Choose the best answer to the following question:
On a Wednesday afternoon, a math teacher asks his class of 6th graders, “Who wants to play a game?” What is the most likely response from the class of students?
- A few students raise their hands while the rest of the class shrugs their shoulders with indifference.
- About half the class raise their hands enthusiastically, and the other half of the class nod their heads in resignation.
- About half the class raise their hands straight up, a fourth of the class raise their hands with some enthusiasm, and the rest of the class shrug with indifference.
- The entire class raise their hands so high that their bodies are practically ejected from their chairs, all while yelling, “Me! Me!”
- None of the above. You teach a classroom of robots.
Playing games in the classroom has often been seen as a reward for great behavior or completing classwork on time, a keep-‘em-busy activity for rainy days inside, or as a time-filler on a Friday afternoon when the weekend is this close. How do you use games in the classroom? Do you use games?
Incorporating games in an educational context can be tricky, especially when considering video games. How will the game work with a class of 30 students? Will the younger students understand how to play? What is the time investment in using video games to learn a new concept or skill? Is it even necessary to do so?
There are the adventurous few who use video games as an integral part of their teaching day and have found success in doing so. These educators find that there are incredible benefits to incorporating game play, such as:
- Increased student motivation and engagement
- Greater variety of active learning opportunities
- Immediate feedback reinforces learning
- Repeated practice with new skills for mastery
But, are all video games conducive to learning? Besides research (search “What games do 5th grade math teachers use?”) and reading through user reviews, it is important that you play the video games yourself. As you do, reflect on the following questions:
- What is the goal of the game?
- Is the game simple to understand?
- What is the purpose of the game?
- Are there different levels to the game?
- Which students would benefit from the game?
- Will students get feedback on their game play?
- Is this a game my students would want to play?
You may have other questions depending on the makeup of your class, such as language and maturity level of the game, game support that students can independently access (i.e. a Help link or FAQs page for general game play information), and student accessibility during the school day (i.e. Can the video game only be played as a whole class? Can it be played in small groups on one device?). It is clear that the use of a game played on an interactive board, laptop, or tablet needs more research than simply, “What looks fun and is free?”
There are features of a video game that can answer many of the questions you may have about a game, especially its relationship to effective learning:*
- Motivation: Does the game motivate students because they are able to work through and solve a problem? Once the problem is solved, are there more to solve so that they feel a level of mastery? Playing a game that motivates a student to continue through learning and advancement is certainly a plus.
- Competition: Is there a degree of healthy competition involved? Gamers tend to enjoy the competitive piece of video games and this can be appealing in the classroom setting.
While, yes, there are many aspects of a video game to consider before including it as a learning resource, it could ultimately be the change needed to engage even the most reticent learner. Again, a simple search of the internet can lead you to research articles and white papers on the benefits of game play for learning, including those that explain how this can be done successfully.
Read more about how games can be incorporated into a traditional multi-step lesson plan in the blog Learn Using Games for Interactive Whiteboards. If you’re still unsure, a number of education-focused companies offer free trials of software that include learning games, such as Qwizdom OKTOPUS. OKTOPUS has Math and Language Arts games as a collaboration feature of their software. Watch this video to learn more:
OKTOPUS also has the GameZones app for interactive boards, with subject-specific games for practicing concepts and skills learned in the classroom. To learn more, watch this video to learn more:
The next time you ask your class, “Who wants to play a game?” do so with the assurance that the games you’ve chosen are the ones they need to boost their confidence, increase active learning, support collaboration with peers, and motivate them to keep trying. Who knows? You just might see 100% hands up in the air.
*Gee, James Paul (August, 2006). Are video games good for learning? [article]. Retrieved from http://cmslive.curriculum.edu.au/leader/default.asp?id=16866&issueID=10696
Can you correctly complete the following sentence?
____ sentences have ____ that students need to fill in with the correct _____.
Correct answer: Cloze sentences have blanks that students need to fill in with the correct answers.
Cloze activities can be applied to a wide range of topics with a variety of objectives that include accurate spelling, learning new vocabulary words, and reading comprehension. Most often, cloze activities come in the form of fill-in-the-blank sentences with either single correct answers, or appropriate answers that contextually make sense. For example:
A cloze activity can also be used for comprehension and vocabulary building in any subject. Display and read aloud a short passage for the students. Then remove some words that are key to understanding the content or story, including new words that were frontloaded prior to the reading. Students can work individually or with a partner to fill in the blanks. For example:
To help facilitate different cloze activities for instruction, Qwizdom OKTOPUS (annotation and collaboration software for interactive boards) has the Word Vault tool. From text created in OKTOPUS, highlight and click/tap a word to store it in the vault. Words collected here can be dragged out into the blank created in the text. If the word is correct, it will appear in its original form.
You can also add custom words to the vault in activities where the students need to choose the correct word from a list.
The Word Vault is essentially a drag-and-drop tool that can be adapted for multiple uses such as categorizing, labeling, sequencing, and filling in the blank. Watch the video to see a few ways Word Vault can be used:
Cloze activities with the OKTOPUS Word Vault can help to:
- increase student participation and engagement in their learning,
- support peer interaction and collaboration through review of content and ideas, and
- strengthen retention of key vocabulary and concepts across multiple subjects and topics.
Facilitating cloze activities, augmented by annotation and collaboration tools like Qwizdom OKTOPUS, can lead to success for all involved in the learning. Can you correctly complete this sentence?
OKTOPUS offers a ____ trial and ____ tutorials to help get ______ started in your _______.
Math has been the bane of my educational career, starting from kindergarten (“Count what?”) to when I was studying to get my teaching credential and had to take an Educational Foundations of Math class (“There’s a difference between concept and skill?!”).
Teaching math was always a challenge because I was mostly transferring how I’d learned math (memorize, memorize, memorize) to my students, regardless of their understanding (with the attitude, “It worked for me!” although it really hadn’t worked for me). Fortunately, through my years as a Math Instructional Coach, math curriculum writer, and math tutor, I’ve learned quite a few strategies that have helped me. In particular, the Math Workshop Model (similar to the Readers Workshop and Writers Workshop models) encourages engagement, higher order thinking, peer to peer support, and an understanding of the learning goals. Use visual models, interactive boards, annotation and collaboration tools, and learning games to enhance the workshop model. Hopefully, then, math becomes a block of time to look forward to instead of to avoid (for all involved!).
It’s hard to imagine that all of the interactivity described can happen in a 1-hour math period. But, implementing Math Workshop allows for flexible groups, differentiated instruction, active participation, and using problem solving as a jumping-off point for teaching new concepts and skills. Generally, Math Workshop includes:
Opening with the whole class (10-15 minutes)
The opening is a mini-lesson in which you provide direct instruction on the target concept or skill. Create anchor charts using your interactive white board to record questions, key points and vocabulary, processes, etc. that students can reference. These charts can later be combined as part of a digital math journal. Share and update the digital journal as needed.
I’ve found that using the “think aloud” strategy when introducing and modeling a concept or skill is helpful. Incorporate math language and vocabulary in your “think aloud.” I have even ‘made a mistake’ and talked my way through correcting a step in a solution process. As students work both independently and collaboratively, you may hear similar “think alouds” from the students. This gives you great feedback on the clarity of your instruction and the depth of their understanding.
Practice, independent (15-20 minutes)
Students will practice what was taught or modeled in the opening. If students have a math notebook or journal, all work should be done here. You can use the work in these journals as a means of formative assessment to guide lesson planning and modifications. If using collaboration software with 1:1 devices, you can view the work of specific students (i.e. students who consistently have difficulties learning math concepts and skills, students on an IEP, English Language Learners, etc.).
Be warned: students may struggle during this period! Students are applying what they’ve learned in the mini-lesson, so you will see some “deep thought” as they do so. As you walk around and observe how they approach the problem(s), you are learning more about each student’s abilities, understanding, and misconceptions. These personal observations are also helpful for the closing and future lesson planning.
Discussion and collaboration, with a partner and/or in small groups (15-20 minutes)
During this block, students work with a partner or in small groups. A few things can happen:
- students engage in discussion about what they’ve done in practice, clarifying for one another any misunderstandings about the concept or skill
- students work together to solve word problems that require the application of the concept or skill taught in the opening
- you can pull individual students or small groups for reteach, language support, or provide augmented activities for those who show clear and advanced understanding of what is taught
This is also a good time to listen to how students discuss what they’ve learned or explain how a skill can be done. Encourage their use of math language in discussions. This language will be used in their math journals or when they share out with the rest of the class at closing.
At times, the use of learning games can support what has been learned while also adding variety to what is routinely done. Being flexible and adaptable to all situations and learning levels is integral in a truly active learning environment. Games can offer students another means of accessing the learning that may be difficult otherwise.
Closing with the whole class (10 – 15 minutes)
On your interactive white board, display a problem that requires the skill taught in the lesson. Choose a student to explain how to find the answer, using an annotation tool that can record the work as it is done. The student can be one that showed understanding and successful application of the skill or one that used a different successful strategy to solve the practice or discussion problem(s).
You may also choose to give a short quiz on what has been learned, using a collaboration tool that collects student data to provide immediate feedback. Share the feedback with the students (an anonymous class list will prevent embarrassment while still giving you the data needed for planning the next lesson) so that they can see their own progress with the learning. This can be incredibly powerful for both you and the student. This will also contribute to “next steps” in lesson planning.
I have found that the Math Workshop Model can be adapted for different classroom “personalities” and needs, a variety of tools can be incorporated, and each block can be shortened or lengthened depending on need. Ultimately, the goal of any effective math lesson (regardless of the model of instruction) is that students feel confident as they successfully apply new learning. Maybe, just maybe, math time can bring on feelings of excitement instead of anxiety! Believe me, your students will thank you.
As educators, we are constantly on the hunt for activities and plans that can add to our repertoire of lessons. This is probably done more when we’re preparing our students for state standardized assessments. Besides using released sample questions and practice tests, we look for activities that don’t require much work on our part (we already have a lot going on!). Enter Qwizdom OKTOPUS Blend, which includes thousands of lessons that can be used with any interactive whiteboard, touch panel or projector. These lessons meet many state learning standards that students are expected to master in Reading, Math, and Science. You, too, can get your hands on these “click and play” lessons! To do so, take these easy steps:
- Upgrade your current OKTOPUS license to OKTOPUS Blend. This will give you access to thousands of premium lessons that are focused on state standards and key concepts integral to a successful learning experience.
- In OKTOPUS, click on “Standard Tools” then choose “Lessons” from the drop-down menu.
- Click on the icon for “Lessons.”
- Search for a concept or skill that your class needs to review or is struggling with. Results will populate and the Premium lessons will appear first.
- You can click on “Preview” to see all of the slides included in the lesson. You’ll find that the lessons are focused, simple to understand, and get to the heart of the skill or concept.
- Click “Download” and save the lesson to your PC.
- In the sidebar, click the paper icon and choose “Open” to open the new lesson. You are ready to present!
Most of our Premium Lessons include a short, concentrated lesson followed by a set of questions. You can click through the lesson in the Presentation setting as your students view on their devices. When they answer the lesson questions, you can quickly find out how much the students are absorbing.
Periodic Table for Middle School Science starts with a mini-lesson including a graphic of the periodic table and an explanation of how elements are arranged. Various images engage the learner and help them sound down the new information. At any time during the presentation, click the collaboration icon on the feedback indicator to allow students to annotate on the slide and add to the active participation aspect of their learning.
Many of the questions include an explanation to the correct answer, which can help clarify any misunderstandings students may have.
OKTOPUS also enables you to add blank slides to the end of the lesson if you want to continue the discussion. Really, the presentation can stop at the end of the lesson but sometimes our students can surprise us (!) and want to do a little more. Why not?
OKTOPUS Premium Lessons can be used to reinforce commonly tested concepts and skills via whole class discussion, small group review, or individually in self-paced mode. They are available in Science, Language Arts, and Math. So, as you sit and think about what to use so your students feel confident and positive when the dreaded testing window arrives, consider OKTOPUS Premium lessons. They are focused, simple, and can take less than 15 minutes to present. Need convincing? Watch this video: Lessons for Touch Panels and Whiteboards – OKTOPUS Software.
Learn more at www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
Fractions can be the most frustrating concept to teach!
I struggled with making sure my students understood that in order to do anything with fractions (compare, add, subtract, etc), the fractions themselves had to have equal-sized parts. Can’t compare fractions with a fraction bar that is two times larger than another fraction bar, all of the parts are different sizes. Can you say, “CONFUSION?” Even paper folding and using rulers to show equal parts could sometimes lead to more questions (not every child can fold a sheet of paper into eight equal parts, no matter how many times you tell them “Fold hamburger”, or “Fold hot dog”). But, the OKTOPUS Fraction Tool can make equal size parts, and better yet, does it consistently! Students will be able to identify, compare, and calculate with fractions much easier with this learning widget. Doubting its wonders?
Do you want to learn more about this and other subject-specific tools that can help change a frustrating teaching activity into a smooth, focused one? Go to www.qwizdomoktopus.com.
Teachers, you are visionaries of learning in your classrooms.
You work hard to develop lesson plans that will create learning pathways for each of your students, making modifications according to need (i.e. English Language Learners, students with special needs, highly capable students, etc), and ensuring that your students have opportunities to collaborate. You envision that by the end of a strong lesson, or series of lessons (unit), there are positive outcomes for each of your students and the potential for increased progress. By incorporating technology, a strong lesson can become a dynamic one. When that technology is in the form of games, that lesson becomes a dynamic, motivational, and memorable lesson. Learn more about how OKTOPUS Game Zones can be incorporated into your traditional lesson plan using your interactive board.
Essential Parts of a Lesson Plan
Introduce the lesson with a “hook” that will grab hold of the students’ attention. For example, if the lesson focuses on Parts of Speech, play a quick game of “Parts of Speech” where students can sort adjectives and nouns or adverbs and verbs. Students can come to the interactive board as partners and work together, or one student can act as the “sorter” while the class tells where each of the words go.
- Direct Instruction
This is the heart of the lesson where explicit teaching of the concept or skill takes place. For example, if the direct instruction focuses on comparing large numbers close this part with a game of “Comparing” where the greater than and less than symbols are dragged to correctly describe the inequalities. Use the “Think Aloud” method to work through a few of the inequalities, then invite students to complete the others, encouraging them to explain their process as they complete each inequality.
- Guided Practice
Students are expected to practice what they learn, with your assistance. In this part of the lesson, direct students to work with a partner or in small groups as you walk around and observe their collaboration and understanding, providing guidance as needed. For example, to help students through understanding government, have teams work together to play “Branches of Government”. Students will place descriptions in the appropriate boxes for the branch of government, its members, and their responsibilities. You can clarify misunderstandings as students work together.
- Independent Practice
This is the time that your students will show how much and how well they have learned a concept or skill. They will complete activities independently, with limited assistance from you. As a motivator and “sponge” for when students complete independent work, they can start a game focusing on the target skill. For instance, after a student has completed a math workbook page on finding the area of shapes, they can play “Area” and work on their own or with a friend to calculate the areas of different rectangles.
- Whole class wrap-up
Conclude the lesson by briefly summarizing the concept or skill learned and ask students what they have gleaned from the instruction and activities. Encourage them to share what helped them learn the skill. Play a game together to reinforce the learning. To wrap up a lesson on the human skeleton, play “Skeletal” where parts of the skeletal system are identified. Once labels are in their correct places, a new blank diagram is loaded for additional practice. Game Zones has a number of games to support Social Studies, Math, Language Arts, and Science concepts and skills.
- Extension Activities
Extension activities can help students build on the objectives of a lesson or series of lessons (unit). With Game Zones, students can work on one game together or split the screen to play up to four games independently. Touch panels can be set to table top mode so teams or individual students can play games you have chosen. This is a great way to extend four different concepts and skills in one area!
Click here to watch a video for more on Game Zones.
Yes, games can help children learn! Integrated into a traditional lesson plan, games can help create a positive learning experience. Besides the obvious motivation factor, games focused on specific concepts and skills can reinforce what students have learned and provide a scaffold to the next concept or skill. Games can also keep a class focused, providing you with the opportunity to engage the class in a different way. Reflect when you were a student and games were used in the class. Didn’t you look forward to the weekly spelling bee, Heads-up 7-up on rainy days, or board games for indoor recess? Instead of games for only rainy days or as a “special treat”, incorporate gaming into the instructional landscape of your classroom.
Technology can take gaming to another level and Game Zones includes over 90 educational games to engage even the most reticent learner in your class. Try OKTOPUS Game Zones for free in your class, comment on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on how you used a Game Zones game, and you might win a $50 Amazon gift card for that comment!
*Please see Game Zones (Social Media) Comment Terms for rules. Contest runs between February 5, 2019 to February 7, 2019.
OKTOPUS Preschool, Kindergarten Lessons and More
For this month’s blog I wanted to give you some ideas on how you can use Qwizdom OKTOPUS with your Preschool – 4 Grade students. Did you know that there are free activities available online? I will walk you through how to download and edit these premade lessons. I also created a couple of fun, sample lessons for Kindergarten and Preschool students that include songs, counting and reading practice. Last but not least, I created a 4th Grade Math Lesson that lets students practice identifying triangles.
Download Free Lessons and Add Interactive Widgets
There are free Math, Science and Language Arts lessons available online. The majority of activities are geared towards Kindergarten – 5 but some can be used for Preschool, too. To access these lessons, follow the instructions below.
Step 1: Create a free online account.
- Open OKTOPUS, go to the Settings / Login To My Account.
- Click ‘Not Registered.’
- Complete the form, including choice of state, district and school.
- If you have a product key, click Yes and enter your key, if not, click No.
- Agree to terms and click ‘Submit.’
- Click ‘activate account’ link in the verification email.
- Re-open OKTOPUS, go to Settings / Login To My Account. Enter username (email) and password setup in registration.
- Check the ‘Save Credentials box.
Step 2: Search for Lessons
Now that you created an account and are logged in, go to the ‘Lessons’ tab and select the Lessons Search icon.
Type a keyword into the search field. If you would like to refine your search, click on Advanced Search, select
Grade, Subject and then click ‘Go’.
Here are some helpful search terms for free content:
Counting, Alphabet, Greater Than, Ordinal Numbers, Measurement, Patterns, Classifying, Basic Shapes, Calendar, Telling Time, Fractions, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Capitals, Consonants, Vowels, Parts of Speech, Nouns, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Plants, Trees, Seasons, Animals, Temperature, Earth, Electricity and Dinosaurs
There are 2 types of content: Free Content (available to anyone with an OKTOPUS license in the US) and
Premium Content (which requires a Blend subscription).
Use the page numbers to scroll to the free content.
Step 3: Preview and Download Lessons
Click Preview to quickly view all instruction and question slides. Answer slides are not available for preview.
Click ‘Download’ and the activity will be downloaded to your computer. In OKTOPUS, go to the File menu, select Open and
browse to the newly downloaded activity (.qap).
I downloaded an Alphabet lesson and then added some interactive slides to the end of the activity so students can practice their ABCs. Such activities include building words and matching.
Preschool Circle Time Activities
For preschool, you could use OKTOPUS to bring your circle-time songs to life or create simple interactive games. I created a short lesson that includes ‘There Was an Old Lady, 5 Little Monkeys, Frog Counting Game’ and more. Click on the link below to download the activity and add your favorite circle time songs and activities.
Calendar, Attendance, Weather and More
You could use OKTOPUS as a way to start the day. You could have students check in, add dates, report the weather, practice the days of the week and learn about seasons. Here is a lesson that you can download and modify to work with your morning routine.
Here is a fun lesson where students can measure angles and sides of a triangle using a protractor and ruler to identify the triangle.
What types of activities have you created? Do you want to share your work? Email firstname.lastname@example.org your favorite OKTOPUS activity or share it on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget to tag #Qwizdom #QwizdomOKTOPUS. Happy teaching everyone!
We are excited to announce our latest, Windows Oktopus release.
Introducing Game Zones, multi-touch and multi-player games designed for touchscreens. Access over 90 educational games for Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, and Science. Create up to 4 game zones so students can work on different games simultaneously. Teacher Tools support front-of-class teaching. Available for English language only.
A new App Launcher provides quick access to collaboration, Premade Lessons (available depending on geographic location and board provider), Game Zones and Online Learning. Tutorial walkthroughs guide you through each app. Available for English language only.
Traditional Glass Mode is back and now you have an option that supports fast pen usage when a background is applied for 4K Screens. Pen performance in Glass Mode may vary depending on your system specification.
Google classes are automatically imported into Oktopus Blend. Oktopus lessons can be directly posted to your students’ stream. (Blend license is required. Available depending on your geographical location or your OKTOPUS software provider.)
A new truly-4K performance enhanced version of OKTOPUS is now available to download!
We’ve made our pen super-fast, even on 4K displays with limited spec hardware and integrated graphics. This should also make a difference to the pen speed for all our users, no matter what type of display or other hardware they are using.
In order to achieve this, we have unfortunately been required to make a major change to our software surrounding Glass Mode. For more information about how this will affect your OKTOPUS usage, please see the Glass Mode section of our user guide.
However, do not fear, we will be bringing back Glass Mode the way you have been using it with another update in the very near future.
In other really exciting news, OKTOPUS now has brand new interactive activities. Find the link for these in your toolset selector. They support dual and quad screen layout, and each section can run its own activity! And for tabletop users, there is even better news – they can be rotated for up to 4 users around your screen!
Download right now from https://qwizdomoktopus.com/downloads
Thanks again to everyone who has been in touch with us with their latest feedback and requests.
With 4K / UHD flatpanels now being sold over 1080p / FHD flatpanels, we get a lot of users asking us about 4K support. We actually added in native 4K support last year, so when you run OKTOPUS on a 4K flatpanel, it means:
- OKTOPUS runs in native 4K out-of-the-box – no additional config required
- 4K content is fully supported – ie images and video
- The OKTOPUS user interface is perfectly sized – every icon and button looks as it should
- The OKTOPUS canvas (drawing area) is native 4K – you can use every pixel available
- There is no pixelation – everything is sharp
However, there is one sticking point for our 4K users. The current hardware requirements to run OKTOPUS in 4K – which a lot of users simply don’t have – means that a lot of users experience a slow pen. We are committed to fixing this and giving the best 4K performance we can, even with integrated graphics cards such as the entry-level Intel HD520.
In fact, our recent development tests have shown that on a standard OPS module (i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Intel HD520 and a traditional hard drive), OKTOPUS deals with the pen in 4K effortlessly!
We can’t wait to get this new version out the door – keep your eyes peeled!