Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pass the Puzzle Please

I was sick and tired of watching the kiddos sit and stare at the box on the wall. Doing nothing with their minds but evolving square eyes! So today in the lull of the afternoon when normally I cave in and let the "boob tube" be turned on to captivate my 3 children into quiet couch potatoes,
I said no to the T.V.....period...end of discussion. I offered nothing in place but let them figure out what they would do with themselves until dinner. To my pleasant surprise, they did something that piqued my interest and brought joy to my heart! They found books and puzzles! I had so much fun watching them entertain their minds by building puzzles. I was reminded how much learning occurs in good old fashioned "play" time.
  My 4 year old spend nearly 30 minutes putting together a number puzzle and close to an hour building tangram pictures! That's right, my wiggly, giggly, high energy, 4 year old!
 My 7 year old put together multiple puzzles ranging from an ocean scene, the solar system, to a large floor map of the United States! The discussion and questions that came up were like music to a teacher's ears! This brought me back to fully backing the power of puzzles in the classroom. Even puzzles that you think may be a bit young can be upcycled and repurposed. For example, Flip over the easy cardboard picture puzzles and write sight words to match or even rhyme. The picture allows for and very classroom appropriate. I have even used primary opposites puzzles to review for STARR! On the back of matching pairs I would cut up test questions and answers and use packing tape to secure. In small groups students would match questions with their proper solutions and self check using the picture puzzle side. Reviewing and teaching vocabulary is a fun way to reuse old puzzles as well.

Watching my daughter review her shapes and colors by creating a tangram puzzle picture got my mind thinking about how could I make this more difficult?! Then it hit me, create the puzzle and then graph it! Why not have kiddos graph how many of each shape they used? They could then use their journals to write about their graph. What a terrific way to bring vocabulary review into a "tang"ible, hands-on experience. Then, teachers could save a couple tangram pictures and graphs and ask students to explain which graph went with which picture and how they knew! What a wonderful way to build problem solving vocabulary and cognitive process in a meaningful and motivating environment.

So my point being, puzzles offer an endless sea of possibilities! More puzzlemania ideas?! Do share!