This note asks for your input below on two issues:
1) A way forward for the Thinking Skills club
2) An Information Night.
After reading, please leave a Comment at the bottom.
The new year is a good time for reassessments and alterations. Looking back at the home page I posted for the Thinking Skills club, I am reminded of my original plan to keep everyone on a progressive path of courses. This has not really worked out. Kids have been allowed to play whatever games they want as long as they are on the website, and for the most part this has worked. Lately, the class has been downright lively, with kids starting themselves up and getting involved in the games. By the last class, however, there were too many people playing games not on my site.
There were two reasons for this: first, some Grade 1’s who found the games too hard were constantly asking me for new ones, so I let them play something not on the list but which kept them occupied. Some others I allowed to play with KidPix, a drawing and painting program the school has which is good for creative exploration. Near the end of the last term, I got some of these kids interested in a game from a site for preschoolers which is linked to my site. It does not address specific cognitive skills, but has a good number of free games that are easy and fun and do promote thinking skills.
The second source of pressure for off-site games came from older kids who were either bored with the games available or found the higher levels too challenging to be fun. Some of these kids have suggested games to add to the site, which is great. However, I can’t let it go on or the rationale of the club will get lost.
To sum up, two approaches have now been tried and found wanting: a) have them follow a curriculum, and b) let them play any game on the site that attracts them. Both these strategies aim at helping thinking skills in general rather than addressing specific learning issues of each child.
I see two ways forward, and need your input. PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT telling me which one you prefer, and/or to suggest another path.
1) I can tell the kids that the club is not just to play games but to help them with their schoolwork. I can ask them to complete a form asking them what they like about school, what they are best at, and what they or their teachers think they can improve on. Based on this I can recommend one or more games for them to play, and they will have to promise to stick with them for at least a couple of sessions or until they get to a certain level. This personalized approach may have more value for some individual kids, although it may be harder to get them to come out if they perceive it as a commitment rather than a diversion.
2) I can add as many games to the site as I can find that qualify as cognitively enriching (including, for instance, online chess), and provide more guidance on the site itself, talking about specific learning issues, so that parents can make better use of it as a tool. Kids can play whatever game they want in the workshop, as long as it’s on the site. As a side service, I can offer free consultations to parents about which games might be best for their child. I can also create a new form so that kids can track their own progress. (I tried doing this at first myself, but it became too onerous).
My own sense is that Option 2 is more realistic. Please let me know what you think.
One more thing: I’d like to gauge interest in an INFORMATION NIGHT to be held one school night, maybe next week. I’d talk for about 10 minutes, then open for questions/discussion. It would be a great chance for you to learn more and for me to get your feedback and ideas. Please let me know if you are interested and what night is best.