5 Play Anywhere Learning Games

5 Play Anywhere Learning Games

For us, especially in the pre-school and elementary ages, homeschooling looked a lot like kids just go everywhere mom goes. These little sponges pick up so much, incorporating lessons and practice into everyday tasks. We even created a catchphrase, singing “Everyday Math!”, any time we had to figure some real life math problem.

Bringing kids along everywhere has some challenges though. The number one difficulty for us – waiting. Whether standing in line or long rides in the car, bored kids quickly turn into grumpy kids. Our solution was playing games whenever the need arose. Looking back, quite a few of our silly games laid important foundations in math, language and thinking ability.

 

#1 – The Alliteration Game

Take turns adding words to a sentence, each beginning with the same letter or sound. Sentences don’t have to be true but should be grammatically correct. Words can be added at any point in the sentence. Small words (articles, prepositions) don’t have to be alliterative. Example:

Gorillas
Grumpy gorillas
Grumpy gorillas grab
Grumpy gorillas grab grapes
Grumpy gorillas grab grimy grapes
Grumpy gorillas grab gross, grimy grapes
Grumpy gorillas grab gross, grimy grapes
Grumpy gorillas in Granada grab gross, grimy grapes
Grumpy gorillas in Granada greedily grab gross, grimy grapes …

Keep going until you’re out of words to add. (Our record is 35 words!) If kids get stuck, prompt with questions. What adjective could you use to describe the gorillas? How did they grab them? Is there an adverb for that? For younger kids its great for building phonemic awareness. Older kids get to practice and learn new vocabulary and reinforce parts of speech.

 

#2 – Higher or Lower

The classic number guessing game. One player chooses a number and the other(s) close in, being told higher or lower after each guess. Easily adapts for younger kids (1-10) or older (1-1,000,000). Develops number sense, reasoning ability and mental math calculations.


#3 – Share a story

Take turns telling a story. Start out by asking the kid(s) for a character and setting, the crazier the better. Then each person takes a turn, adding 2-4 sentences to move the story along. After the story is over, older kids can be asked to identify the plot, conflict, or resolution to add to the educational aspects.

 

#4 –  Word Association

This one has only gotten more fun as my son has gotten older (and built a bigger vocabulary). Start with any compound word. Take part of the word and use in a new compound word or phrase. Continue, building the bigger chain you can without repeating. Or make the goal to get back to original word. Example:

Race horse
Foot race
Clubfoot
Poker club
Poker chip
Chips and dip
Dipstick
Stick in the mud
Mud pie
Apple pie
Candy apple…

#5 – 20 Questions type games

I Spy… I’m thinking of a food, an animal, etc… Classic 20 questions. These types of games – where the chooser can only answer yes or no to the questioner – develop logical thinking and questioning skills and can be played with any child old enough to speak.

 

Do you have any games to add to the list? Share them below!

Writing Fanfiction as a Middle School Curriculum

Writing Fanfiction as a Middle School Curriculum

Writing fiction is hard. It’s hard for people who love to write, want to write, and have something they want to write about. I have enough half-formed stories in my head and belong to enough writers’ support groups to know this.

If it’s hard for an adult when they have all that going for them, imagine how much more difficult it is for a student being told, “Be creative. Write a story.” Coming up with a plot and characters can overwhelm even creative kids, creating a negative feedback loop. “I’m not good at writing. I can’t write. I hate writing.” Story prompts are a huge help.  But plenty of young writers still struggle with developing  characters and writing realistic dialogue.

I wanted to focus on fiction writing this year and decided to experiment introducing FanFiction (basically “borrowing” characters from another book, movie, TV series or other work) to make the writing more interesting. From the very start my somewhat-reluctant-to-write 7th grader was excited about the idea. Our first step was to brainstorm of all the books (especially series), movies and TV shows that he was particularly familiar with. That way, as he was given each prompt and assignment, there was a cast of characters just waiting to be written about. 

Our first prompt – “Write a scene of dialogue between at least two characters. One person can only say ‘I don’t want to.'” – was just silly enough to get the ball rolling and have fun with the writing process. The next prompt, “write a survival story”, was intended to be a short assignment to go along with our Hatchet novel study. When it turned into a six page, 3,000 word story (based on characters from How to Train Your Dragon) that he wanted to work on, I knew we were on to something. 

While there are a ton of prompts available for free all over the internet, too many were not suitable for our situation. We avoid anything dealing with magic or the supernatural, and (thankfully) there’s not much interest in reading, writing or thinking about romantic relationships. So I made our own all-purpose, suitable for all ages prompts!

Want to try FanFiction writing with your student? Here’s a few prompts to get you started:

  • Dialogue prompt: You think I’d notice if my best friend was a robot!
  • Make a list of characters and their favorite songs.
  • Write a scene with your characters playing a board game.
  • Your character is going undercover at a local school to solve a crime. Write about it.
  • What is your character’s morning routine?

Want something ready to use for your student? I’ve put together a book with 30 FanFiction writing prompts for use with middle or high school students (or anyone wanting a starting point for a writing project). Each 2 page spread includes a prompt lined paper for writing. Extra lined pages are included in the back for any stories that run on a little longer.
Available on Amazon Print on Demand

FanFiction writing may just open your student up to a larger writing community. Just like with any online community, not everything is suitable for everyone. Click here for some ideas and cautions about sharing FanFiction stories.

Use one of my prompts or your own? We’d love to read it. Feel free to post it in the comments below!

FanFiction Resources

FanFiction Resources

For more about how we’re using fanfiction writing in middle school check out this post.

Resources for students and parents

** An Important Note – Fanfiction is extremely popular. If it’s a book, movie, TV show, celebrity, or anything else in pop culture – there’s probably a fanfiction work (fanfic) about it. Writers range from preteen to adult and the content of their writings range from G rated to Explicit. Many sites give authors the ability to give a rating to their works, but ratings are self-determined and not consistently applied. Depending on your students maturity and level of responsibility, you may want to restrict access or discuss appropriate reading and what to do if a story they’ve started isn’t what they expected.

Sharing your Work

kidfanfiction.pbworks.com – Contains material appropriate for K-6 students. Submissions and comments are emailed to the site administrator  who moderates for violence, language and adult themes.

teenink.com – National magazine and website with submissions sole from teens. Has a fanfiction section as part of the overall fiction & novels section. Also accepts poetry, non-fiction and art work. Submissions may be printed in national magazine or featured on website. Allows comments on submissions. Stories, comments and forum posts are filtered for content.

fanfiction.netLarge repository of fanfics. Must be 13+ to create an account. Self rating system K (all ages) – M (Mature themes, older teens and up). Per guidelines, explicit content is not allowed. Ability to filter by content rating .

archiveofourown.orgContains millions of works. Must be 13+ to create account. Self rating system General Audiences to Explicit. Many works are not rated and ratings are not consistently applied. Mature themes and sexual content common. Ability to filter by content rating.

Google Docs  –  If you want to share student stories only within a small group, Google docs could work. Enable sharing with specific files, or create a shared folder in Google Drive and all documents within the folder will be able to be viewed by authorized users.

More options for sharing with the world at large include publishing your own website on WordPress.com, creating a Tumblr.com account, or sharing on wattpad.com. Each has it’s own benefits and drawbacks.