The Advantages of Puzzles

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When I hear the word ‘puzzle’ I immediately think of a picture in pieces that needs putting back together. Then I think about logic puzzles, word problems, tangrams….there are lots of different puzzle types I have used with students in the classroom and many I enjoy doing myself. According to Wikipedia, ‘A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person’s ingenuity or knowledge.’

Traditional wooden puzzles are a common sight in most homes with small children and for good reason; they are a great toy to engage young children in play. There are many, MANY more advantages to puzzles and, many different types of puzzles that are equally as engaging as those first wooden ones. Here are a few (all listed puzzle types are clickable links):

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.
Different puzzle types

To see more great examples, head over to the Flying Sprout Pinterest page.

The Advantages of Puzzles

Some puzzles are great fun, others can be immensely frustrating but they all have their benefits. Here are a few:

Satisfaction of achievement

Completing a task is satisfying and often, the more challenging the task, the greater the feeling of achievement once it is completed. This sense of satisfaction is a great way for children to build an understanding that hard work pays off and brings its own reward.

Patience and persistence

Persisting and having patience when faced with a challenge is not always easy but, as mentioned above, it brings great satisfaction when approaching tasks with a level head and having success.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Problem solving strategies

Different puzzles require different approaches in order to solve them. When completing maths, word and logic problems at school children are often encouraged to think carefully about the right strategy to use. These include acting out the problem, drawing a picture, writing a list, looking for a pattern, simplifying the problem, creating a table, working backwards, guess and checking, writing a number sentence or using and using objects.

Hand eye coordination and fine motor skills

Physical puzzles are a great way for children to practise their hand eye coordination and develop those all important fine motor skills.

Fun and rewarding

Puzzles can be used to reinforce learning or they can be used as a fun, rewarding activity. Great satisfaction comes from completing puzzles and this is lots of fun.

Building dept of knowledge on a subject

Whether learning new skills, practising, revising or consolidating understandings, there is a place for puzzles.

Quiet concentration

Some children are naturally quiet, while others take a little more encouragement. Puzzles give all children an opportunity to work with quiet concentration, either on their own or cooperatively with others, to complete tasks.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Goal setting

Setting and achieving small goals is rewarding and reinforces the idea that, with hard work and focus, you can achieve your larger goals.

Self correction

Many puzzles are, particularly physical ones, are self correcting. They are either right or they aren’t, so children can work out immediately if they have solved the puzzle.

Skill development

Many puzzles encourage the use of skills that children aren’t necessarily using everyday, skills that are very important such as critical thinking, logical thinking and spatial reasoning.

 

If you have a few spare minutes and enjoy a challenge, have a go at this collection of puzzles.

For more like this, head over to: https://www.puzzles-to-print.com/rebus-puzzles/rebus-puzzles-page-1.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php

Learning is Fun with M&M’s and Skittles

Skittles and M&Ms are a fantastic learning resources! Not only are they extremely motivating (who doesn’t want to eat a handful of lollies!?) they can help your child learn maths, English and science concepts.

With the end of school, parties and Christmas fast approaching, lollies will be in abundance. Before you think of stashing some away when your kids aren’t looking, consider this; Skittles and M&Ms are a fantastic learning resources! Not only are they extremely motivating (who doesn’t want to eat a handful of lollies!?) they can help your child learn maths, English and science concepts.

M&M Skittles Maths Learning FunA single mini bag of M&Ms or Skittles (the ones you buy as a multi pack) can provide loads of activity options for the little ones. You won’t need much else either, maybe just a piece of paper and some coloured pencils or textas!

Listed below is an activity to suit any of your kids aged 2-12 year olds so add a multi pack of Skittles or M&Ms to your shopping list now, then read on!

 

Predicting – Before opening the packet ask your child to predict how many lollies will be inside and what colours they will be.

You might ask: Why did you choose that amount/those colours? After opening it; were you right? Were you close? Why or why not?

toddler maths lollies

Colour Sorting – Sort the lollies according to colour.

You might ask: What colours do you have in the packet? What are some colours you don’t have? Which colour do you have the most of? Which do you have the least of?

 

Patterns – Lay out a pattern and ask your child to fill in the next few colours or fill in the missing lolly in a pattern. Alternatively, they might like to create their own pattern.

You might ask: How did you know that was the answer? Can you think of any different colours that would also be correct?

 

Counting – Ask your child to count the total number of lollies in the pack.

You might ask: If you had one more lolly, how many would you have? What if you had 2 more? 10 more? 3 less? etc

 

Graphing – Line the lollies up to create a graph. Have your child draw an outline around the lollies using the right coloured pencil/texta. Depending on your child’s skill level you might like them to rule up a proper bar graph, line graph, create a pie graph, label the graph correctly or even create a graph in Excel

You might ask: Which colour are there the most of? Which colour has the least? Which colour are there only 2 of? How many more yellow are there than green?

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Creating sums – Ask your child to create some sums (addition and subtraction is great to start with.) Depending on the number of lollies in their packet, your child may also be able to create some division or multiplication equations.

You might ask: If you added all the blue and yellow lollies together how many would there be? If you took all the green ones out of the packet, how many would be left? If you ate 3 of the red ones, how many would be left for me to eat?

 

Probability – The probability of an event occurring can be described in words (impossible, likely, certain) or with values (1/2, 20%, 3/15). Ask your child to describe the likelihood of particular colours being pulled out off the packet.

You might ask: If all the lollies were to be put back in the packet and I pulled one out randomly, what colour is it most likely to be? What is the chance of me pulling out a yellow lolly? Which colour is it impossible for me to select? Which colour has a 1 in 4 chance of being selected? There is a 20% chance orange will be selected, true or false?

 

Fractions – Calculate the fraction of each colour as part of the whole packet.

You might ask: What fraction of the packet is yellow? Can you simplify any of the fractions? What are some equivalent fractions for the red lollies?

 

Percentage – Ask your child to calculate the percentage of each colour as part of the whole packet of lollies.

You might ask: What percentage of the packet is green? If you ate all the red, green and yellow lollies what percentage of the lollies will be left?

 

Adjectives – Have your child randomly select a lolly with their eyes closed. Ask them to describe the smell, the taste and texture in as much detail as possible before guessing which colour it is. Encourage them to use all 5 senses and create a list of adjectives for each colour/flavour.

You might ask: Can you describe the lolly so that someone else would be able to picture it without seeing it? Can you explain the difference in colours without using the exact colour words?

m&m activities for kids

Tell a story – Ask your child to make up a story from a lolly’s point of view, encourage them to consider what the lolly would be experiencing.

You might ask: What is the structure of a good story (narrative)? What is the problem in your story? How will it be resolved? Who are the characters? What is the lolly thinking/feeling/seeing/hearing?

 

Experiment – Process: Place the lollies around the rim of a white bowl or plate. Slowly add water to the centre of the bowl until it reaches the lollies. Observe what happens.

Before adding water, encourage your child to make predictions about what will happen. After adding water have them look closely and make verbal observations about what they notice. For more detail on the experiment click here.

You might ask: What do you think will happen? Why? During the experiment- What can you see? Why do you think this is happening? After the experiment– Did it happen as you expected? Can you think of other situations where the same thing happens? Would you like to try the experiment with next?

 

Many of these activities can be done with any selection of coloured items such as coloured popcorn, jelly beans, gummy bears, Smarties or Fruit Loops. The items certainly don’t need to be edible for your child to work through the maths activities. Beads, sequins, pop poms or coloured craft sticks are great alternatives.

 

Learning is lots of fun when it is relaxed and especially when it is based around food! This Silly Season, consider buying some colourful lollies for your child to use as a learning tool.

50+ Activities to Make Spelling Fun

Make learning fun with this huge collection of spelling activities. Your child can clap, whisper, bake, sing and stomp their way to spelling success. Learning to spell and practising spelling words has not traditionally been a fun task. It’s time that changed!

Make learning fun with this huge collection of spelling activities. Your child can clap, whisper, bake, sing and stomp their way to spelling success. Learning to spell and practising spelling words has not traditionally been a fun task. It’s time that changed! Let’s move away from rote learning, chanting and testing and learn to spell by using Morse code, creating word searches and writing in shaving foam!

Help your child choose activities to suit their personality; do they like using the computer, singing or food? With more than 50 suggestions of fun ways to practise spelling words, there is sure to be an activity to suit them!

letters on a line

Active

  • Bouncing ball – Spell out the words while bouncing a ball.
  • Clapping – Spell out the words while clapping your hands.
  • Hop – Spell out the words while hopping.
  • Stand and sit – Spell out the words, standing up when a consonant appears and sitting down for each vowel.
  • Stomp – Say each word while stomping your feet.
  • Shake it – Spell your list, shaking your head when a consonant appears and clapping for each vowel.
  • Air writing – Use your fingers to write each word in the air as you spell it out.
  • Sign your words – Use sign language to sign your words!
  • Finger tracing – Use your finger to spell out each of your words one letter at a time on your Mom or Dad’s back. Swap over so you get to feel the words spelt on your back.
  • Other handed – If you are right-handed, write with your left, or vice versa.
  • Body letters – Spell your words by forming each letter with your whole body.
Yoga body letters
Image courtesy of Freepik

Computer

  • Type your words – Type all of your spelling words on the computer or on a typewriter.
  • Spread sheet – Use Excel to type your words into separate cells. Then make each cell a different font, colour, and size. Finally, let the computer sort them into alphabetical order!
  • Type your words in Word Art – Type your words into the computer using your favourite colours and fonts.
  • Online games – Visit Spelling City, type in your list of words and play games using your words.
  • Building words – Use buildings, shaped like letters, from around the world to type your words.
  • Word search – Create an online word search with all of your words, print it out then find them all!

Creative

  • Paint – Paint your words on a big piece of paper then hang them on an easel or wall.
  • Etch-A-Word – Use an Etch-A-Sketch to write your words.
  • Picture words – Draw a picture and write your words in the picture.

alphabet-1223623_1920

Tactile

  • Delicious words – Write your words in whipped cream, icing or anything else you can eat!
  • Clean words -Write your words in shaving cream on a counter or other surface that can be cleaned easily.
  • Dirty words – Write your words in mud or sand.
  • Moulded words – Use clay, plasticine or play dough to spell your words.
  • Pasta words – Write your words by arranging alphabet pasta.
  • Bake – Make, bake and eat your words using cookie cutters to shape the letters.
  • Chalk – Write your words on a concrete surface using chalk.
  • Pipe cleaners – Use pipe cleaners to create each letter of your spelling words.
  • Lego – Build Lego letters to spell the words from your list.

lego letter

Mathematical

  • Telephone Words – Translate your words into numbers from a telephone keypad.
  • Morse Code – Convert your words to Morse code.

Searching

  • Favourite books – Search for the words in your favourite books.
  • Scrabble – Use Scrabble tiles or magnetic letters to spell your words.
  • Ransom words – Write your words by cutting out letters in a newspaper or magazine and glue them on a paper.
  • Magazine words – Use an old magazine or newspaper to find each of your spelling words. Cut them out and glue them on a piece of paper.
  • Define – Use a dictionary to find the definition of your spelling words.

Writing

  • Trace around – Neatly write out one of spelling words. Take a coloured pen and draw an outline around the word, closely following the shapes of the letters.
  • ABC Order – Write your words in alphabetical order. Then write them in reverse alphabetical order.
  • Story writing – Write a story using ALL of your spelling words.
  • Single sentences – Write a sentence for each spelling word.
  • Black/White boards – Use chalkboards or write and wipe boards to write your words on.
  • Colourful words – Use two different colour pencils to write your spelling words. Use one colour to write the consonants and the other for the vowels.
  • Backwards words – Write your words normally, then backwards.
chalk spelling
Image courtesy of Freepik

Breaking Down Words

  • Vowels – How many vowels in each word?
  • Syllables – How many syllables in each word?
  • Phonemes – How many phonemes in each word?
  • Consonants – How many consonants in each word?
  • Swat words – Write out your spelling words in big letters on a big sheet of paper. Give your parents clues “The first letter is _ and the last letter is _.” See if they can “swat it” with a fly swatter!
  • Words without vowels – Write your words replacing all vowels with a line.
  • Words without consonants – Write your words replacing all consonants with a line.
  • Pyramid words – Write your words adding or subtracting one letter at a time. The result will be a pyramid shape of words.
  • Words-in-words – Write one spelling word at a time then write as many words as you can using the letters of your original word.
A letter matching activity from Flying Sprout's Grape Busy Bag.
A letter matching activity from Flying Sprout’s Grape Busy Bag.

Musical/verbal

  • Sing – Sing your spelling words to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Whisper – Spell the word aloud, whispering each vowel.
  • Sing Them Loud, Sing Them Soft – Have your Mom or Dad sing the letters of a spelling word to you in a loud voice. You echo the spelling and then sing it again softly. Then both of you sing the word in the voice you choose!
  • Song writing – Make up a fun song to teach the spelling of a word.
  • Cheer your words – Pretend you are a cheerleader and call out your words.
  • Sound Words – Use a recording device to record your words and their spelling. Play back your recording, checking to see that you spelled all the words correctly.
Photo courtesy of Freepik
Photo courtesy of Freepik

The Satisfaction of Achievement

We all know the sense of relief and deep satisfaction that comes once a large piece of work is completed or the joy and sense of achievement when a student conquers a challenging task. As teachers we are lucky to experience small wins everyday.

Pause for a moment though, and think about your students. Do they experience the same satisfaction of achieving something everyday? Particularly the struggler who doesn’t enjoy school or who hasn’t yet mastered the basics when the rest of the class is moving on to an extension task.

Intrinsic motivation is a powerful force. Most students display some degree of intrinsic motivation which makes it easier for them to achieve and experience the satisfaction that accompanies it. However, other students may lack the internal motivation driving them to learn. These are the students who are most likely to be missing out on experiencing regular satisfaction from their learning.

We all know how important it is to recognise students for displaying effort and completing good work. But being recognised for a job well done should not be confused with the personal satisfaction that comes with completing a challenging task.

A small win each day for the struggling student will lead to increased confidence, which, over time leads to better results and hopefully an improvement in their ability to intrinsically motivate.

At the core of our role as teachers, we are trying to empower students through education. Every day remember to give every student the opportunity to feel empowered through achievement.