave YOUR user name in the comments so we can follow YOUR #tabletopsurprises adventures!

Want the skinny on #tabletopsurprises? Wonder what in the world I’m talking about?

Check it out:

tabletop surprise email promo 400 teachmama.com.png