Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rockin' Reading Really Rocks!

Thanks to the folks over at Educational Insights for giving me the opportunity to share one of their products for improving reading comprehension with a co-worker...
Thanks to Mrs. Wilson for taking time out to try the game with her students and giving such an honest and informative review of the Rockin' Reading Comprehension Game!
As she talks about Rockin' Reading ....
Here's her review of a cool game from Educational Insights that might give you some more insight into how it might help encourage your students in your classroom!
I'll be honest – when I first saw Mrs. Samuelson come in with the games, a small part of my teacher soul died inside. For the most part, I detest board games in the classroom. I don't like all the pieces that come with them, the complex directions that only an adult can decipher, and especially, ESPECIALLY the cards full of fluff that are either too easy for my students or don't actually review anything worthy I teach. Basically, it's been about 5 years since I've allowed an "educational" board game to cross the threshold into my classroom. HOWEVER, how could I pass up a FREE game with this description: "Think rockers aren't readers? Think again! From reading the reviews of your latest album to the blog posts about your sold-out concert, you've gotta read to rock and roll! Drum up the fun with this kickin' reading game, rounding the board and answering comprehension questions covering main idea, reading for details, making inferences, drawing conclusions, using context clues, understanding figurative language, distinguishing fact from opinion, and more. Now that's learning that really sticks!" Okay….these are all skills THAT I ACTUALLY TEACH!  Plus, the game says the questions are common core aligned, so I had to at least give the game a try!
My first impression when I opened the Rockin' Reading game was a huge sigh of relief when I saw the materials – four simple player pieces, 5 sets of question cards, and a cardboard tour bus to hold the cards. The actual game board was printed onto the inside of the container. Simple, easy - so far, so good! In my experience, the less pieces to keep up with, the longer the game's potential life span will be! 
This game is for 2 – 4 players in grades 3 and up, so I chose four of my "on grade level" students (3rd grade) to play the game with. We read through the directions together (printed on the inside top cover – no paper directions here!) and found them to be very kid friendly and easy to follow. Basically, on each turn, students select a color coded card based on which color room they are in and answer the comprehension question. All the cards are centered around music (concert schedules, instrument reviews, song lyrics, etc.). The answers are printed very tiny on the bottom of the opposite side, so as long as students keep the card turned face up on the table, they won't see the answer. If students are correct, they move their piece to the next numbered spot on the game board. If they are incorrect, they stay where they are. At first, I had the students take one turn at a time, reading their card aloud and explaining which answer they thought was correct, but this was taking too long and the students who were waiting for their turn quickly lost interest. 
We changed gears, and I gave each student their own card to answer (or if they were in the same "room," I let them share the card if they were sitting next to each other). This worked much better because they could move at their own pace and write their answers on a whiteboard, or just show me the correct answer using sign language for A, B, C, or D. Then, I could check the answer and if they were wrong, immediately go over the card with them and if they were correct, they could move on at their own pace instead of waiting for a classmate to finish thinking. Since there are 200 game cards, it was easy to let students have their own card at the same time without worrying about cards being repeatedly selected.
Let me just take a moment here and make something clear. I am EXTREMELY picky about the type of activities I allow my students to participate in in the classroom. I do not have time or patience for fluff – activities that are easy and do not require much thought or skill. I am becoming extremely annoyed with the amount of "cutesie" games I am seeing pop up on various blogs that I read, as well as TPT that really don't have much substance to them. If my students are going to play an educational game or activity, it has to be of high quality and it has to challenge them or I won't even give it a second glance. With that said, I was very happy with this particular game's questions. I was pleasantly surprised with how the cards truly required students to read carefully and think critically in order to answer the questions. The answer choices reminded me of choices our state assessment test uses in that there were answers that looked correct if you didn't read carefully, so students really had to take their time and think about each card's story or problem.  I found the questions to be very appropriate for 3rd – 4th grade. Having taught 5th grade for four years, I could see using this game with my struggling learners, but it might not be enough of a challenge for the average 5th grader. 
    There are three additional types of cards included that work like brain breaks. If students draw a "Private Pass" card, they get to immediately skip to the first spot in the next room after they successfully answer a question in their current room. "Gotta go!" cards send you back a space due to a flat tire, or sleeping in after a late concert. However, our favorite cards were the "Rock It!" cards where students had the option to either do what the card said ( for example -  "play air guitar for 5 seconds") or answer a question from another card. These were a hit with my more active students. My shy ones tended to pick the "answer another question " option for the most part. I personally 
LOVED these extra cards because it kept students on their toes and they LOVED getting to rock out for a few seconds during the game!
To win, students had to be the first to reach the Music Hall of Fame, but they were having so much fun, I let each student continue to play until he/she reached the Hall of Fame as well. We will DEFINITELY be playing this game during our intervention time each week and this game has absolutely made me more open to including board games in the classroom again
Thanks to Mrs. Wilson for reviewing what looks to be like an awesome game for reading!
Take a moment and hop over to Educational Insights and check it out for yourself!

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