• 14 Mar
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    Food chains are not only an important part of the curriculum, but can also help students become informed global citizens.

    But teaching food chains beyond memorised examples into a deeper level of understanding is a challenge.

    The overwhelming interconnectedness of living things within an environment can be difficult for children to grasp from worksheets, food webs, and visiting the garden.

    So, to help we’ve got a fantastic Food Chains movie and two educational games to bridge that gap.

    Getting started with food chains

    To help with the basics play our Food Chain Game. It’s a simple drag and drop sorting game that children of all ages could quickly grasp.

    Food Chain Game Screenshot

    In this game students must successfully complete different food chains by dragging the correct item into the slot.

    Food chains become progressively more challenging as students progress.

    When food chains are successfully completed a fun animation shows the chain in action. This functions not only to signal (and reward!) success but also to help them remember the solution.

    The game periodically updates you on your progress so far and reviews the chains covered.

    Food Chain Game Screenshot

    However if students reach 7 mistakes then they must start over from the beginning.

    Ready for something a bit more demanding?

    Once your students have mastered the Food Chain Game they can move on to our Food Fight game.

    Food Fight Game Screenshot

    In this two-player game students each choose a creature and compete against each other to grow the population of their creature and score the most points.

    Food Fight Game Screenshot

    The game’s length can be customised, so you can limit how much time students have if you want them to have to think quickly or you just have a limited amount of time to play during the lesson.

    You can choose between 28 or 14 turns, or 5 or 10 minutes.

    To increase their creature’s population they must create a successful food chain for that creature. They can also choose to undermine their opponent’s food chain as well.

    In the screenshot below the ‘cheetah player’ has added a predator who likes to eat the opponent’s creature: doves.

    Food fight Screenshot

    When players hover over their options at the bottom of the screen they can see what that option’s prey is (if they have any) and what are their predators (again if they have any) to inform their choices.

    The arrows show who’s eating what (or who). As the game progresses students can keep track of what effects their various actions have on the various populations.

    Wild cards can introduce different events that may affect the food chain like rain, fire, or poachers.

    Once the students complete the game they can compare their score and even start a rematch!

    Because of the large range of creatures to choose from this game has a lot of replayability and they can experiment with lots of different scenarios. You can even make a tournament out of it.

    For more ideas on how to use these games in your lessons be sure to check out the Food Chain lesson ideas and Food Fight lesson ideas.

    Good luck getting to the top of the food chain!

     

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  • 14 Dec
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    In CodeMonkey from our GameUp section you can explore the basics of coding by helping an adorable monkey find his stolen bananas. Today we have a guest post from the experts at CodeMonkey Studios to find out all about it and how to use it in the classroom…

    codemonkeybanner

    Learn to Code with Code Monkey on BrainPOP UK!

    Codemonkey’s offering on GameUp is a (completely free) set of 30 fun challenges that introduce the basics of computing.

    No matter how much experience you have, or if it’s your first time coding, CodeMonkey is engaging, entertaining and educational to all.

    Using CodeMonkey, you will advance through a self-paced progression of challenges in which you’ll help the CodeMonkey catch bananas by writing lines of code.

    The activity starts off with very simple tasks in order to slowly and gradually introduce different aspects of coding. Along the way you will meet cute and funny characters like Gordo the monkey and the helpful turtle.

    codemonkey

    In CodeMonkey you can see the impact of your code right away.

    The screen is split into two: on the right you write your code, and on the left you see your code come to life. For easier access, there are buttons at the bottom to assist with writing some aspects of the code.

    codemonkey2

    After every completed challenge, you will get a star score on your solution. The stars are awarded according to these criteria:

    • The first star is given if you got all bananas
    • The second star is given if you used what you learned
    • The third star is given if your code is short and to the point

    We encourage users from the age of 12 and up to try and get 3 stars in all challenges so they can practice the important skill of writing concise code. However, receiving 2 stars is also great because it shows you used the new information you learned.

    Here are a few tips for using CodeMonkey:

    • CodeMonkey is best suited for users between the ages of 9-16, however no one is too old or too young to learn to code!
    • Run your program frequently to be able to de-bug (fix) your program more easily. Scores in CodeMonkey are never affected by how many times you tried to run your solution, so don’t worry about clicking “run” too much.
    • Most of the issues you will encounter will result from not reading the instructions or the code itself properly. We encourage you to read the instructions/code slowly. You can see the instructions again by clicking on Gordo (lower left corner).
    • Another strategy for when you are stuck in to click on the “reset” button to see the initial code again.
    • If you need more help, check out the Codemonkey YouTube channel for tutorial videos, or contact Codemonkey through social media (facebook, twitter).

    How can I get more CodeMonkey?

    In the full course, CodeMonkey has over 200 challenges available, allowing more practice and covering more advanced topics such as for loops, until loops, variables, conditionals, boolean operators and more. If you enjoy CodeMonkey on GameUp then consider a subscription for access to the whole course!

    What do I get if I subscribe to CodeMonkey?

    With a subscription, in addition to over 200 challenges Teachers can access the dashboard and lesson plans. They can also track their student’s progress in the game, see the actual code they write, see statistics, and get access to perfect solutions to all challenges. For more information, please visit www.playcodemonkey.com/teachers.

    What programming language does CodeMonkey use?

    The programming language used in CodeMonkey is called CoffeeScript. It’s a language that compiles to JavaScript, and similarly to JavaScript it is used in the industry primarily for web applications. We chose this language for a few reasons, but mainly because of its friendly syntax, which resembles the way we write in English, compared to other programming languages.

    Finally, here is a CodeMonkey cheat sheet to download to your devices or print.

    CodeMonkey Cheat Sheet-page-001 (1)

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  • 03 Dec
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    In Coaster Creator by The JASON Project you must use your knowledge of potential and kinetic energy to create the most fun roller coaster you can.

    Coaster Creator on BrainPOP UK

    Coaster Creator encourages:

    • Problem solving
    • Logical thinking
    • A practical understanding of kinetic and potential energy
    • A basic understanding of how potential and kinetic energy interrelate
    • An appreciation of the usefulness of physics knowledge

    Students can experiment with different numbers of cars on their roller coaster, what their track looks like, and even what the coaster cars themselves look like! They can use trial and error to build their track and explore the different effects various decisions they make affect the safety of their ride and how fun it is.

    The game visualises the differences between kinetic and potential energy with a bar (see below) that uses colours to show what kind of energy is prevalent at each moment of the game.

    Coaster Creator energy visualisation bar

    At the end of the attempt the player is shown a chart showing a chart with their results. This help students develop an intuitive understanding of the complexity of kinetic and potential energy which they can then use to perfect their roller coasters – plus their understanding of the concept itself.

    As well as helping them to improve their scores the data provided also helps students learn to interpret and apply data for greater success.

    How does Coaster Creator work?

    1. Students are presented with a roller coaster that they can customise with various different animals and colours (we’re quite fond of the swift green shark).
    2. They choose the number of cars they wish to use from a minimum of one and a maximum of 8.
    3. Students then design their track by dragging the end point of the track to the angle required and adding either loops or hills to it by selecting the associated button.

    In the next section the player can see their roller coaster in action and see where it is successful and unsuccessful and why. The game also features a dynamic display of the equations used to calculate potential and kinetic energy so the player can see the differing values caused by the different parts of their track.

    Screenshot from GameUp's Coaster Creator

    The player can pause their coaster at any point during the test and can reset back to the beginning. At the end of the test the results screen is shown with a graph showing the energy in the system.

    Students can interact with the data by dragging the bar to see how their coaster’s speed changed over the course of the ride. On the final screen the game breaks down the player’s score (which can be printed). By hovering over the sections the game gives you a hint on how to improve that particular element.

    By clicking reset the player is taken back to the very beginning but their coaster design and track are preserved. The player can then change them (or completely start over) as they choose to try and improve their score.

    While there is no level system, players can make it harder or easier on themselves by setting targets at their own pace or by having challenges set by the teacher. For example, including a certain number of hills, a loop, or executing a perfect stop. This creates a high level of replayability and students can compete for the best score. The more they play and challenge themselves with increasing complexity the greater their grasp on the concepts will become.

    What makes it a good educational game?

    • Coaster Creator manages to visualise a difficult to grasp concept in a very interactive way which allows students to gain an intuitive understanding.
    • By challenging themselves and each other with increasingly exciting roller coasters students both practice more and understand better how they can apply this knowledge leading to a deeper understanding and greater knowledge retention.
    • Students can use the data presented within the game to improve their performance – this can also improve their ability to analyse, interpret and utilise data as well as see how it can be useful outside of the classroom.
    • The nature of the game encourages a trial and error approach promoting curiosity and mitigates the fear of failure.

    Using the game with a class – hints and tips

    • While this game can work really well as a front of class resource with the whole room contributing I prefer to set this particular task individually or in pairs initially. I find that kids find it easier to experiment while working alone or in small groups. I then have individuals show their best roller coaster to the class and explain why they chose to do what they did, what about it made it good, and what they would do to make it better.
    • I give kids a challenge sheet with this game. I make up a list of things to accomplish (such as a roller coaster with a loop) and give them a sticker for each one accomplished on this sheet. I order them by difficulty so kids who get the concept quickly are kept busy by more intimidating challenges. If they manage to finish them all quickly I have the kids who are finished work together to create new (but possible!) challenge ideas which they then have to try and complete.
    • Score board! I also have kids rate each other’s roller coasters as to how much they would like to ride on them as well as the score given in the game.

     

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  • 23 Aug
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    In Guts and Bolts by BrainPOP from our GameUp UK section you must use problem solving skills and knowledge of body systems to help Moby construct a functional cyborg Tim.

    Guts and Bolts encourages:

    • Logical thinking
    • Problem solving
    • Understanding of biological processes
    • Understanding of how parts of the body interrelate
    • A basic understanding of the scientific method and experimentation

    Students can experiment with how different parts of the body work and interrelate. The player can drag organs on to the play area and connecting them by dragging pipes to carry the fluids from place to place. By doing this the player can then work out the functions of different parts as well as what they what they need to function.

    Each level increases in complexity, from level one showing the basic concept and controls all the way up to the final level where the player must create a system that incorporates a heart, lungs, brain, stomach, and intestines as well as veins and arteries.

    The increases in difficulty are enough to pose a challenge without being discouraging. Some kids playing this game at school have even refused to go home until they finish it!

    How does Guts and Bolts work?

    On each level you must build a working system using the parts given to you in that level. Some levels you must build a circulatory system or a respiratory system, in others you must build them both and hook them together! Each level builds on the previous one so the user must be constantly building on their knowledge to achieve the goal. For example, in the previous two levels you may have learned about the heart and the lungs, in the next level you must then combine that knowledge and make a system with the lungs and heart.

    The controls work by clicking and dragging and are compatible with interactive whiteboards. If the player can’t get the system to work and wants to start over they can easily clear the play area by clicking the “clear pipes” button and start from scratch.

    If the player is finding the levels too easy then they can choose a harder level from the list and navigate straight to it. Equally, if a level is too hard the player can go back to the menu and refresh their memory on earlier levels., alternatively players can refresh their memory on various body systems by watching the BrainPOP UK movies below the game without worrying about losing their place.

    Screenshot of Guts and Bolts

     

     

    Rewarding progress

    At the beginning of the game the player can watch a short movie showing Moby’s goal to create a cyborg Tim. At the end of the game, if the player has completed the final level they are rewarded with a funny ending movie where they can see the fruits of their labour. I will say no more to prevent spoiling it for you!

    What makes it a good educational game?

    • This game is great to use as a front of class resource – it’s visually very interesting and the concept and logical processes behind the game are very appealing.
    • By working out by themselves what particular body parts need and how they interrelate they more easily remember the concepts.
    • The slow increments in difficulty keep this interesting but not overwhelming for the player.

    Using the game with a class – hints and tips

    • The solutions to the levels in this game can perplex initially but kids often get the concept very quickly. Fight the urge to explain and instead let them have a few goes until they get a feel for it. If they master it independently it will boost their confidence. The player can also use the BrainPOP movies at the bottom to remind themselves how different body parts and systems work.
    • Leading questions such as “What does the stomach do?” and “What does the brain need?” also a help a lot to help them grasp it without too much interference.
    • This game is great to use as a front of class resource. Maybe get the whole class working together to solve the puzzles or have them take turns. One teacher told me some of her students taught the rest of the class how to play from the front of the class and they grasped it very quickly this way. (It was also good for the shy student!)

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  • 17 Jul
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    In Dublox by Hooda Math from our GameUp UK section you must use your spatial and transformation skills to flip the Dublox across a variety of terrains.

    Dublox encourages:

    • Logical thinking
    • Problem solving
    • Spatial awareness
    • Transformation skills

    Students can experiment with rotation and reflection by directing Dublox (the yellow block) across the floating terrain to the goal. The trick is Dublox can only move a certain number of tiles at a time, in only 4 directions. One false move and…over the edge you go!

    As the game increases in difficulty the student gains over time a strong sense of spatial awareness and the effects of rotation and reflection on the object.

    It’s also HUGE fun. We bet you send Dublox hurtling off the edge at least as often as you reach the target 🙂

    How does Dublox work?

    You must guide the Dublox, a small and surprisingly athletic block, across the board to the goal without falling off.

    The player must manoeuvre the block to the correct area and position by flipping the block into the right space using the arrow keys on their keyboard. If the block goes outside the board then the block vanishes and the level must be started again. Each level is different and requires the student to approach the puzzle in a slightly different way.

    The game tracks how many steps have been taken in the game, and how many steps have been taken in the level and displays it in the bottom right of the screen.

    Dublox game screenshot

    Rewarding progress

    The player earns bronze, silver, or gold medals based on their performance in the level. The player can also unlock achievements such as “Tasting” for completing the first 7 levels or “Brainy” for unlocking all of the bronze medals.

    The player can restart levels if they get stuck or just roll their Dublox off the ledge to start again. Although the steps used is kept in the player’s total it doesn’t affect their ability to earn medals on individual attempts. The game remembers where you left off so the player won’t lose their place if they stop playing.

    What makes it a good educational game?

    • The game allows students to explore transformation and rotation and apply it to problems giving them a deeper understanding of the topic.
    • The game is replayable and students can compete against each other and themselves to get the medals and least amount of steps.
    • The game encourages experimentation and the player loses nothing by failing. As students can work out themselves what works and what doesn’t they get a firmer grasp of the principles and uses of the concepts.
    • For any students getting frustrated they can watch the related BrainPOP movies under the game without having to navigate away from the game or losing their place.
    • Like all the GameUp games, Dublox has a dedicated quiz that you can use to check students’ comprehension before or after the game.
    • The game works really well used as a class resource on an interactive whiteboard or equally can be used individually or as homework.

    Using the game with a class – hints and tips

    • The controls in this game can perplex initially but kids often get the concept very quickly. Fight the urge to explain and instead let them have a few goes until they get a feel for it. If they master it independently it will boost their confidence.
    • This game is great to use as a front of class resource. Maybe get the whole class working together to solve the puzzles or split them into two competing teams. I pick a student from each team to have a certain number of goes at the controls before it passes to the next student/team (I usually accompany then until they win or up to three attempts). I encourage team members to discuss tactics and work together to solve the problems.
    • I find it useful to discuss with students how transformation and reflection can be useful in day to day life and encourage them to think of examples.

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  • 30 May
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    In Simple Machines by the Museum of Science + Industry Chicago from our GameUp UK section you must use found objects to build simple machines to help a small robot to find the parts he needs.

    This game encourages logical thinking, experimentation, and an understanding of forces and simple machines such as inclined planes and pulleys. Students can experiment with different objects and identify the causes and effects of their choices, and work out the most efficient ways to get the parts they need.

    How does Simple Machines work?

    You must guide Twitch a cute (and lazy!) robot to the parts he needs to gather. The parts are out of Twitch’s reach and you must choose an item to help you achieve your goal from a selection of found objects. Each level has a different kind of simple machine concept to employ to achieve the goal including:

    • Inclined planes
    • Levers
    • Wheel and Axle
    • Pulleys

    Simple Machines game screenshot

    What do you have to do?

    There are robot parts scattered across the museum that Twitch needs to find. But Twitch is small and not very strong so how can he get past obstacles and get to parts out of his reach? By building simple machines with bits and pieces he finds laying around the museum of course!

    The game shows the player the target and shows any controls needed to control Twitch. The player is then given options on what items to use to get access to the target. In the example below you can see that Twitch needs to to create an inclined plane to the part on top of the radio and has the option of a model of the Tower of Pisa, a pencil, half a sandwich, or a triangular wooden block to make one with.

    Inclined planes in Simple Machines game

    The player must choose an item then use the controls to get Twitch to the part. If he runs out of available force in the bar at the bottom he fails the level and must try again. Each level showcases a different type of simple machine the student must master, and at the end of each level the game briefly explains about the type of simple machine and a real life example of one.

    The game lets students know how much force Twitch is expending. When they don’t manage to achieve the goal they can try as many times as they like allowing them to experiment and see all the various outcomes from the options given.

    This game is very flexible and can be used individually, in groups, or as a front-of-class resource. Similarly a level could be set for homework. At the end of the game on the win-screen (shown below) students can see how much force they’ve used on each level and compare it with their peers or try to beat their own scores.

    Simple Machines win screen

    What makes it a good educational game?

    • The game reinforces the idea that mistakes and experimentation isn’t a bad thing. Students can explore all of the possibilities and outcomes without worrying about losing points or “being wrong”. This helps them grasp the concepts behind the simple machines shown much more thoroughly.
    • The game is replayable as students can compete against themselves and each other to find the best solutions to problems and compete to spend the least amount of force on tasks. Completed levels are easily chosen again in the same session so a student could chose to play a level as many times as they like.
    • As students can see what works, what doesn’t, and works the most efficiently they can get a firmer grasp of the principles, uses, and limitations of the simple machines explored.
    • For any students getting frustrated they can watch the related BrainPOP movies under the game without having to navigate away from the game or losing their place.
    • Like all the games, Simple Machines has a dedicated quiz that you can use to check students’ comprehension before or after the game.
    • We might as well face it, Twitch is painfully adorable and we love to see him reach his goal (and snack on berries on the load screen).

    Using the game with a class  hints and tips

    • Experimenting is great and the best way for kids to get a handle on this game and the concepts involved. When I play this game with students I prefer to let them lead and occasionally ask them questions about what they’re doing and their choices. They often reveal they know more than they think they do!
    • You could make a chart and have students submit their high scores to have them compete against each other for the most efficient use of Twitch’s force.
    • This is a really nice game to play as a class with a student at the front of the class controlling Twitch on an interactive whiteboard while the rest of the class votes on what they should do to win.
    • You could have students recreate problems and levels with bits of arts and crafts materials in the classroom or even make levels of their own that their classmates have to complete. If you have some real computer whizzes you could even let them give it a try in Scratch.

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  • 20 Mar
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    Battleship Numberline by Numbaland from our GameUp UK section takes a simple concept like a numberline and gameifies it by adding in elements from, you guessed it… the game of Battleship.

    This game encourages students to develop a strong and robust number sense and an understanding of how different numbers relate to one another.

    How does Battleship Numberline work?

    You start by choosing which maths concept you want to explore. There are 4 different sections to choose from. Each determines what the numberline uses as its measurement.

    • Fractions
    • Whole numbers
    • Decimals
    • Mixed bag (a combination of all of them).
    Battleship Numberline screenshot

     

    What do you have to do?

    There is a battleship hidden somewhere along the number line that they need to destroy, but they’re invisible – so how can you target them?

    The game tells you where ships have been spotted expressed as a whole number, decimal, or fraction – depending on which option you choose. Then students have to carefully aim on the number line where they think that location is before the timer runs out.

    Battleship Numberline - a maths game on Game Up

    The game gives constant feedback to the student. They will know immediately whether they are right or wrong; this prevents them making the same mistake repeatedly and learning an incorrect method which they then have to unlearn.

    This game is very flexible and can be used front of classroom or individually, or as homework to reinforce maths concepts.

    What makes it a good educational game?

    • You can choose how to align the game to the level of your students by choosing between 5 levels: Very Easy; Easy; Medium; Hard; and Very Hard on each game section. This allows you to have more able students working on the harder levels while any struggling students can work on the lower levels to build their understanding and confidence.
    • Students can compete against the game, themselves, and each other by collecting stars, increasing their average accuracy, and going up levels. Instead of kids being bored they’ll be clamouring to play and improve their scores.
    • It’s a great way of dealing with common misconceptions that kids have about decimals and fractions – like that numbers with more decimal places must be “bigger” numbers.
    • For any students getting frustrated they can watch the related BrainPOP movies under the game without having to navigate away from the game or losing their place.
    • Like all the games, Battleship Numberline has a dedicated quiz that you can use to check students comprehension before or after the game.

    Using the game with a class – hints and tips

    • When I play this game with a class that haven’t seen it before, I like to start with the whole numbers section to get them comfortable with the game mechanic. Then, when I’m sure they understand I propose making it a little harder – which usually gets some excitement!
    • I particularly like using this game on an interactive whiteboard; I split the class into two teams and pick 2 or 3 students from each team to come to the front and take turns solving the levels. After a couple of rounds I will send students back to their seats and pick others from their team to take their place at the front to ensure everybody gets a turn.
    • Often a class will have a student keen to takeover or answer all the questions. If I am sure they understand the concept and they’ve had a go I make them the “official scorekeeper” and put them in charge of keeping  track of how many stars each team has won. It keeps them engaged and busy while giving other students a chance to take part without the enthusiastic student feeling ignored or passed over.

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