Learning Fun With UNO Cards

By now, you probably know how much I like using games for learning! Especially now, when kids are home with parents or caregivers, time spent playing a simple game of UNO together can be lots of fun, but why not take that same deck of UNO cards and use it to help those same kiddos work on sorting skills, math facts, and memory? Even those kids, for whom a game of UNO is too long, requires too much sitting still, or too much patience, can enjoy these activities.

Here are three different ways to use those UNO cards:

Color Sort or Number Sort

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Have kiddos sort by colors or numbers. Give them a limited stack of cards or the whole deck and have them order them numerically or by color.  (Make sure they can name the colors, as well.) Some kids will prefer a neat and tidy deck of cards to use for sorting, turning each card, one at a time.  Other kids might like to spread them all out on the floor and search for the cards, placing them in order in their unique way. Either way is fine!

Practicing Math Facts

Use Post-It notes (or 3×5 note cards or torn up pieces of paper) to show the math symbols (+, -, =)  and have kids practice their math facts.  You can sit with them as they do this, or you can have them write each fact down on a piece of paper (or even snap a pic and text it to you).  You could also give them a series of problems to work on and they can lay them out on the table or floor as they work them out.  Don’t limit yourself to two digit problems either! Take advantage of the floor space and really spread out!   Kids can use multiple cards to show the final answer (for example, using a 1 card, a 3 card and a 2 cards to show the answer as 132.)

Play Memory

When my sons were younger, I made all kinds of Memory games for them! UNO cards are one of the simplest ways to use something you already have in a fun, new way.  You will have to organize pairs of matching cards beforehand, but if you’ve already had them sort the cards, you’re half-way there! HA! Take turns turning over two cards at a time. If they match, that player gets to keep that matched pair. If they do not match, the player turns the cards back over and the next player tries to remember where the matching pairs are located.  While this game can be played alone, it is more fun played with someone else! Try it! It’s harder than you may remember!

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I hope you find these options to be simple and effective! While it may be tempting to have your kids (no matter the age) sit at the table to do these things, I encourage you to let them sit or lay on the ground to play these games. By doing so, their bodies may be more relaxed and they may be able to focus easier because they are more comfortable.  Also, the gentle joint compression we experience when we are on our knees and hands (like when we are putting together a floor-sized puzzle) can alleviate stress throughout the body and ease anxiety or hyperactivity.

Don’t own a deck of UNO cards yet?  Find them on Amazon HERE.  Target currently has UNO for $5.99, so you might want to check them out first. Click HERE for Target’s listing.

 

School’s closed?! Now what?

If, like me, you recently found out that your child’s school will not be returning to normal programming after spring break, you are in good company! You might also be panicking a little. Am I right?

There is really no need for panic! We’ve got you covered on this! As a middle school/high school teacher and homeschooling parent with over 20 years of experience adapting lessons and maximizing each day, no matter the circumstance, THIS is right up my alley!

Today, Wholeheartedlearning.com will introduce a new tab: Home-based Learning. Under this tab, I will share daily links, printables, activities and lessons to help kids of all ages keep learning when they can not be in the classroom. Want to know the best part? The things I share will need little to no preparation by parents or caregivers, use only items you probably already have at home, and won’t require you to teach! How great is that?!? Teaching is my passion, but it doesn’t have to be yours! All of my lessons will have guidance, but will not require you to have any special knowledge, know any magical learning techniques, or know the secret teaching code. All you will need to do is provide a little supervision for younger kids and maybe help little hands. How easy is that?

Life can change rapidly! Thankfully, you are not alone, and we will find learning opportunities, joy-filled moment and lots to be curious and excited about TOGETHER!

 

 

 

Great Games to Enhance Learning

The rainy days of spring are upon us and summer vacation will soon be peeking around the corner.  As a parent, I was always looking for ways to keep my boys off their screens, if only for a while.  Board and card games can be a great way to encourage family connections, improve social skills and even support areas where kiddos may struggle in the classroom.  Let me show you what I mean!

Take the game Apples to Apples, for example. This fun word association game is a favorite with upper elementary and middle schoolers! Not only is this game great for supporting social skills, it also encourages planning, reasoning, and creative thinking.  Because kids don’t have to wait to submit their answers, kids who struggle waiting their turn to play traditional games can still be included and those kids who think outside of the box may find that kind of creative thinking is rewarded in a game like Apples to Apples. 

Did you know that taking turns is a foundational skill for conversation and communication? Often, kids on the Autism Spectrum struggle with taking turns during play and researchers believe that this may also inhibit their ability to have conversations with peers and adults.  Games for younger ages that encourage turn taking (along with other skills) include Monkey Around, by Peacable Kingdom, or Zingo, by Thinkfun. Traditional Board games like Candy Land and Hi Ho Cherry-O also reinforce turn-taking, along with color recognition and counting.

Below is a chart of some of our favorite games cross-referenced with cognitive skills they encourage.

Do you have a favorite game you like to play at home or in the classroom? Please share it in the comments!

 ReasoningMemoryNumber conceptsQuick thinkingProblem SolvingMotor SkillsSequencingVisual ProcessingCause and Effect
Acorn Soup  X  XX  
Apples to ApplesX   X    
BattleshipXX  X    
BanagramsX   X XX 
Blink XXX X X 
Bop-ItX XX X   
Candy Land       XX
Chutes and LaddersX X     X
Connect 4X XXXXX  
FluxXX XX X X
Jenga    XX XX
Last LetterXX XX XX 
Mad GabXX XX    
Oh Snap    XX  X
Perfection XXXXXXXX
Rat -a-tat CatXX XX  X 
ScrabbleX   X X  
SequenceXX  X XX 
Simon XXX XXX 
SlamwichXXXX  XXX
SlapjackXXXX  XX 
Skip-Bo  X   XX 
Snug As a Bug In a RugXXX  XXXX
Spot It X     X 
SuspendX   XX XX
What’s Gnu    X XX 

Toggling: How This Old-School Process Can Help Struggling Learners Today

By definition, to “toggle” is to join one thing to another, or (in its verb form) to move from one thing to another. As education continues to draw on the wisdom of brain development and neuroscience, the process of “toggling” is on the cusp of becoming the new buzzword, the hot new technique in education. The irony lies in the fact that parents, educators, and families have been doing this for generations! Toggling, as it is used in neurodevelopment, applies to the process of moving from one concrete educational activity to one that reinforces the same general principle, but in a less formal manner. For example, students can memorize the names of the continents, but rote memorization does little to actually increase knowledge or create a scaffold upon which to build more complex understanding of geography. Toggling, in this situation, might be to have students use a puzzle of the world to reinforce the skill of identifying the continents. Another example might be to have students color maps of the continents or read/listen to a story about a character who travels the world, jumping from continent to continent.

If this sounds a lot like the kindergarten/early elementary classrooms you remember as a child, you’d be right! The shift toward more qualitative educational strategies has pushed many of these supplemental activities off the table, but for many students, these activities are the gateway to learning!

How does toggling work? Toggling allows learning to occur in a passive manner. Put another way, toggling is when learning takes place “in the background.” That explanation might make toggling seem like a quaint and novel concept, but here’s the thing about toggling: it is essential to learning!

Memory (and learning) is constructed from neural pathways that are non-linear, but that fire together in the brain as patterns. Neuroscientists call these “base patterns.” We link ideas and memories together in an infinite number of combinations, and these combinations are constantly being modified and enhanced through sensory stimuli. Scientists have long known that to increase a memory or skill, one should attach it to as many senses as possible, in large part because the brain patterning is enhanced each time new stimuli from the brain correlates with that same memory or skill. To say it plainly, the more ways we can engage students in learning, using multiple senses, environments, and experiences, the more likely they are to remember it and be able to apply it later. More importantly, toggling allows for the brain to “work around” difficulties like dyslexia or hyperactivity or even personal preconceptions about what students are “good at.” These kinds of barriers can be side-stepped when we employ toggling to reconnect learners to information!

How can you use toggling to help your learner? Go outside and play catch or ride bikes while talking about concepts from school that day. Ask your son or daughter to help you roll out cookie dough and talk about his or her spelling words, science topic or history facts. If you homeschool, toggling can look the same way as I just described or you can employ any of the ideas above. Take a day off from textbook learning to play a math-based board game! Build cities from ancient history out of LEGOs while listening to an audiobook on the same topic! Curricula like “The Story Of The World” and Writing With Ease offer lots of ways for students to practice “learning in the background.” The key to toggling is to downshift learning from the structure of concrete instruction. Allow kids to play more, interact with as many sensory experiences as possible, and use their imaginations!