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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Happy Summer! Check out point 4 - it's pretty cool...


It's Summer!  Which means that the children are at home for at least 6 weeks (here in the UK at least, further afield it can be even longer!).  The sun is out and hopefully so are the kids (fully protected against that sun, I hope - those UV rays are dangerous).  Children learn so much about life when they are playing with their friends.  They learn gravity by falling out of trees.  They learn negotiation and people skills by deciding what to do with their friends.  They learn maths skills by spending their pocket money on all those sweets.  The time children spend playing in the Summer break is invaluable.

But there is always that nagging doubt, isn't there?  That feeling of, should they be doing some homework as well?  If your child is above the age of seven in the UK, they have probably been given a Summer project, which may or may not be marked when they return to school in September (teachers are busy and in all honesty, these projects are usually not the priority for the new academic year).  It is important to keep your child's learning ticking over though, as many children fall back a little over the six-week holiday.

"Summer learning loss by subject: maths - 2.6 months; Reading - 2 months*."
*average [bit.ly/2SFWpbu] 

Clearly, this is not ideal.  It's not that your child won't make up the lost ground, but how much better would it be for their achievement, confidence, and self-esteem to hit the ground running?

This is where my post comes in for this week.  There are a few things you can do that are easily managed and not too heavy for the children.

1.
Let Google do it!
(free, say 'Okay Google, speak to... multiplication tables; mental math)

If you have a Google Home (max, mini or hub), or if you have Google Assistant loaded on your smartphone, you can ask to 'Speak to Multiplication Tables.'  This will load a quiz for your child to interact with.  I've tried it myself and it's not bad.  You don't get to select the times tables, so for younger children, this might not be the best option but for 8-year-olds and above, this is a great way to keep their brains ticking over.

There is also a mental maths game in which you can select varying levels of difficulty.  I'll keep an eye out for others, they're not as easy to find as the Amazon ones (come on, Google, sort it out).  If you know of any more, please add them in the comment section, or tweet them (@Mr_M_Musing).

You can pick up a Google Home smart speaker here, but they can usually be found on sale periodically, meaning a mini device (more than enough) has been available for a little as £30.  Keep an eye out!

2.
Alexa, what you got?
(free, ask Alexa directly)

Not to be outdone, Amazon have a whole host of educational content that Alexa will dutifully facilitate.  Kids Math ChallengeKids Word of the Day Flash Briefing, My Phonics, High Five Maths, Tables Quiz... the list goes on.  Amazon have really thought about educational content for the little ones.  Or, at least, they have some really good third-party app developers who have thought about educational content for the little ones.  You can find a full list if you search for 'Alexa Skills' on the Amazon home page.

I don't have Alexa (an Amazon Echo with Alexa, if we're being pedantic) in my house (Amazon, if you're reading, I'll gladly accept one to review for educational purposes!), so I can't speak to the quality from experience but it will cost you nothing to try and it is something the children can manage independently.

If you would like your own Alexa-enabled device, click here.  Or, for slightly fewer pounds, you can do the same thing with an Echo Dot

3.
Just use the internet...

There are a lot of internet-based learning quizzes out there.  One that I found for this post was this timed tables quiz (as in, a times-tables quiz that is timed).  What I liked about this was that you had the option to choose which times tables you wanted to practise.  Again, it is not the only one out there - a Google search (or a DuckDuckGo search, if you're feeling contrary) will reveal so many more.  Obviously, I can't comment on the quality of each of them.

I can comment on the quality of Carl's Learning Place though.  That one's mine.  Following the link will take you to my website that contains multiplication tests (including questions involving division, fractions and word problems), digital escape rooms (more about those here) and something else I am providing for free over the summer...

4.
I'll mark it for you!

Arithmetic revision is great and totally necessary but a child cannot learn through arithmetic alone.  It is important that they also practise their writing, reading and practical maths application skills as well.

To help with this, I have added a page on my website (click here) called 'Summer's Cool'.  This page has links to writing challenges and ideas and will grow as the weeks go by to include maths challenges as well.  There is also a button for you to submit your child's work to me.  I will MARK IT and give VIDEO FEEDBACK for FREE!  I have been teaching in the top end of UK Primary schools for over ten years and I am currently the education and curriculum advisor to an education software company.  I also do private tutoring.  However, the Summer break is long and I really enjoy my job, so I have decided to open up my digital classroom to all of you.

Whatever your child has done, writing, maths challenges, a geography project... anything that you would like some professional feedback on, send it to me.  It can be any file-type, it can even be just a photo of the work.  All I ask is that you let me know your child's first name and their age (I'll also need an email address for the video feedback).

International readers (I know you're out there; I've check my analytics!), I am happy to mark your kid's work, too.  It'll be from a UK Curriculum perspective but learning is broadly the same around the world (I just won't be so harsh on spellings!).

Like I said, I am doing this totally for free because I want to give something back.  It also won't hurt for you guys to spread my blog around your friends, so please do!

5.
Read!

I'll aim to review a different children's book each week and put it on my website (I'll link it here as well).  It is so important that your children continue to read at least one book every two weeks.  Also, try to shake up the authors a little bit.  Reading is the backbone of all learning; if you can't read and understand what you're reading quickly and confidently, you will have trouble in pretty much every area of learning.

In the UK, the libraries are once again hosting their Summer Reading Challenge.  This is great way to encourage children to not only read but also visit their local library (an endangered species in the UK).  They will receive prizes each time they complete a book and a special certificate in September if they manage to get through 6.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Their website is pretty cool, too (here).

It's not just the children reading to themselves though.  Do not underestimate the power of the bedtime story.  It is a fantastic way to introduce children to books that are maybe a little too difficult for them to read independently, or to open them up to authors and genres they wouldn't necessarily choose for themselves.  Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?  Share it with your kid!  It'll be all the more special to them because it is special to you.  I know we're all time-poor, but it is worth the 10-minute investment.

If you're truly stuck, get Google or Alexa to do it but please, PLEASE, send them to be with a book; not with a DVD.

That's about it from me today - I have to pick up some paddling pools for my dog (don't ask).  Again, please leave any questions or comments below - I'm thrilled that these posts are being read by people and would love to get know some of you!

If you want me to mark your child's work, the link again is here and, again, this is totally free.  Just your child's work, their first name and age, and your email address (so I can send you the feedback).

Have a wonderful Summer break, enjoy the sunshine but remember to protect your skin!

Carl Headley Morris

@Mr_M_Musings       mrmorristeacher@gmail.com        bit.ly/carlslearningplace

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Some tips for teachers for next September...

I know, I know, I'm as bad as Asda, advertising Back-to-School stuff when the holiday's only just begun. But I know what we teachers are like; we like to plan. And let's face it, our holiday doesn't begin until at least three days after those gates close for the last time. So, here is my offering for this week:

10 Behaviour Management Tips

Teaching can be very rewarding - I’ve been a teacher in UK schools for more than a decade now and I’ve never had a dull moment.  I love the way a class full of children can change your entire mood and make you see things in a brand new way. But there are times when they turn from little angels to little monsters and that’s when your ability to manage behaviour really comes into play.  It is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it a list of the only techniques that will work. Obviously, all children are different and there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach (are you listening, government?) but if even one of them is useful for you, then the writing of this list will have been worth it!


Call and respond

This can be as simple as saying ‘ABC’ and having the children respond with ‘123’.  The idea is that you train the children to listen out for a certain phrase and then respond with the correct phrase, then, importantly, stop making noise and await your next instruction.

I’ve heard a variety of phrases, rhyming ones seem to be preferred because the rhyme can help the children remember the response.  Some examples are “123” “Eyes on me”, “1 and 2” “Eyes on you.” I’m not a huge fan of this one - I think it’s too long, but it worked well in a Year 2 classroom.  Another is: “Macaroni cheese!” “Everybody freeze!” That’s kind of fun. Last year, my Year 6 class enjoyed using “Pen-pineapple” “Apple-pen” but that one dated fairly quickly.  You can use anything, the idea is to keep it short and recognisable - avoid phrases you would use ordinarily every day.


Positive names on the board

I’m sure we can all remember that time in class when we were younger, when an adult would tell you off, then write your name on the board.  A permanent, visual reminder that you were in trouble and had done something wrong. For some children, this would only add fuel to a disruptive fire; for others, it would crush them for the rest of the lesson.  Either way, it’s not great and can even lead to getting sucked into an argument, halting your lesson completely.

How about flipping the paradigm?  Instead of noting the negatives, note the positives.  Write the names of the children who are doing exactly the right thing.  We all do it verbally, “Isn’t Joey sitting well? Wow, Elizabeth, you’ve already written the date and title; go you!”  And it is super effective. So write their name on the board. That visual reminder of positive behaviour will pay dividends and can be a nice little incentive to other children who may be inclined to fuss.  One extra tip with this though, make sure it means something. If your school employs a points system, then have the names on the board gain three points. If your school doesn’t have a points system, them make sure that the names on the board get to go out to play first.  It’s such a little thing, and it’s free and easy to do, but it means a lot to a child. I’ve used this will children from Reception all the way through to Year 6 and it has never failed to work.
Speaking of points…

Points

Children love earning points.  So do adults, but this is about the kids.  They have all grown up in a world that is so gamified, earning points has an inherent meaning.  We can use this to our advantage within the classroom. You’ll be surprised how motivating the following phrase can be: “First [child/table/8-year-old] to be ready and quiet wins x points.”  Try it. They’ll move. They never even have to know what the points are for! The great thing about this is that points are free (and completely arbitrary, but never let the children know that!).  I have tamed unruly classes before by seating them in teams (not tables, even though they are blatantly table groups, they are teams) and offering 1,000,000 points for being the first to have everyone finish an activity.  By making it a team effort, you are encouraging peer-assessment and coaching. It stops it being an individual race to get done and makes it much more inclusive.  

The great thing about using points is that children know more equals better.  So you can start out by awarding 5 points for something simple, allowing lots of children to earn that easy point, then crank it way up to millions for the actual task and they’ll be on board and excited purely because a million is a big number.  

Feel free to award second-place point-tiers as well.  Also, introduce fines (never take points away, fine children for noise pollution or health and safety issues (talking too loudly or making a mess) and deduct any fines at the end of the lesson.  This goes down way better than simply erasing hard-earned points.

Again, if you want to the points to mean something, set up a video-game style shop.  For so many thousands of points, you can have extra computer time, or be the first out to play, or even the first in to lunch (speak to the lunch people first, but they’re usually okay with it).  If you want to buy small prizes like pencils then go for it, but anything you give a value will be worth something to a child. More on that in a later video.

Show, don’t tell (being quiet)

At some point, you are going to come into school either feeling glum, suck or just plain exhausted.  It’s on these days that an unruly class can really begin to try your patience. My advice? Don’t talk to them.  Seriously. Spend a little extra time writing up simple instructions on your board and draw their attention to it.  The novelty of you not saying a word will lure the children into working out what they need to do. When using this approach, make sure your facial expressions do the talking for you.  Really ham up that happy face when the first child cottons on and starts doing what you need them to do. And don’t forget, just because you're not speaking, that doesn’t mean that the children have to be silent.  Get that child who gets it to come up to the front and explain it to the class.

When you’re confident that everybody knows what to do, quietly and calmly congratulate them and challenge them to keep that peaceful atmosphere in the room.  This one won’t last all day, but it is a great way to begin.

Behaviour chart

Do me a favour, I want to you help me out with a little thought experiment.  I want you to think of anything, absolutely anything at all, but DO NOT think of a pink elephant balancing on a ball.  You did it, didn’t you? You pictured that damn elephant. Sigh. I’ll explain the point of that in a while.

I have worked in a lot of schools and many of them have used behaviour charts in the same way as they have used names on the board.  That is to say, negatively. I will never understand the compulsion of teachers to bring attention to the behaviours they do not want to see.  It’s like someone saying ‘don’t think of a pink elephant.’ Ah, now it makes sense! When we make a point of behaviour we don’t like, we’re just elevating its status within the group.  Now, I’m not saying ignore all bad behaviour, you can’t; children come to school to learn morality as well as maths. But you can catch them being good as well as bad. So, I use a two-sided chart.  As you can see here, the names go down through the middle and to the left, we have numbers 1 through 5, gradually getting redder, and on the right, we have the letters, P, R, I, Z and E, moving through green and on to blue.  The colours are not important, and honestly, I only use them to ensure that the chart overall ties in with the school’s existing behaviour chart, which is an all-too-common traffic light system.  

But Carl, why do you hate the traffic light system?  I’ll tell you. In my experience, it either gives the child too much freedom to move around, or not enough.  I have seen it where children begin, and often remain, in the middle for weeks, only moving down, if at all, because the hallowed green circle is reserved for those who go above and beyond.  I have also seen children move down into the amber or red circles only to be moved back up a level after a few minutes of improved behaviour, teaching that child that, so long as they can behave for the last few minutes of your lesson, they can avoid any consequences.  

So how is mine different?  Well, I’ve combined two separate charts.  One for recording negative behaviour (the numbers) and one for recording positive behaviour (the letters).  It’s important to establish with the class what the numbers will represent. Often they agree that a 1 simply represents a verbal warning and is nothing too serious.  A 2 is for when the child is repeating behaviours that they have already been warned about, or for more serious disturbances. Neither 1 nor 2 result in anything more than a disapproving look.

The number 3 is for more serious actions and often results in a missed playtime or similar sanction. 

This trend continues through 4 and 5, with a 4 usually resulting in referring the behaviour to a more senior member of staff and a 5 resulting in a phone call home to discuss the issues.  It is incredibly rare for a child to get beyond a number 3. It is often rare for them to get beyond a number 2 as most children just need that gentle reminder to do the right thing.

So, the other side?  Well, if the child does something you want the rest of the class to aspire to - anything from being very helpful, to completing extra work at home - they can circle a letter.  If they manage to circle all five letters in one week, then they have earned themselves a prize. Again, these prizes never have to be very much; the important thing is that you give them value.  Check out a later video for more on this subject.

The way I have worked this system very successfully for years is to erase the numbered side every day, but leave the letters up until the end of the week.  If interest seems to be waning a little, then I will go on a ‘letters blitz’ and start giving them out for even the smallest acts of positivity. I have also been known to have a letters ‘roll-over’ event, which drives the kids mad with excitement because they were on PRI and now have an extra five days to earn those final two letters.

The great thing about this is that you can make it as easy or as difficult to earn letters as you like.  I laminate mine and keep a dry-erase pen close by so that the children can circle their own letters and numbers.  Sometimes you need to keep an eye out to make sure that they are not circling somebody else’s numbers, but this doesn’t happen very much - and the other kids will let you know when it does!  It’s easy to make, but if you want an editable copy, ask for one in the comments section below.

Mascots

Another visual reminder of work done well.  I have a small collection of plush toys and a Shakespeare bobblehead and if you or your table is impressing me then I will put one of these mascots on your table.  If your impressive behaviour lasts for the rest of the lesson (or a given time limit if that’s easier - remember all of these things have to first be achievable) then your whole table wins points/a prize/whatever.  If, however, so much as one person breaks that positive learning atmosphere, then the mascot is taken away or, worse, given to another table. This works so well because it is visual and potentially fleeting. Yes, the children will touch the mascot at first, but you simply threaten to remove it if they stop working and they leave it alone.

You can change this up by awarding a mascot for every table doing the correct thing, or by limiting the number of mascots available or by holding a ‘how many can you collect’ competition within the class.  Just for fun, one day introduce one mascot and, after ten minutes of a good learning atmosphere, announce that the class has just ‘unlocked’ another, then feel the buzz in the room. Anything related to gaming will work.  With this tip, I advise 1: collecting the mascots in at the end of every session, and 2: washing them at least once a term!

Check for understanding

This is such a simple one that it is often overlooked.  If the children don’t understand what they need to do; they can’t do it.  And if they can’t do it, they are more likely to be disruptive.

This is easily remedied by displaying the title in the form of a question and checking that everybody understands it.  I like to ask if there are any words that people are unsure about, or if there are any terms that someone would like to explain.  This does rely on creating a safe learning environment where mistakes and risks are encouraged. It’s also a really useful way to address any misconceptions immediately and make sure that everybody is on the same page.  If no-one admits to not understanding something, play devil’s advocate and ask for the meaning of the key concept you want them to learn. This way, even those reluctant to speak up will hear an explanation at least once.  You can also have other adults in your room ask for a clearer explanation if they feel the children still aren’t getting it.  

If everyone understands, they are more likely to get on with it peacefully.

Magician’s choices

Children love to feel like they have contributed to the lesson in some way.  After all, it is their classroom, their learning experience and you are their teacher.  It’s only fair that they have some say in what goes on.  With this in mind then, it can be beneficial to you to ask them what area they would like to explore next… then give them a choice of two things.  Both of which you intend to cover anyway. This is known as a magician’s choice because it comes from card tricks that involve the illusion of choice.  For example, in a maths lesson, let’s say you’ve just finished a unit on addition and subtraction. You know you’re going to move on to the other operations, so you ask the class if they would prefer to learn about multiplication or division next.  You can ask for reasons behind their choices, forcing them to think about the maths concepts they prefer and why; you can ask them to write you a persuasive letter for homework (assessing their ability to write persuasively), you can even challenge them to come up with five starter activities for the operator they chose.  Then let them deliver those starters. This is great because it gives the children that illusion of control (they never really have it) and it also gives them a chance to experience what it is like to stand in front of the class - they soon learn how irritating it is when you just can’t catch the people chatting when you’re trying to teach!

It doesn’t even have to be maths.  The concept can work equally well across the entire curriculum.

Clap once if you can hear me; twice if you’re listening; thrice if you’re ready!

This is one of my favourites, and I am not a clapper (you know the clapped rhythm - clap, clap, clapclapclap - urhg).  What I love about this is that it works well in the classroom, but it works equally well on trips, public transport, whole-school assemblies, governor’s meetings (yes, it works on adults as well)... and it makes you look like a child whisperer!

It’s a variation on the call-and-response from earlier but with instructions instead.  Clap once if you can hear me. If nobody claps, you can’t be heard - try again but a little louder.  The great thing is, not everyone needs to hear you, the clap will alert the others that something has been said.  Clap twice if you are listening. 99% of the class will clap twice because they have been alerted by the previous clap.  You can now use this silence to calmly deliver your next instruction. I used this on a crowded underground train in London once and not only did some members of the public clap twice; I was complimented on my ability to silence 30 excited 10-year-olds in an instant.  It really does work!

Be positive and consistent

None of these methods will work if you only use them once (with the exception of the previous one, maybe).  You have to be consistent and stay positive with them. My advice is to pick a couple, no more than three though, and use them from day one.  Remember that you will have to explain the rules, sometimes more than once, but if you are positive and consistent, then they will work and work effectively.  Hand in hand with this is respect for the children. Don’t call them kids. Take the time to call them children. Or boys and girls. I tend to refer to them as ladies and gentlemen because that’s how I want them to behave.  But however you address them, be calm, be clear and be concise. I have met many problem children, but I have never yet met a child who actively wanted to do the wrong thing. Children are like puppies; they’re pack animals and they want to belong to the largest, and therefore safest, group.  Engineer your classroom so that group is the well-behaved group.

So that's my list.  If you have any other tips, please add them in the comments below, or tweet them with #behaviourtips.  Also, since you're here, check out my other posts and have a look at my website, which has learning games and self-marking times tables tests and is always growing!

Carl Headley-Morris

@Mr_M_Musings        bit.ly/carlslearningplace       mrmorristeacher@gmail.com


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

No escape...! UPDATED!

Before you read this blog, I have created a newer, longer escape room aimed at Upper KS2 (Grades 4 and 5, USA).  Check it out here: Escape! (link will open in a new window).

You can access both escape rooms, and any future ones (I really enjoy making them), from my website at bit.ly/carlslearningplace.

If you want me to make a custom room, or if you have a suggestion for a theme, please let me know in the comments below.




Not a blog in the traditional sense this week.  Instead, I offer up my maths escape room based on the very popular Jacquline Wilson novel, Hetty Feather.

If you head over to bit.ly/hfescape, or just click HERE, you can check it out for yourself.


It was made using a combination of Google Slides and a Google Form.  I have used the same approach with children in geography lessons, getting them to make a website with active hyperlinks.  It's yet another phenomenally powerful Google tool!


Anyway, the activity.  When I say it's based on Hetty Feather, I really only mean that I have added some HF images to the slides because one of the children I work with likes the stories (I didn't even ask permission, but I'm not monetizing it, so hopefully Nick Sharratt, the BBC and Jacqueline Wilson don't get me to take it down!  Seriously guys, if you read this, your work is excellent, please let me use it!).  So it could be very easily altered to account for any tastes, should you consider making one yourself.

Why an escape room?  They're fun and they introduce an element of urgency to the learning.  A digital escape room is super easy to set up as well as it requires an internet connection and some scratch paper.  

This room only has three combination locks to discover because it needs to fit inside a half-hour session, but you can hopefully see how the concept can be built up to include more puzzles and activities.  

The key to everything is knowing what you want your answers to be.  Google Forms is a great tool because you can a) make your form a quiz, which allows you to assign correct answers, and b) you can add response validation to those answers to only accept the correct response (it also lets you add a clue if they children make a mistake). 


When you know what you want your combination codes (or answers) to be, you just create some questions to generate those answers.  I've used a couple of measurement questions and some addition and subtraction with money because that's what this child needs.  It can literally be anything though.  I have been known to browse the questions on TestBase and use those for revision.


If you want to get really creative, you can create several single-slide presentations and link their URLs to a QR code (I like to use www.qrstuff.com for this as it is so simple.  Just copy the URL, paste into the box and copy the resulting QR code.  Thank-you, qrstuff.com!).  Stick those QR codes around the classroom (or school if your Headteacher is cool) and send the children off with a tablet (or even a phone).  Or, if you're worried about children being online unsupervised, use the creator tools over at www.classtools.net/QR/ to create a QR treasure hunt that works OFFLINE!  

Either way works a treat.  The important bit is sorting your Google Form as that forms the 'escape' part of the escape room.  

So, you create your Google Form and turn it into a quiz with response validated answers (be sure to check the 'Required' field, otherwise they can cheat!).  Then, after the last combination code, you add a section.  If you are short of time, like me, this section takes the children to a congratulatory screen that informs them they have escaped.  I'll be honest, it's not great but I will be there to make a lot of noise and maybe produce some sort of prize.

Lovely.  But what if you want to take it one further?  Here's where you can get EXTRA creative...

You can create a certificate in Google Slides or Drawings and leave it editable (this is so the children can add their name).  You then turn on sharing for anyone with the link.  Copy the link and paste it into the URL shortener at www.thinfi.com.  Thinfi allows you to password-protect the link.  So, instead of simply finishing with a 'well done' message on the Google Form, you can reward the child with the password (I used 'winhetty' for this one) and the short URL.  The child has one more exciting internet-based task and they get to claim and personalise their certificate.



One note about this though.  Since the slide is editable to anyone with the link, there is the possibility of some unscrupulous imp altering it completely, and even adding a naughty message.  A way around this is to create a generic certificate and set the sharing settings to 'view' only.  That, or check the link just before you launch the game.

So that's what I've done to make revision a little more interesting.

If you want to have a go yourself, the link is bit.ly/hfescape.  Please feel free to use it in class, as homework, as a template for your own (make a copy first!).

If you're interested in using Google Slides and Forms to create your own escape rooms (or even revision or homework vending machines - you can get a whole term of homework covered in a few simple clicks, including tutorial videos) then please let me know in the comments.

As always, I can be reached in any of the ways listed below and I hope you are all looking out for each other.  Remember, mental health is important.  You can't help others if you're not helping yourself.

Carl Headley-Morris

@Mr_M_Musings          mrmorristeacher@gmail.com

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Pick a card, any card...

It's that time of year when budgets are being considered.  There is so much good stuff out there to buy and every department wants endless amounts of money.  The English coordinator wants more books (so selfish).  The Science coordinator wants batteries and wires (erm, they're called 'virtual' experiments, hello?  It's not like the children deserve or need to experience actual science for themselves, c'mon now).  Don't even get me started on the Computing coordinator!

Yes, everyone needs money and they need it just at the point where the government (if we still have one when this blog is posted) seem to have decided that schools can just, sort of, auto-generate the several thousands they need through goodwill and selling unicorn manure.

Well, I decided that the least I could do was offer something for free.  So behold, my fellow educators, here are 5 things you can do with a deck of cards!


This post will be focusing on Maths but I will add more for English if enough people ask for it.

All the activities listed will require just one deck of cards, sometimes only one suit (A through K).  Most will be two-player minimum but all can be played with up to six players comfortably.


Times Tables Revision*

I figured we'd start simple.  Decide on a multiplication table and draw cards at random.  The children multiply the drawn card by the agreed multiplier.  The winner is the one with the most cards.  This game can be played with or without adult supervision (depending on the strength of the tables knowledge; however, a 12x12 tables mat could be provided for the dealer if need be).


Howdy Partner!*

This is a game for 2 or more players.  The cards are dealt out evenly with the face cards either being worth 11, 12 and 13, or being removed entirely.  The children do not look at their cards (like snap).  The child with the longest pencil (or whichever arbitrary rule takes your fancy) goes first and they challenge the player on their left.

One round of play consists of Child A drawing a card from the top of their pile and placing it face-up between them and Child B.  Child B then draws a card from their own pile and places it face up.  The winner of the round is the first child to say the complete phrase: "X times Y equals XY" (with X and Y being the drawn cards).  The winner keeps the cards and play continues to the left with Child B facing Child C etc.

If they get it wrong, or they do not say the whole phrase (key for mastery) they forfeit the turn.  The other children can act as adjudicators.  If a decision cannot be reached, both cards are left in the center and can be collected by the next player to win.


Face-Up Maths*

This is a great game as it has (I think) twenty-four modes of play!  To set it up you need to separate the aces, jacks, queens and kings from the deck, shuffle them and leave them in a pile on the table (in easy reach of all players).   Deal out the remaining forty cards, face down, to however many children are playing.  

The face cards and aces represent the four operators.  I usually say Ace = addition, Jack = Subtraction, Queen = Multiplication and King = Division.  This might need to be scribbled on a whiteboard until people get used to it.

The game is played by Child A and Child B drawing a card each and placing it face up in front of them.  A card from the separate pile is then turned over and the winner is the first child to say the arithmetic sentence out loud and correctly.  For example, "2 times 5 is 10!"  The winner keeps the number cards and the face card is placed at the bottom of its separate pile.

This game gets tricky when dealing with subtraction, as it is possible to go into negative numbers.  This can be avoided by allowing the children to move the cards around so that the larger value is always on the left.

Another tricky situation is division.  For younger players, I would simply remove the kings all together.  For older players, you could let them try to figure out what 4 divided by 5 is (whiteboards would be handy here), or you could say that the Kings mean you have to make a fraction with the two cards drawn.  You could take that one step further by saying that they only win the cards if they can state an equivalent fraction as well.


Ups and Downs*

This game works with up to six players comfortably.  It's another game where the deck can be split in four.  I would also remove the face cards.  

Deal out the entire deck evenly to all players and agree on a starting number.  This can be differentiated depending on the confidence of the children playing.  You will also need to agree on an ending number, this is the number the children need to reach.  The first to reach the number (reach or pass) is the winner.  The children take it in turns to draw a card and perform the operation required.  The actual operation can vary depending on how you want to work it.

I tend to play this game with older children, so I use the four suits as the four operators.  I tend to stick with Hearts = Add, Diamonds = Multiply [the red cards are commutative], and Clubs = Subtract, Spades = Divide.  But it can be played just as well with red cards = plus and black cards = minus etc.  You can even play it with the children simply calling which operation they are going to do before (or after - it all depends on confidence levels)  they draw their card.

A typical round will see the initial starting number increasing and decreasing as the game progresses.  What I enjoy about this game is, when the children are familiar with it, they can get properly devious with their planning.  The maths discussions that result are always interesting.  You can also shake it up by only allowing even numbered cards.  Or only odd.  Any number of ways, really.  It's a fun game.


Algo-hold 'em*

A twist on the traditional game of what I thought was called 'Rummy'.  Turns out, it isn't.  Nor is it called 'Gin Rummy'.  Anyway, I guarantee you've played it at least once - that game where you try to get three of a kind and four of a kind in the same hand.  That one.  But this is for maths.

In this game, the face cards (J, Q, K) are wild and represent any operator that you decide.  

Deal out seven cards to each player and leave the rest in a pile in the middle.  The first child draws a card from the center pile and decides whether or not to keep it.  If they decide to keep it, they must place one of their own cards in a discard pile (next to the main draw pile).  You can never have more than seven cards.  You can have fewer but you cannot have more.  If you end up with fewer, you keep the draw card regardless.

The children have to 'bank' their cards to win.  They bank them by declaring a valid number sentence using some or all of the cards in their hand.  So, if I had a 2, a 4, a 6, a K and another 4 in my hand (we'll ignore the other three cards for now), I could place them all down and say: "6 times 4 is 24" making each of the digits with my cards.  Those five cards would now be banked and I would look to make a number sentence with the cards I had left.

The winner is the first child to have all their cards banked.

The game can be made easier or harder depending on the rules you apply to the face cards.



So there are five different ways to use a deck of cards in the classroom.  There are so many more that I have not been able to write about because, honestly, I have run out of time.  If you can think of any, please add them in the comments.  If you want further clarification of any of the games I've listed, please ask and I'll put together a video.

Also, I'm beginning to get my blogs out there a little more these days, so if you have written something and would like a shout-out, a direct link, or even a guest-spot please get in touch.  I read all the comments on the posts and I can be reached on Twitter or at the email address below.

Have fun!  Only a few weeks left to go...!

*About the names of the games... I can only apologise.  They are terrible names!

Carl Headley-Morris       @Mr_M_Musings      mrmorristeacher@gmail.com

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