Articles Tagged with: Workshop

First Day of School: Ideas & Activities

The first day of school can be scary…for both students and teachers! You meet new people, assess which classes might cause trouble or might be easy to manage, and get used to waking up early again. So, how can teachers make the first day of school clear and manageable for both themselves and their students? 

Learn Names

first day of school learning

For younger students, seating plans definitely help with learning names. Choose an order that works for name memorization at the beginning, then switch up the seats as problems arise or just as the year continues. Alphabetical by either first or last name can be a huge help when trying to remember. When calling attendance, make sure to look up and notice the student that answers after each name. 

For older students, you may choose to have a seating plan as suggested for younger students, but it can be good to let them have a bit more freedom within the classroom. If you choose to forgo seating plans, consider letting the students make their own nametags for the first few weeks of school.

Spend some time letting the students decorate their nametag. As long as the name is legible, their decorations may also help you learn about each student’s personality. Letting them personalize it also gives them a sense of ownership over it. They can leave it in the classroom at the end of the period and pick it up when they return. 

Whatever you teach, learning student names is essential. Student surveys have indicated that knowing an instructor knows them is very important. Additionally, studies have shown that knowing names increases community, accountability, and trust.

Get to Know Each Other

first day of school icebreakers

Break the ice! Not only can ice breakers help you learn names from the first day of school, it also lets members of your class get to know each other. Ice breakers can also help you recognize personality types among your students, allowing you to get a basic understanding of how to treat each of them to facilitate their learning.

For younger kids, it may help to get their nervous energy out through an ice breaker that involves physical activity. Here’s a list of ice breakers that involve some moving around on the part of the students.

For older students, particularly ones who have begun having many teachers, try to come up with something unique! They’ve probably spent all day playing classics like Two Truths and a Lie. Check out these two lists for some ideas that can serve as bouncing off points for discussion.

Lay Out the Rules

first day of school rules

It seems like this would be the most boring part, but it’s also important. Students who know expectations from the beginning won’t violate them accidentally. Making sure there’s a clear place where rules are laid out can be helpful for those who need reminders.

For older classrooms, particularly in discussion-heavy classrooms, have your students express their expectations. How do they want a discussion to be run in the classroom? If a student feels comfortable within rules, they may share their opinion more often. Consider taking some time to discuss a code of conduct for the classroom that works for everyone. If they need a jumping off point, here’s a list of basic rules.

Game Based Learning

While Excavate! might not be the ideal way to start the school year (although, why not?), now is the best time to buy the series. Using the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, get 30% off on all the Excavate! games in our online store. These can be used on Chromebooks or other school issued laptops to teach critical thinking, analysis skills, and facts about six unique ancient civilizations. Dig into the series today!


Summer Advice for Teachers!

One of the perks of being a K-12 teacher is that long break over the summer! But it can also be a lot to handle at the same time. Not sure what to do with yourself over the summer? We’ve got some advice for teachers on what to do in terms of professional development and having fun over the break. 

Get Reading

Summer advice for teachers 1: get reading

Summer is the best time for reading, whether at home, at the beach, or anywhere else. Also, reading is one of the easiest ways to keep learning over the summer whether you’re reading about new educational strategies or just curling up with a good novel. Summer learning is as important for teachers as it is for students! Maybe you picked up a book already, but the internet offers tons of teacher suggestions if you haven’t. 

While it’s an older list, Teach for America suggests several books from classroom management tips (Like See Me After Class and Real Talk for Real Teachers) to simple beach reads. The Washington Post also offers a list based on teacher recommendations for books in many different categories. However, if you want to grab a few newer titles, join Education Closet’s 2018 summer reading challenge for teachers. They list a good variety of genres from the fictional drama of Little Fires Everywhere to the step-by-step guides of The Design Thinking Playbook.

Your reading doesn’t have to just come from books either. Educational blogs feature new ideas and research on a regular basis. Some of our personal favorites include Edutopia, Mindshift, and, of course, our own blog right here!

Learn from Others

Teacher advice for the summer 2: learn from others at conferences and workshops

Summer is full of small workshops and conferences with educational organizations and thought leaders in the community, both in-person and online. For instance, PBS TeacherLine hosts a lot of workshops for teachers at all grade-levels. Some have the added benefit of being self-paced, meaning you can break up your learning across the summer as it works for you.

Going out to learn from others can be as simple as a trip to a museum! Find an interesting museum in your area and make a day of it. This directory should be helpful when it comes to finding something interesting that’s within a reasonable distance.

Dig-It! attended the Games for Change Festival back in June and will be attending the Serious Play Conference. Come see us at the latter conference if you happen to be in the area!

Take a Break

Teacher advice 3- make sure to relax during the summer break

After a long school year, you’ve earned it! Make sure to take a few days to spend time with family or enjoy some precious alone time. Plan a vacation or a staycation, if you’d rather stay at home. Try cooking more or exploring nearby cities. Summer gives you plenty of time to plan and do whatever you want. Take advantage of it!

If you happen to be a gamer, make sure to check out our summer gaming list for suggestions or just click over to our games page for tons of educational products to test out. Have fun and plan for next year- that’s two birds with one stone!

Mostly, however, our advice for teachers is this: make sure you’re doing stuff you enjoy while you’ve got the time! That’s the important thing.

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Local Archaeology: Discoveries, Education, and More!

Archaeologists discover new findings every day across the world. Here, we take a moment to highlight discoveries and opportunities for those interested in archaeology around the DC Metro area. Based in Bethesda, MD, we at Dig-It! Games always try to keep up with what’s happening in archaeology around us. Bigger finds often overshadow local archaeology. However, archaeologists find tons of interesting things around Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

Alexandria’s Big New Discovery

Local archaeology in Alexandria led to the discovery of two ships on the waterfront

On the historic waterfront of Alexandria, archaeologists discovered the remains of two ships from the late 1700s or early 1800s. Just two blocks away, archaeologists found a similar ship at the Hotel Indigo site in late 2015. At the beginning of March, the City of Alexandria won a grant to preserve that ship from the Virginia Association of Museums. For these two new ships, examination and analysis still needs to take place. It has yet to be announced if these ships will be preserved.

Archaeologist discovered the ships on a site where developers JBG Smith and EYA are turning a former warehouse into townhouses and condos. The law of Maryland requires that developers have archaeologists on site whenever ground is disturbed.

“It wasn’t an unexpected discovery, especially since what we knew from the Hotel Indigo site,” Eleanor Breen, the city’s acting archaeologist, said. “I think there’s a high possibility of additional archaeological treasures to be found.”

We look forward to hearing about what those archaeological treasures might be! If you want, read the full story on the Washington Post for all the details about the excavation.

Local Archaeology Programs for Kids & Students

Get your kids into local archaeology with great programs

Do you know an aspiring archaeologist or just a kid who loves to dig? Around the DC area, you can find many opportunities for young excavators to learn the tools of the trade- literally! Check out these programs first to see if there’s a good fit for your student, child, or the whole family!

Archaeology in the Community, a Washington, DC, organization, aims to promote the study and understanding of archaeological heritage. In pursuit of this goal, they host public events, enrichment programs, and professional development. Additionally they offer a ton of regular youth activities as well as camps.

Also, the National Park Service offers regional archaeology programs in and around DC. They offer cool archaeology programs for youth, teachers, professionals, and others in a variety of locations around the metro area.

Finally, of course, check out the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and learn more about the newly discovered ships.

Game-Based Archaeology

Get your students into archaeology with Excavate!

While we don’t have an Excavate! DC, our series of social studies archaeology games serve as a great way to get students interested in world history and the process behind excavation. Through C-3 aligned gameplay, Excavate! fits into both the classroom and homeschooling curriculum.

Choose from a variety of civilizations with six currently available: MesoAmerica, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Byzantine Empire. Additionally, bundles of civilizations release on the Apple App Store tomorrow for greater convenience. However, the games can also be purchased from Google Play, Amazon Appstore, and on our website.

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“The Vikings Aren’t Coming:” A Recap from a Summer School Game Design Workshop

By Kenny Reddington , Guest Blogger and Teacher at Robert Frost Middle School 

Last summer, a mutual friend, Dr. Alana Murray, offered to introduce me to some guy named Chris Magnuson who worked with an educational video game company called “Dig-It! Games.”  I cannot lie; with a name like “Magnuson,” I pictured him being a Viking—and who could pass up the chance to meet a real-life Viking who designs educational video games?

 

Chris offered to come to Robert Frost Middle School’s extended year program (EYP) and let our students test pilot a few new games that Dig-It! Games was working on at the time, and this seemed like a great way to get my kids to stop playing Pokemon Go (remember that?) for a few minutes and possibly even learn something in the process.  We agreed to two meetings where the students would beta test the games and provide feedback on their experience.  Dig-It! Games would then consider the feedback they received and refine their games based on the students’ input.

 

I got to meet Chris (who is, of course, not a Viking) and his colleagues, and I got to see firsthand how much my students enjoyed piloting the games, providing feedback, and retesting the games after Dig-It! Games made updates from their input.  We had the beginnings of something here.

 

Flash forward.  This year, my school decided to re-structure our summer literacy class and partner with Dig-It! Games to provide a curriculum that was fun, interactive, and educational.  In addition to purchasing and playing their learning games, we wanted the three-week class to center around peer-to-peer discourse and critical thinking skills.  Our goal was for students to generate game ideas (original or existing), design paper prototypes, and create narratives to serve as their games’ storylines.  Once done, the students would present their finished products to an audience.

 

In addition to working with Chris, Dig-It! Games’ Jessica Mlyniec and Elisa Bartolomeo-Damon designed and implemented instructional sessions for our students, one to be delivered each week of the course.  The first session revolved around piloting and evaluating video games, the second focused on creating narrative driven, goals-based video games, and the third session focused on student presentations and eventually became “Frost Game Con 2017”-an event for summer students to showcase their work to our administration, students, and Dig-It! Games.

 

The kids really enjoyed the program, and the framework allowed them opportunities to be creative, solve complex problems, and design a product that they were proud to display.  The students’ games at Frost Game Con 2017 varied from adventure games to maze-themed games to strategy-based games focused on world domination.  Not only was it a great experience to see the kids’ faces as they showcased their games and served as experts, it was a blast seeing the faces of our convention goers as they learned the rules and played the games.  Everyone had a terrific time and the kids learned a lot in the process.  We even had one group of students who went beyond paper prototypes and created their game so it was computer ready.

 

Working with Chris, Jes, and Elisa has been a great experience for the RFMS extended year program.  We created a high interest, interactive program that allows us to move towards our school improvement plan goals.  And the best part?  The kids had fun.  And the other best part?  We still have room to enhance the program even more!  (Based on our students’ feedback, of course.)  I am already looking forward to collaborating with Dig-It! Games again in the future to refine the summer EYP literacy program.

 

Now, if only I could get Chris to create a Viking game.

 


We’re Video Game Wizards

5 Reasons We Love the BMI Video Game Exhibit

Last week, the Dig-It! Games team took a field trip to the Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI), which is showcasing an interactive exhibit that lets visitors create their own video game. Open through 2019, Video Game Wizards–Transforming Science and Art into Games features six stations, each pertaining to a particular skillset (i.e. coding and art) and giving guests the chance to customize a game using those various skills. In other words, visitors experience the collaborative process of video game development at every point in the exhibition. At the end, they are able to play their own game and share it on the exhibition’s website with family and friends; and play any of the games developed at the BMI.

But the team wasn’t visiting just to create our own games—Dig-It! Games had the opportunity to join legendary software developer Sid Meier (Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates) and other video game professionals for a discussion about the local game development industry.

Image 1 At Exhibit

Here are our five takeaways from the experience:

  1. Video games in all forms, even for game-based learning, are creating a booming industry with major growth expected in the coming years.

Sometimes our industry feels like it waxes and wanes. Some folks push for game-based learning in the classroom. Others aren’t sure it is worth the effort. From the discussion, it became clear that video games are here to stay—and that the business we are in will continue to grow.

  1. There is a host of very smart, talented, creative people in this industry.

It goes without saying that we believe the Dig-It! Games team has an incredible amount of talent. At this event, however, it was clear that almost everyone in the video game development industry is passionate about their jobs. They’re not phoning it in—they believe in what they are creating. It’s wonderful to see.

  1. Dig-It Games has been and continues to be doing the right thing for students, teachers and game players.

We always believe we’re doing the right thing—but in listening to what others are doing within their companies, we have reaffirmed our work. The creative process and the development process is consistent with the industry. The BMI discussion laid it out step by step, a presentation we could have given word for word. We know that how we produce games is truly effective.

  1. Students value the collaboration and skills that go into developing a video game.

Last year, we had the opportunity to welcome middle school students to the Dig-It! Games studio for our first field trip experience. They had the opportunity to gets hands-on with game design and collaborate to create a final product, a game of their very own. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the exhibit we visited accomplished the same goal through an interactive computer experience. The skills we teach during our field trips and the skills the exhibit teaches are equal. We share the same mission—to show kids how we develop games and interest them in a possible STEAM career—whether that’s programming, art, or even creative writing.

  1. Baltimore is a hub for the technology sector—and it’s continuing to grow.

When you hear technology or video games, you think about a few different places. New York City, maybe. Silicon Valley. A kid fiddling with his or her computer in the basement. You don’t necessarily think of Baltimore, but you should. This summer, EdWeek reported that Baltimore was seeking to become an edtech hub—and the city is proving its worth. Young people with great talent are coming to the area, looking to get involved in something they are passionate about.

Image 2

One of the biggest takeaways is that everyone in the industry is playing a guessing game. Sid Meier was discussing the development of Civilization, and he said that at the time, his team was just throwing ideas up against the wall and seeing what stuck. We find ourselves doing the same thing in our meetings occasionally. We ask ourselves, “Will kids think this is fun?” We’re brainstorming new game ideas, trying them out, and seeing what works for kids.

Behind it all is our educational mission, led by founder Suzi Wilczynski. Our goal is not just for a game to be fun, but also for it to be a learning experience—one where kids might not even realize how much they’ve learned in the moment.