Games That Teach – Cooperative Games

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had just recently learned about the world of table-top board gaming and how a lot of these games can be used with kids to teach and reinforce a number of different concepts.

What I neglected to talk though was the inevitable occurrence that happens to all of us whenever we play games with our kids. There comes a time during every game where you, as the adult, have to decide whether you are going to let your kid win or crush their dreams all in the name of victory.

I will be honest in saying that while I wholeheartedly agree that letting your kid win a game is probably the right thing to do, a part of me can’t help but feel a little cheated because letting somebody win goes 100% against what I believe in. I, like a lot of people, am a fairly competitive person and so allowing someone to just swoop in and win a game that we’ve been playing for an hour + feels somewhat counterintuitive.

Luckily, our family has discovered cooperative board games. Cooperative games allow for all of the fun of a traditional board game without having to deal with the competitiveness that some people (ahem…namely me) bring to the table. At first, the idea of a cooperative experience in board gaming seemed a little strange because I figured there was no way that playing with other people could be as exciting or satisfying as playing against them.

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5 Ideas for Helping your Kids with Goal Setting

A few months back, I began to set up a plan for my 8 year old to increase his understanding of the multiplication table. Knowing that his class was working on multiplication, I thought I’d help him get a jump on the material so that he could be successful and and as a result, feel accomplished. I created a chart that had some clearly defined goals and then inserted some rewards for accomplishing those milestones. When I introduced it to him, he was all for it. He began practicing right then and there in order to achieve his first reward, which was going out for ice cream. Fast forward two months, and the chart hasn’t been touched since that first day.

Now, I realize that the easy thing to do would be to blame myself for not enforcing a strict routine or plan for him to follow or to blame him for not following through. In reality though, I should really be blaming that chart that I made. That’s not to say that the idea behind the chart was wrong as extrinsic motivation is still a proven method to drive people to succeed, but the main problem with the chart was that it was born from my goals and not his. I didn’t consult with him about the milestones of the multiplication table or even the rewards, and so to think that he would be motivated to achieve it seems a little silly now.

This realization got me to shift my thinking from setting particular goals for my kids to being a part of the goal setting process with them. Through talking with other parents and reflecting on the teaching practices that have been successful in my classroom, I have put together a plan of sorts that hopefully will help us move from telling kids what they need to achieve and focus more on how to get them to develop realistic plans and value the accomplishments that they do achieve. After all, if we want our kids to be independent and critical thinkers, sometimes we have to get out of our way and allow for that to happen.

Goal Setting with Kids Continue reading “5 Ideas for Helping your Kids with Goal Setting”

Books for Kids – 3 Reading Recommendations From an 8-Year-Old

As an English teacher, I get asked for book recommendations – a lot. Whether it’s a student asking for themselves or a parent asking for their teenager, it’s assumed (and rightfully so, I suppose) that I would have book recommendations locked and loaded. The truth is though, I have always struggled with this because half the time, I don’t even know what I want to read, let alone tap into what someone else would be interested in.

Over the past 10 or so years, I have amassed a pretty decent classroom library that I can now direct people to, but early on those were mostly made up of whatever was popular at the time that I bought them, not necessarily what was good or interesting. It wasn’t until I started compiling a list of student recommendations that I was able to include a variety of books that covered diverse and relevant topics for teens. Nowadays, I feel that I can provide decent suggestions to people seeking something to read because I can call back to what other students have said about them.  Continue reading “Books for Kids – 3 Reading Recommendations From an 8-Year-Old”

5 Tips for Helping your Child Learn to Read


Over the past 15 years, I have spent many hours attending workshops and participating in professional development that addressed the concept of literacy. As I acquired resources and learned strategies to use in my classroom, I started to get a fairly decent grasp on how I could help readers at the high school level.

While my confidence in this area has grown over the course of my career, it was definitely put to the test as I started helping my own children learn to read. What I wasn’t prepared for, especially as my oldest was starting out, was the amount of practice, patience, and hard work it took to get him to feel comfortable and confident with his reading.

When I work with my students, I understand that reading and language acquisition can definitely be challenging, but with my own children I feel that the stakes are much higher as I obviously have more of a personal interest in long term success.  Continue reading “5 Tips for Helping your Child Learn to Read”

Games That Teach – Stone Age

Front Cover Stone Age game

About a year and a half ago, a friend of mine turned me on to something that has changed not only how I spend my time, but my money as well. He introduced me to the previously unknown world of board games. When I was growing up, I played video games – a lot. My friends and I would run marathon sessions of whatever hot game was out at the time and I remember spending what little money I had on new consoles and games. Even though I loved video games, board games never really struck a chord with me.

My experiences with these types of games usually revolved around classics like Monopoly or Scrabble and to be honest, they just weren’t as intriguing or exciting as video games. As a result of limited exposure to games that never really interested me, I assumed that board games just weren’t for me. Wow, was I wrong!

Front Cover Stone Age game

Once I got a taste of what board games had to offer, I was hooked. I soon learned that these games were not only fun, but they were rich with themes, stories, mechanics, and strategies. As I began to sink more time and, thanks to my wife’s infinite understanding, money into this hobby, I realized that playing these types of games with my children could provide us with not only a lot of fun, but also a lot of educational value.  Continue reading “Games That Teach – Stone Age”