A Tangram Puzzle is an old Chinese tile game that consists of seven geometric shapes called tans. The tans usually consist of a square, 5 triangles and a parallelogram. The shapes can be used to form various shapes and designs. I used the original square but also developed a Shamrock puzzle for a lesson that was presented in March.
These puzzles work great as a cooperative activity for social skills groups. It is a good activity to work on problem solving, seeing another person’s perspective, using directive language and cooperating within a group. I recommend using the square first because the shamrock tends to be more difficult for the studernts to figure out. Hopefully you have a chance to work on social skills, observe your students in action, encourage their social development and get a break from lesson planning.
To begin the activity you need a square puzzle printed out on cardstock for each student in the group. Look at the bottom of the post for the pattern. Have them cut the square apart into individual shapes.
At its simplest level each student mixes their pieces up into a pile and then puts them back together into a square shape. The difficulty and need for interaction can be increased by having students mix their pieces of the puzzle with other students. They choose puzzle pieces from the mix and then try to put their square back together again. This forces students to look at the pieces they have and what other students have. It will require them to negotiate and trade for the pieces they need to make the original square.
There are two free downloads for this activity. One is the square pattern and the other is a shamrock pattern . I hope your students learn from and enjoy this activity.
Will you be observing Valentine’s Day with your classroom students? The Trial and Error Pass Activity is a good way to celebrate and also work on social and problem solving skills at the same time. It is presently on my Teachers Pay Teachers store and I made it a FREE download until the end of February. There is a link at the bottom of the post.
This activity requires students to use a trial and error method of problem solving. This is quite difficult for some students who want success on the first attempt and have difficulty when they fail. This activity reinforces the idea that mistakes are not necessarily bad and can be used for learning. It also teaches students to work together toward a common goal. The solution will be found by observing the mistakes of everyone and it would be very difficult to succeed individually. It also requires students to use their short term memory and make inferences to predict the pattern.
This activity can be used with small groups of students, two competing teams, or with one or two students. The object of the game is to cross the grid in 6 moves stepping on the correct sequence of images.
A judge, who could be a student or teacher, is selected. The judge takes one of the pattern cards that will be the solution to the stepping pattern. A student begins the challenge by stepping on one of the cards in the first row and moves one row ahead for each step. As the move is made the judge indicates if it is the correct one by saying right or wrong move. If a buzzer is available that can be used for the wrong step. There are some buzzer sounds available on apps for electronic devices that students really enjoy using. If it is the right step the student continues to move forward. If it is the wrong step the person returns to the start or the end of the line and waits for another turn. Students can watch the attempts of others until they get to the front of the line again. The students may notice that a pattern is developing as students discover the correct moves. This will speed up the progress until someone finally makes it across. The students should be reinforced for working as a team and not make it an individual competition to make it to the finish.
February is a month when many of us send cards or messages to our family and friends for Valentines Day. It is a good time to introduce a lesson on the differences between sending out positive and negative statements. When you get to the bottom, don’t forget to download the free lesson sheets.
Some of our young adults get into a habit of throwing barbs at each other without considering the consequences of hurt feelings or the bad impressions they are making. They may not be aware how these statements affect their friendships and the opinions of adults that hear them. It is good to remind them that it can be next to impossible to completely repair the damage once a hurtful comment is said.
Consider the following: Can your students tell which statements will be considered positive? Can they tell if what they say is offensive to someone? Can they change their perspective and switch to a more positive statement when necessary. Hopefully the free lesson will help you address these concerns with your students.
At the bottom of this post, you will find a Download Star. Click on this link for a free list of statements. The statements are ready to be printed and cut out for your lessons. The statements can be used in a variety of ways. Students can practice taking a negative statement, changing the wording and flipping it to be more positive. I have used the analogy of flipping a pancake. When conducting a social group, I present a spatula as a prop to remind someone to flip offensive statements. Later on, I just have the spatula over to the offending person.
You can also talk about statements that should be left in the mind and not verbalized. Just because a statement is true does not mean it should be said. There are times it is kinder not to say something we think.
You can also explore what effects a difference of intonation may make on a statement. It is possible to convey a message opposite in meaning when using a sarcastic tone. A rising tone at the end can make a statement into a question and it will not seem like you are making an accusation.
I hope you can make use of the free lesson and It lightens your lesson planning load a bit.
On a side note, I have recently changed my site host. The site is now operating with Host Papa. You may notice the little black lock has returned in the URL which indicates it is a secure site.
The In Spontaneous Speech blog is in the process of much needed reconstruction and updating. The adventure started when I recently updated the Social Skills products on my Teachers Pay Teachers Site. This resulted in the free sample products not matching here on the site and needing updating. Of course it then became a cascading effect of changes, some external and some internal. However, I think you will like the changes. I will move on to the other headings later on, and I will keep you updated. Please read on to discover the changes.
First I updated the free product samples on the Social Skills Page, and they are ready for downloading. I started with the Social Skills Page since many of those cards were the oldest and seemed the most outdated. I used new clip art and added additional cards to some of these products.
When you have a chance, download the new free samples and replace your older ones. You can check out the new free samples by clicking on Social Skills on the index strip at the top and following the page down. You will notice the new buttons.
I switched the down load storage site so it should be easier to do downloads. In the past you may have encountered a two step process to get to the down load and sometimes may have received a message that the site had reached its maximum downloads. This was another complicating factor of the old infrastructure. When I started many years ago, I used Keep & Share, Photobucket, and a few other places as data storage sites. I had links going to 3 or more places and some of those places have since added restrictions. It made it difficult to figure out where problems were occurring if something stopped working. It became quite an undertaking to keep the links going.
Thank you for your product support because you have kept this site going and helped with the improvements since it’s conception. Very little is free in life so I am sure you aware that this site costs a bit to operate. The product sales have allowed me to get to a self hosted site with download capability within the site. This alleviated the need for multiple storage sites and all those links. I have been switching the links as I get to them.
This adventure also started because I started to cringe at some of the cards from those older sets. My clip art was less than stellar. Originally, I made them for my use and didn’t have time for frill. Now I have more time to explore digital art which was another interest of mine.
When I first started making task cards, I didn’t have experience with digital art or drawing tools you use on computers. I began drawing my own clipart because I couldn’t always find the clip art I was looking for. I wanted figures that were relevant to the content of the card and not the same figures everyone else was using. I didn’t want the clip art to depict very young children, because I know some of the students using my cards might be older than average for a grade. I knew older children may get put off by clip art that appears to depict young children. I also needed some very specific actions and objects.
Within the last year, I have acquired a notepad and stylet. I have been making digital art using the free app, Auto Desk Sketchbook. After trying other programs, this one seems to make the most sense to me. I love drawing without buying all those supplies that go with it. I discovered how to use layers, which allows you to revise drawings multiple times without having to start over, which is a real plus for me.
Before I close, a reminder to those who have purchased the full card sets on Teachers Pay Teachers, you will be able to download the updated versions free by just getting another download on the TPT site. They are all listed under the original titles. The card sets in the Social Skills Communication Bundle are all included in the update and can also be purchased separately. To get to the TPT site, click on the picture below.
I am ending this post using the thought process of Bad Thing and Good Thing. Bad Thing: Updating is a real headache and overwhelming after 7 years of building a foundation on trial and error. Good thing: Hosting a Blog has been a great hobby and learning experience. There was something cathartic about writing it all down. It gave me a boost and support at work when I forgot materials going between multiple work sites. I could bring up what I needed on a lap top or iPad. It was a great creative outlet. Finally, it forced me to look at my data files and create a better filing system.
With any such endeavors, there are a lot of chances for errors. Please let me know if there are errors on products so I can make corrections. It seems like a few always slip through. Constructive suggestions are always welcome.
I published a post quite a few years ago about making a flexible brain. It was a very popular post at the time. I decided to re-publish this post because for me the jello brain lesson tended to come up in the month of April and is relevant for many today when using the popular Superflex program by Michelle Garcia Winner who is author of Social Thinking Curriculums. For those who do not know the program, There is a character, Superflex, who conquers Rock Brain who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well. He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing and being rigid in his thinking pattern.
The lesson required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in an ever changing environment. There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible brain. The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain and the mold itself for the inflexible version.
I was able to order a brain mold from a Halloween prop store. Now there are quite a few alternatives where you can order a mold on line. Just do a search for brain molds. It was fairly inexpensive and I used it multiple times.
The manual did not give actual directions or a recipe for the mold. I have a bad history with Jello molds from the 1970s. My jello would stick to the mold and never turn out and lose it’s shape. There was also the problem of trying to work in the time line of classes at two different sites. I needed to be able to transport it. I figured the Jello would melt and be over the table before the first session was up.
I researched Jello brain recipes on the internet. It turns out that there are a lot of these. Some of them are a bit on the gross side of things. I decided to stay away from the worm and bug infested brains although I’m sure they would be attention grabbing. I wanted something that would be close to flesh tone and stay fairly solid even if it wasn’t in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. So I settled for the following recipe. It worked well.
You need the following ingredients:
3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporated milk (12 ounce can), green food coloring, and 2 1/2 cups boiling water
Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, Spray the inside of the mold with vegetable oil spray. Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth. Add 2 drops green food coloring. The mixture should look flesh-colored. Add a drop at a time until you get the right color. Pour the mixture into the mold and put in the refrigerator. This brain turned out to be quite solid and kept its shape for several hours. In between sessions I slipped it back into the mold and put it back in the refrigerator.
For the lesson, slips of paper with brain functions from the categories of social awareness, motor,and factual/science are inserted into the jello brain. The students take turns pulling these out and talking about them.
I debated the best method of getting the papers in the Jello. I ended up laminating the papers and poking them in after the brain was taken out of the mold. This worked better than pouring the jello mixture over them. This way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers. Surprisingly, the brain kind of resealed itself and was in good shape after the papers were removed. I reinserted the laminated papers into the same locations for the next group and used it again.
No one asked if they could eat it. I wouldn’t recommend it after all that examination with tweezers and handling of papers.
I took a picture of the brain so you could have a visual. The photo at the top is my original jello brain.