One of the most rewarding times is when I get the chance to go out and work with students with special needs. While these kids have many of the same needs as the other students in school, there are often other areas where they benefit from added opportunities. Fine motor skills, social & emotional literacy, memory strengthening and inquiry skills are examples of needs that are strengthened and developed alongside many of the core curricular concepts and skills being taught in the classroom.

Finding games that work comes from knowing the individual needs of the students in the class, but there are also some good guidelines for selecting games that will provide successful experiences.

  1. Select Language Independent Games: These games remove any language barriers and allow students to participate in higher level activities related to curricular areas. Finding games that are language independent is not too difficult because many of today’s modern board games are language independent. Dixit is a wonderful example of a game that requires the use of expressive language, analytical skills, empathy and decoding skills while not relying on written language.
  2. Select Games By Skills and NOT Age: Games are fun and GOOD games are engaging regardless of the targeted age. HABA is a German game and toy manufacturer that makes fun and engaging games for young children with a level of quality in their components that is unsurpassed by other manufacturers. They are able to include higher levels of student learning that are easily attainable by even the youngest of students. The level of engagement coupled with the quality of components makes the games appeal to children of all ages (even adults). This allows educators to work on more rudimentary skills without loosing student interest.
  3. Never Underestimate What Is Possible: Despite any challenges they face or special needs they may have, I am continually amazed at how well students rise to meet the expectations of the games I bring. This is not to say that every game experience is a success as each of us have our own personal preferences when it comes to things. But when keeping in mind the first two guidelines, I find that many of my reservations are unnecessary because the game experience and the fun it brings encourages each student to excel and shine.

Positive Game Experiences With Students with Special Needs

Dixit DixitSomething is Wrong

Blokus       Snorta!

Herkules the Ant    Trading Faces

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Funagain Games will be donating all of their net sales on Friday, January 15th towards Haiti relief. If you were thinking of picking up some new games I can not think of a better time to do it than on Friday. Here are the details.

Funagain has continually been a fantastic retailer, accepting purchase orders and offering grants for schools, libraries and community organizations. Bravo Funagain, Bravo!

I am pleased to say that the book is finished and now available for pre-order from the ALA store. To say this was a huge undertaking would be an understatement. I need to thank Christopher for providing the vision to start a game library and for bringing his administrative eye to the things that we do.

Despite some unforeseen obstacles, I am proud of what we put together. It combines my work with game alignment and collection development with Christopher’s administrative approach to introducing and getting new ideas going. The outcome is an excellent tool that advocates for the value of gaming and provides some excellent concrete examples of where to start.

We will be debuting the book during our pre-conference at AASL 2009. We will have coupons for a small discount off of the price and would be more than happy to talk and share ideas and our successes with anyone interested.

It has been an eventful road to get here, but one I would gladly take again.

Fast and furious, fun and frantic and just silly to boot. I give unto thee a plethora of games for the simple pleasure of group fun and social bonding. WARNING: Some of these games may not directly promote higher level thinking! Be forewarned that madcap rumpusing may ensue!

Dancing Eggs by HABA is, as you see, an egg carton filled with 2 die and 10 eggs. The goal of the game is to collect as many eggs as possible. How do we collect said eggs? By rolling the red die which has a series of tasks associated with the faces. You may have to be the first to run around the table, to cluck like a chicken, to snatch the die, or to catch one of the rubber eggs as it is bounced off of the table.

Enter die #2, the dreaded WHITE die. This is the die that you roll after you win an egg that tells you WHERE you need to keep that egg for the remainder of the game. SOOOOOO, you may need to prop that egg under your chin, in the crook of your elbow, or between your knees. Now imagine running around the table with an egg under your neck, your armpit and between your knees. Not so easy!

The game continues until one person drops an egg, at which point all of the players add up the eggs that they managed to keep. The rubber eggs are worth 1 point, while the wooden egg (which is much more difficult to keep a hold of) is worth two. Fast! Frantic! Fun, Fun, Fun!

Say Anything by North Star Games LLC is a clever twist on the standard party question game. In the game, players take turns asking questions that can be fairly open to interpretation. If you are playing with students, scan the cards for the few that are definite no-no’s and remove them before play. After the question is asked, each of the other players writes their answers down on a dry erase board and place them out for everyone to see.

<yawn> Boring, right? Hold it now…. hit it! The person who asked the question now selects their favorite answer from those written by the other players. Once the secret selecting has been done, then each of the players place two tokens on the answers they think that the questioner may have chosen. This may be their own answer or another player’s. They can split their chips or place them both on one answer. Say Anything has players crafting answers based on the person asking the questions and reflecting again once all of the answers are played out. It is a wonderful way for students to put themselves in the perspective of their peers. They often will be pleasantly surprised at what they learn about the people they are around each and every day.

Castle Knights: Together we are Strong is a great dexterity game by HABA for the kiddies, though I am a tower building junkie I admit. Up to four players can take part as they take an end of an elastic strap that, when pulled tight, expands a central elastic square. Racing against the clock, students need to work together through communication and coordination to erect three towers before the king arrives at the castle.

In typical HABA fashion, the components are top notch. Each of the tower pieces are big and chunky pieces of wood in varying shapes and sizes and the game box serves as the castle grounds. Students young and old, love the pressure as they struggle to gather the pieces, secure, move and balance them one atop another in the race to build the towers. Communication is a must in this game as students need to work together to orient themselves so they can master these feats of dexterity.

Not every gaming experience need to tie so strongly to the curriculum. Our students need time to interact and relate with each other in ways that will help them develop bonds and grow as individuals, finding their place within the social strata of school. Games create a community of play that sets its own guidelines for interaction that often supersede the chosen divisions of cliches and niches inherent in youth. For those brief moments, students are simply in the moment… working together. A skill we could stand to hold onto well into adulthood.

If you have not had a chance to take a look at Games for Educators, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes. They are a great resource for information and ideas regarding using games as educational resources. With a growing forum and a great podcast featuring Giles Pritchard and Tom Vasel.

Currently, they are running a contest looking for stories where games are used in education. The winner, to be chosen on May 1st, will receive $100 worth of board games from Out of the Box Games. The prize package includes:

ZenBenders
Backseat Drawing
Rock
10 Days in USA
10 Days in Europe
My Word

If you have a story to share, take some time and share your success with your peers… who knows!

Picking a game resource for your school library is not an easy task. There are several factors to consider when deciding if a game is right for your library.

  • Is it an authentic games?
  • Does it tie in with the curriculum?
  • How will the game will work with your school’s time schedule?

Another important, and often overlooked, consideration is a game’s Return on Investment. How much do you need to invest introducing, setting up and teaching the game to your students and what return are they going to get from their gaming experience?

Board games can provide a variety of direct educational benefits for students. From enriching curricular units on ancient civilizations or American history, to reinforcing content specific skills such as division with remainders or concepts like the idea of diminishing returns. Games enrich the learning experience. Unfortunately, the return on some games are not worth the time needed to guide the students through a successful gaming experience. (more…)

This has been a labor of love, but I am so glad to have this finished and ready to share at ALA next week. I will have the finalized hard copies on hand at the open gaming night and MIG events. After ALA, the document will be available for download from the Genesee Valley BOCES School Library System Gaming website.

Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society

3.1 Skills:

  • 3.1.1 & 3.1.2 Games are participatory pastimes that encourage learning communities through the sharing of concepts and strategies, collaboration amongst players and reflection on personal performance.

3.2 Dispositions in Action:

  • 3.2.1 Play is powerful. It removes social barriers and provides a level of comfort that allows students to develop leadership skills and the confidence to present ideas to others. (more…)