I love having my daughter home from college for the holidays. To have our family complete again, is a special gift that I treasure. My daughter enjoys playing games as much as I do, and I always look forward to this time together.
This holiday weekend we started rifling through our game closet as we usually do, when we unexpectedly unearthed a transparent rose-colored box filled with small blue containers. All I remember about this box, was that it was a homemade game that been given to me decades ago by my grandma. After many moves it had unfortunately been tucked away out of sight, and forgotten. Our recent move must have unearthed this hidden treasure and brought it back into our mix of games again. My daughter and I both looked at the box and then exchanged a look of intrigue. I knew this game was begging to be played.
As I brought the game to our dining room table, a folded up blue piece of paper came tumbling out. As I unfolded the paper and began to read, memories of childhood of game play flooding into my mind. I loved opening up my grandma's game cupboard and carefully selecting games with my siblings and cousins. We would stay entertained for hours playing all of our favorites. Discovering this little box of blue containers was like unlocking a piece of my family history. I could hear my grandmother sweet voice as she explained this game’s significance...
3 letters = 10 points
The person with the high score wins!
As I stared at this blue sheet of paper holding a little piece of family history, it dawned on me how much of a legacy my grandma has made on my life. I reflected back on how much she loved not only games, but game shows. So did I. When I was young I remember the best part of staying home from school sick was laying on the couch with my Vernor’s Gingerale and soda crackers watching game shows all day. I loved watching classics like the $25,000 Pyramid, Hollywood Squares, and the Joker’s Wild. No doubt this fascination of game play and game shows has made an impact on my educational journey as I have infused many gamification strategies into my teaching as well as adapting games that I love and using them for learning. Who knew that my grandma was creating her own games too?! So cool.
After reading my grandma’s letter, I did a little Google search and discovered a little more about this game my grandma loved. The NBC television game show, Charge Account, premiered in 1960 and was a segment of The Jan Murray Show. Just as she described, on the show a container of 16 letters was selected and tossed in a cylinder. One by one the letters were called out and each of the two contestants strategically placed them in a square of choice within a 16-square grid to make the most three or four letter words that they could. Contestants received $25 for each four-letter word they created and $10 for each three-letter word. The player with the most money won the game and used his or her winnings to buy one of the three prizes shown to them at the beginning of the game.
Knowing this little piece of history, made me super excited to start playing. I didn’t want to waste any more time getting started. We took the 14 blue containers out of the rose colored box and found 16 letter tiles and a filled out grid nestled inside that indicated the perfect letter arrangement.
We each drew a 16-box grid on a piece of paper and opened up the first container and placed it in the center of the table. One-by-one we turned over a cardboard tile and wrote the letter revealed on our grid. Once, all the tiles were called out we counted up our 3 and 4 letter words in each row, vertically and horizontally, and wrote a 10 or 25 by each one to calculate our total score. We kept a score sheet to tally our points, and then opened the second container to start round 2. All 14 rounds were played and when we were finished, we added up all our points and the player with the highest score won.
It was so much fun! I could easily see why my grandma played this game so much, and now my head was spinning with ideas! Just like I’ve done with many other games, I could adapt this one for classroom learning as well! Better yet, it could be played with a variety of ages and unlimited players at once. I even had our 7 year old niece joining in the fun this weekend!
I immediately began thinking of how to streamline this game for classroom play. Instead of hand drawing out my grid, I could create a template with 14 blank grids and a key with the perfect letter arrangement for each round of game play. (I've attached the pdf I created below) Now I needed to figure out how to replicate the tiles, without having to cut out the squares like my dad had painstakingly done. Within no time, my daughter had found a digital app that could randomly select letters. We tried that one round, but realized that having too random a selection of letters to be drawn made word creation difficult. For instance, the round we played only had 2 vowels. We knew there had to be a digital app out there that could allow us to select a series of letters to be called at random and save them for future rounds. Sure enough, there was! The free ios app “Letters” was just what I was looking for. I could program each of my 14 containers of letters within the app so they were ready when I played the game with my class. I could even mirror my ipad to the screen so students could see each letter as it was being called off in each round. Adapting this game for the classroom was easier than I had expected. All I’d need to do was copy off enough grid templates for my class and download the Letters app and I’d be ready to go!
With 14 pre-made sets of letter combinations, you could play as few or many rounds as you wanted. I could even come up with new letter combinations or better yet, have the students create them! Give students a blank grid template and challenge them to come up with the perfect grid that is filled in perfectly with four letter words both horizontally and vertically. You could also make it a team challenge and see which team could come up with the most perfect grids within a certain amount of time! The 4 C's in action!
What about math? My daughter's friend had a great idea. What if instead of letters, you called off numbers? You could have different goals each round. One round students could have to place numbers in the grids to make rows that were multiples of five. The next round students may be trying to create rows of prime numbers. What about even, odd, or multiples of numbers? I am not math minded, but all you math teachers out there I’m sure have lots more ideas!
I hope in sharing a bit of my family history, you will find as much enjoyment from this throwback game as I did! I've shared a pdf of the grid template and containers combinations with you below.
I encourage you to open up that game closet and think of how your favorite family games could be adapted for classroom learning. Don't have a game closet? Turn on the Game Show Network and your mind will be swirling with ideas in no time! The possibilities for bringing games into education is endless!
Share out your ideas for this game or others on Twitter and tag #MLmagical! We are all in this game together!
I fell in love with the movie "The Greatest Showman: Reimagined" the first time I saw it and though I have heard this song many times, for some reason when I listened to a youtube video of Pink singing, "A Million Dreams", with her daughter Willow, the floodgates opened. This song. At this moment. Awoke something in my soul.
'Cause every night, I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
Oh, a million dreams for the world we're gonna make
-Pink, A Million Dreams, The Greatest Showman: Reimagined
When I left the culinary classroom this Summer after 22 years, I had never loved teaching more. I was saying goodbye to a room that had made a metamorphosis into a magical place where students were immersed, empowered and ready to leave a legacy. My classroom wasn’t the only thing that went through a transformation though, I had as well. I wasn’t the teacher that four years prior was ready to call it quits and run to the comfort of a local coffee shop to perfect the art of making a latte. I was leaving because of the million magical dreams that filled my head and kept me awake at night. I knew that if my heart could be restored with joy, passion and a love for teaching and learning, it could happen for others too.
I was leaving the classroom to be a Tech Integration Specialist, but really what I wanted to be called was a Joy Specialist. My heart longs to restore the joy of teaching and learning that so often gets clouded with the pressures that come with education. Joy is contagious, but it also is courageous. We have to choose it. Every day. We have to decide to be intentional about choosing to find wonder, and magic in the world around us and go beyond what is comfortable to find what is best. How often do we chase graduation rates and test scores when what we really need to chase is joy. If our classrooms are places filled with the joy of learning, do you think it's possible that graduation rates and test scores would start taking care of themselves? The stress and pressure to perform would be replaced with the desire to soar and leave a legacy on this world.
What if joy became foundational to all we do? What if joy was the heartbeat of our schools? The reality is, though most would love to infuse heaps of joy into their classroom it seems like a futile dream. The stakes are too high, the pressure to great. What if I fail? What if people think I’m crazy? What if my test scores don’t improve? What if? What if? What if?
In the book 18 Minutes, author Peter Bregman shares the story of the overnight sensation, Susan Boyle. She walked onto the UK television show, Britain’s Got Talent stage to only be mocked and ridiculed. It wasn’t till the music started and she began to sing that the millions of people watching were stunned by the angelic voice coming from a seemingly ordinary person.
“There is grace in being molded by your own gifts. To allow yourself to be molded by your own gifts takes courage. You have to be willing to stand there, exposed and authentic , while the audience rolls their eyes at you and sneers, expecting failure. And then, of course, you have to fail, laugh or cry, and keep going until, one day they stop laughing and start clapping.”
-18 Minutes, Peter Bregman
DREAM IN BRIGHT COLOR
We may feel ordinary or awkward, but if we dare to dream in bright color think of the possibility! The truth is, the magic is in you. We don’t need to remain caterpillars, we can become butterflies! But, it takes courage to dream and to believe that there is more; that we don’t have to do things the way we’ve always done them. We can do better.
When I think back on my journey, I think of how, like my classroom, I’ve gone through a sort of metamorphosis as an educator by daring to dream. There were people that scoffed, snickered, and ridiculed; there still are. But once I knew that what was happening in my classroom was making a difference, I began to ignore the naysayers. There was no turning back. I stopped focusing on, “What if I fail?” and began to focus on, “What if they fly?”
FIND THE JOY SEEKERS AND SUNSHINE SPREADERS
I also began to find the joy seekers & sunshine spreaders; the people who inspire, challenge, and encourage me to keep going when I feel defeated. We all need people in our lives that tell us through their words and actions, “I believe in you!” Find your tribe. Sometimes you will find that those you think are going to be your biggest cheerleaders, are the ones that let you down. Don’t let them take you down. Often times it’s their own insecurities that prevent them from finding joy in your transformation.
START DREAMING...YOU HOLD THE MAGIC!
What could our schools and classrooms become if we dared to reimagine them as magical places of joy? Listen to this beautiful version of 'A Million Dreams' sung by Pink and her daughter Willow and start envisioning what would happen if we dared to dream in bright color. You hold the magic!
I love November. Leaves are vibrant colors of red, orange, and yellow, mornings are brisk and afternoons are warm, my local coffee kiosks are serving up eggnog lattes, and it’s my birthday month...there is lots to love.
It’s also the month where gratitude is poured out in abundance and we take time to reflect on all that we are thankful for. I love that when we focus on gratitude we are more conscious of the things in our life that really matter and bring joy to our days. We take more time to savor moments with those we love and appreciate the people in our lives that impact us. I’ve loved scrolling through the #GratitudeSnaps hashtag on Twitter and seeing all of the many reasons that people are grateful. It’s heartwarming and makes me feel a bit closer to those people that I call my PLN.
As educators, this season of gratitude can be a magical time, but it can also be a very stressful time as well. It’s conference time with parents, the holidays are approaching which can be a time of heightened anxiety for students and adults, and we’re tired after the launch of a new school year and all of the energy that requires.
In this time of thanksgiving, I find myself in a tug of war with gratitude and grace. I’m incredibly grateful for all the many blessings in my life, but also find myself grappling with all the areas where I fall short. All of the roles that I hold dear to my heart (mom, teacher, coach, author, daughter, sister, wife, and friend) bring me joy in my journey. However, often as I dance around balancing hats on my head I find myself frustrated when I can’t keep them all from tumbling to the ground. I am passionate about each role that I play, and love those that I serve deeply. However, I am only human and balancing hats can feel like an impossible undertaking. Just when I seem to have them all nestled on my head just perfectly, one seems to come crashing to the ground taking others down with it.
What if in our gratitude, we gave ourselves grace?
I can choose to feel defeated because…
You are all making a difference in the lives of the people you serve. In this season of gratitude, take a deep breath and remember to give yourself a large serving of grace.
This week I hit the ground running. It began with a 6 hour drive home from an amazing experience at FallCUE on Monday that led directly into the second half of a work day and the pace didn’t stop as the week progressed. Waking up this morning, I felt like I had run into a brick wall. All I could think of was, “Thank Goodness It’s Friday! With a latte’ in hand, I walked into my first meeting of the day with a smile, but secretly desiring to crawl back in bed and start my weekend early. I’m so glad I didn’t follow through with my tired inclinations, because today was one to remember. A perfect reminder of all that I’m so grateful for and the things that I value so much as an educator. As I was reflecting on this marvelous day, a friend said, “you need to write a blog post about this day so you can remember it on the ones that are more difficult.” I knew immediately that this was exactly what I needed to do, and how serendipitous that this magical day falls so beautifully into my MAGICAL acronym…
Authenticity and Agency
Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity
My culinary adventures in my district began at South Medford High School. After 13 years as a culinary teacher, this year I transitioned to a new role as a Tech Integration Specialist. After being part of a school culture for that long, it’s hard to leave. You develop relationships with colleagues and students that help shape who you are as an educator and they become a part of a school family. So many memories have accumulated over the years and returning to SMHS will always feel like coming back home. My day started with a meeting in my former high school library chatting about edtech with people I love. This warm, collaborative space is so welcoming and inviting. Teacher librarian, Jennifer McKenzie, and media tech, Gigi Michaels, intentionally create a special space where everyone can gather and feel safe and accepted. They always have beautiful displays and even brought in a piano this year for students and staff to express themselves musically throughout the day. It feels like your walking into Nordstroms. My heart filled with gratitude for this school and the people I hold dear to my heart. It is wonderful to know that I can still collaborate with this amazing group of educators and now be able to support them and their work in my new role. As I was leaving I ran into many former students that I miss so much. It was so wonderful to see them and hear how their new year was going.
Authenticity, Agency, and Authentic Audience
The next stop of the morning was at one of our district’s elementary schools. A 5th grade class had invited me in to talk about my journey to becoming a Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc author. How cool is that?! I really had no idea what to expect, so as I walked into the room I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received. These kids made me feel like a celebrity the moment I walked in the door. Within seconds of sharing about my love for writing and my journey to becoming an author, hands shot up in the air. These kids were full of curiosity about writing and what it meant to share your story. There were so many questions in fact, I had a hard time figuring out who to call on next. Their questions were so insightful!
“What inspired you to write your story?”
“Do you ever have a difficult time organizing your ideas and thoughts? How do you sort them all out?”
“What were your favorite books to read as a kid?”
Their curiosity blew my mind! I was absolutely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of these young writers. It was such a pleasure to share from my heart about my writing adventures and empower them to write their stories as well. Seeing their little eyes twinkle with excitement and possibility was a reminder as to how important our stories are to share. As the teacher told the class our time was coming to a close, a half dozen hands went into the air hoping to sneak in a few last questions. “Has our teacher read your book?” When I told them I had brought one today for her the class loudly cheered. How precious is that?! Then, the last question took me by complete surprise and filled my eyes with tears! “Can I get your autograph?” When I answered, “Of course!” the room filled with chatter as additional kids echoed, “Could I get an autograph too?” As I said my goodbyes, students started gathering around for hugs and autographs on little slips of notebook paper. One kid even asked me to sign his shirt. I’m pretty sure at this point some tears slipped out as I was overcome by emotion. We never know the impact our story may have on another’s journey, we need to share it!
Gamification and Innovation
As I was leaving this amazing experience, I peaked in the door of another teacher that is one of the Spark Starters on our district's Innovation Team. I was overjoyed to see that her kids were all on Flipgrid creating video reflections of a book that they had just read in class. This teacher had just recently been introduced to Flipgrid and I was so impressed that she was already using this new digital tool in her classroom. I loved the energy in the room and how immersed these kids were in learning!
As I was walking around something on the wall made me do a double take! She had a display that showed all of her game mechanics for the Amazing Race. I had just shared last week how I had gamified my culinary class with an Amazing Race theme and she had already designed a game framework and launched it in her classroom! I was so impressed by the courage of this teacher. She didn’t hesitate to take a few risks and face an uncertain outcome in hopes of creating unforgettable experiences for her students. It’s so easy to gravitate towards the comfortable and predictable rather than challenge ourselves to try something that could potentially be new and better. She shared with me that the launch hadn’t been perfect, but by jumping in she was quickly able to iterate as needed as her students experienced it. This is innovation in action!
Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity
My next stop of the day was at the elementary school my own two kids attended. I absolutely love this school and how they nurtured my children through their younger years. In fact, as I was walking onto campus a flood of nostalgia came over me as I remembered all the wonderful and special memories that took place on this campus.
From the moment I walked into the classroom of the Spark Starter that I was visiting, I knew it held a special magic. She had completely transformed her classroom into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and was dressed up in costume herself to match the theme! It was amazing! As we chatted she explained all of the immersive learning activities and challenges she had created that all tied into the theme and standards! Creativity, collaboration, and curiosity all working in beautiful harmony to create unforgettable experiences for students. Her passion, enthusiasm, and joy radiated from her and I knew without a doubt her students felt it too because it’s contagious! When we are on fire for teaching, our students become on fire for learning! Becky Vanduker is a must follow! She is continually transforming her space into a magical place of unforgettable learning!
As I was soaking up all the magic of this incredible classroom, a former student of mine that was visiting popped his head in the door! I am pretty sure I squealed or screamed with excitement! This kid that I remembered so well, now an adult, is in his second year as an elementary teacher in Northern Oregon! As he shared about his classroom and teaching experience, my heart filled with pride. It was not that many years ago he was my student and now he had a classroom of his own making a difference in the lives of kids.
As he left the classroom, a former teacher of my children entered the room. His own child had been in my culinary classes throughout high school and held a special place in my heart. He was a kid that didn’t particularly like school. He was a very talented, creative and “out of the box” thinker who didn’t fit into the traditional school mold. I remember telling him, “You are going to do amazing things one day, I just know it.” As this teacher began sharing about his son, my eyes began to fill with tears. Not only is this former student of mine doing well, he is thriving! He is now a very successful entrepreneur who is living his dream. His next words made my heart melt into puddles. They went something like this….“Thank you for believing in my son and his potential. Your belief empowered him and helped him believe in himself. You made an impact on his life.” I was speechless. We all leave footprints on our students lives. When we take the time to really get to know our students, love them, and believe in them it makes an impact whether we ever see the outcome or not. These interactions were a special reminder today that what we do matters A LOT. We daily are impacting lives in a profound way. We are leaving a legacy and empowering others to leave a legacy as well. That is magical!
Watch with Glittering Eyes
Days like this help me remember how grateful I am for the opportunity to live out my passion everyday and impact the lives around me in a positive way. There is magic all around us if we remember to watch with glittering eyes. I would have missed out on today's secrets if I would have stayed in bed and started my weekend early. I'm so glad I experienced the magic of today.
Co-Written with my girl, Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU
The #GratitudeSnaps Challenge is as easy as 1-2-3.
Focus each day on one thing for which you are grateful. It could be a thing, a person, a feeling; it’s personal to you.
Educators, students, community members...anyone who would like to participate is more than welcome. The more positivity we can flood the world with, the better.
Create a GratitudeSnap by connecting it to something positive in your life. Add pics, text, anything you choose.
Take a picture with your phone and share why this image makes you grateful. You can use any picture app to create your #GratitudeSnaps. (We will be using SnapChat.)
Click here for a quick 3-minute video to show you the basics of Snapchat. (Just create#GratitudeSnaps instead of #BookSnaps.)
Click this link for many apps used to make #BookSnaps, which can easily convert to #GratitudeSnaps.
Post it to Twitter including #GratitudeSnaps & tag us @TaraMartin EDU and @tishrich.
Let’s begin our 22-days of #GratitudeSnaps on Nov 1st, 2018. It will last until Thanksgiving, November, 22nd. You're welcome to keep it going; there is certainly no "time frame" on being grateful.
The world has plenty of negativity, let’s spread a grateful attitude! We have so much of which to be thankful.
Journal of Snaps
If you’d like to follow Tisha’s 30-day #GratitudeSnaps Challenge, click the Padlet below.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.