Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Puzzle Fun and Learning (along with some freebies!)

Join me in welcoming Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources for an informative post on the many educational uses of puzzles! 
Hello everyone,  I am Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources and I am so honored to be here at Ms. Miner’s Monkey Business today!
One of my students’ favorite things to do at centers is to “play” puzzles.  It’s funny to me that they associate puzzles with play time, because I associate them with double the learning!  The majority of the puzzles my students do have a content connection, so they are placed in centers to supplement our reading, writing, math, science or social studies standards.  However, I also put them at centers because puzzles are so great for critical thinking skills!  Normally, I allow students to work “two to a puzzle”, and so they also have time to work on those social skills that help them work together and tackle a problem with a partner.  It’s always great for me when they realize that each was looking at the problem from a different angle, but they were able to work together to get the puzzle completed.  Here are some of the types of puzzles I use in my classroom – maybe some of them would work in your classroom too:
1.) Plain ‘Ol Jigsaw Puzzles – I stocked up on dollar store jigsaw puzzles a long time ago, and they are just great centers!  I look for pictures that associate with the topics we are learning, so there are lots of different types of animal puzzles for our science unit, and map puzzles for social studies.  I have also used them as story starters – I deliberately pick easy puzzles, let the students put them together quickly, and then they can write a story to go with the puzzle “illustration”.
2.) Self Correcting Puzzles – I make self correcting puzzles for so many different topics, that I literally have buckets full of them!  My students favorites are the word family puzzles, because it gives them a chance to do puzzles during our reading center rotation.  Students match the word to a picture of the word – it’s great for my English Language Learners too, who are still learning the meaning of so many of these English words.  Here’s a link to the ACK word family self correcting puzzle, it’s FREE in my TPT store.  Also, here are 4 other self correcting puzzles you can grab for FREE at my TPT store:

3.) 9 Square Puzzles – I’m sure there’s a better name for these puzzles, but I always call them 9 squares, because there are 9 squares that must fit together to make one large square.  Like my jigsaws, I have these in tons of different designs.  My student’s favorites have money from around the world on them – which was great for our Bank/Money unit!
4.)  Computer Puzzles – There are so many great websites that include puzzles for students to do – including www.jigzone.com and http://www.abcya.com/tangrams.htm.  My math computer center almost always has a puzzle or a critical thinking activity at it that connects with our math standard in some way.
5.) Let the Kids Make the Puzzle – Sometimes, I just let the kids make the puzzle.  I use this sheet that the kids can draw on, cut apart and then have a friend put back together.  I will generally ask students to draw a picture about whatever we are studying in science or social studies – or sometimes about a book we just read.  Then they make their puzzle, put it in a baggie and we leave it at the puzzle center for their friends to work on.  Grab a free copy of the puzzle sheet from Google Docs.
I hope some of these suggestions will help you let your students “play” puzzles more often.  Please feel free to stop by and see me at Raki’s Rad Resources for more ideas.

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