This guest post is shared by Stephanie Lewis, the Gifted Specialist at Clermont Elementary School in Virginia.
We have been using ThinkFun games for several years in our Strategies Lab at Clermont Elementary. All students in grades K-6 come to the lab at least once every six weeks for a lesson with me, the GT Resource Teacher. It’s been a wonderfully positive experience for our school. Children and teachers love the games and always leave wishing for more time and asking when they get to come again.
When we first started the lab, our primary goal was to provide students with a fun, highly motivating way to talk about thinking. Playing strategy games like Rush Hour and Square by Square would not only challenge students’ minds in new ways, but would teach them life skills such as perseverance, collaboration, metacognition, and strategic planning. It’s been amazing to watch students of all different ages and skill levels participate with equal enthusiasm and be willing to take intellectual risks when sharing their strategies. But what’s been most rewarding for me is the sense of pride that I see in each student when they master a particular challenge. They take each task seriously and keep trying until they get it. With every success they experience playing the games, they are learning the importance of effort and developing a “can do” attitude. That is so important to every student, but especially to those students who may lack confidence in school. Every student gets to shine in Strategies Lab.
As I was walking a class out to the lab one day, one of the students came up to me and asked if we’d be playing a particular game (I can’t remember which one.) He was excited when I said yes, and said, “I really like that game. You said last year that I was a master at that game. I can’t wait to play it again.” I remembered the comment I had made, but had no idea how much it had meant. I felt so good. I now see lab time as an opportunity to make each child experience the thrill of accomplishment.
We are continuing to develop our Strategies Lab program, using ThinkFun games as our guide. It’s been very helpful to have a common language across grade levels for talking about thinking. And it’s been extremely rewarding to see students persevering, thinking critically, creatively tackling challenges, discussing their strategies, and making real-life connections — all while building their confidence and sense of pride in their accomplishments.