Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fun Holiday Games and Visualizations

December is typically a joyful but chaotic month. Teachers push their final lessons before the holidays, and students are pulled in countless festive directions. We always seem to have 20 minutes of time to fill after Nutcracker assemblies and before bus dismissals. Luckily, the holiday season features all sorts of lively animations to engage students during lulls in class parties. Few of the resources are overtly "educational," but they are fun and harmless -- and with a little invention, they can be connected to overall learning.

Source: Elf Yourself, Wikimedia Commons
Our favorite is Elf Yourself. Back this year and better than ever, the popular novelty is sponsored by OfficeMax and designed by the clever comics from JibJab. You upload a photograph, choose your music, and your face quickly appears on a bouncing elf. The impressive graphics and catchy beats are hilarious. Even though it was intended for e-cards of goofy family members, it can be stretched to fit the classroom. Pick a famous figure from history, such as Rutherford B. Hayes or Napoleon, and turn him into a hip-hop elf. Or reunite rivals Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to dance the Charleston. As of this writing, 180,782,840 elves had been created so far.

Source: PNC Christmas Price Index
On a more educational plane, PNC bank has updated its presentation of the real price of The Twelve Days of Christmas. How much would it actually cost for three French hens or ten lords-a-leaping? In its Christmas Price Index, PNC did the math, and your students can, too. With sophisticated claymation and games, the visualization is a perfect tool for highlighting financial literacy and percent change over time. Five gold rings are slightly down in value this year, apparently.

Source: Sprint Sweets
For artistic elementary students, Sprint has created The Gingerbread Man With Everything. Beginning with a blank cookie canvas, you decorate your treat in any way you want. With a surprisingly large number of "frostings," colors, sprinkles, and add-ons, the choices are creative and vast. A few pre-designed, whimsical choices are available in the gallery, such as the samurai warrior or cookie viking. This simple, fun activity works great on an interactive whiteboard.

If you have an interactive SMARTboard, there are plenty of other winsome winter resources for the Notebook software. Build Your Own Snowman, Snowflake Designer, and others are prime for younger students. Also, since 1996, Santa.net has offered a range of games and activities in its Santa Animation Station. Students have a choice of playing with cartoons, puzzles, and North Pole music. Mildly silly and endlessly distracting, these holiday resources can help make the season bright.

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