A Positive Teaching Experience: NCTA Puzzle Course III, Spring, 2005Sunday, June 5, 2005
It is the goal of educators to develop the cognitive potential of children. As a third grade, early childhood teacher, I believe that young children enjoy playing, thinking and learning. When an activity is appealing, a child's interest is likely to last for a long time. In addition, most children love to be challenged, test their knowledge and ingenuity, and develop problem-solving strategies when there is a reasonable chance of success. By using Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles in the classroom to complement specific learning skills children are provided with the opportunities to play, think, test their knowledge, expand their thoughts, develop their ability to understand how to evaluate unfamiliar problems, work through how to solve these problems, and develop their problem solving skills. Through these opportunities, students increase their ingenuity and cognitive potential.
Within my third grade classroom, I surveyed several types of Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles. The Link-a-Pix puzzles provided a positive teaching experience for me and a positive learning experience for my students. The sample Link-a-Pix puzzles were straightforward for me to explain and uncomplicated for my students to comprehend. My students met with fast success in the learning phase.
Unravel the mystery phrase
Given the success of the Link-a-Pix samples, I tried the World Map Link-a-Pix puzzle. Due to the vast quantity of pages, and the complexity of each puzzle because of the large numbers, my third graders would have been unable to complete the puzzle within a reasonable period. I was personally disappointed that I had to abandon that project because it perfectly complemented my curriculum unit on Maps and Globes.
Instead, I turned to the Computer Keyboard Link-a-Pix puzzles. I created a puzzle within a puzzle by utilizing the keyboard letters to create mystery phrases for our classroom.
I numbered the back of each Keyboard Link-a-Pix puzzle letter to indicate where it fell in the mystery phrase and then cut a large piece of butcher paper and indicated each letter’s placement. The students needed to correctly solve every Computer Keyboard Link-a-Pix puzzle that I created and assemble each letter in the correct spot to unravel the mystery phrase. The mystery phrase became the introduction to the Maze-a-Pix Famous Americans puzzles and my unit on biographies.
A potential application to the broad goals and objectives of the school curriculum
The Maze-a-Pix puzzles were much more challenging for my students. Before beginning the Maze-a-Pix puzzles I created some simpler mazes for my students to preview. Then, while I demonstrated how to complete a Maze-a-Pix puzzle, my students followed along on their on copy. When the children were asked to do their own Maze-a-Pix puzzle, my students met with limited success. They completed only three Famous American Faces within a group environment. Overall, the Maze-a-Pix puzzles were too demanding in terms of complexity, motor skill, and length of attention span needed for completion.
Both locally and nationally, it is recognized that problem solving skills need to be incorporated into school curriculums beginning at the elementary level and continuing through high school. Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles have a potential application to the broad goals and objectives of the school curriculum because these puzzles can help children develop the cognitive skills that lay the foundation for logical thinking and problem solving skills that are so important for success when confronted with unfamiliar problems in later life.
I believe that Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles can make a direct contribution to the education of children and ultimately to society and therefore have a significant and important future in education. Without the ability to solve problems, the usefulness of ideas, knowledge, and skills are severely limited. Students who can efficiently and accurately recall facts but who cannot identify situations that call for the use of those facts are not well prepared. Students who can both develop and carry out a plan to solve problems exhibit knowledge that is much deeper and more useful than simply reciting facts. Unless students can solve problems, the facts, concepts, and procedures they know are of little use. The goal of school should be for all students to become increasingly able and willing to engage with and solve problems. Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles enhance a student’s ability and willingness to do what is essential to aid in their learning process and enhance the cognitive potential of children.
Students can be constructive participants
I feel that Conceptis-Type Image-Forming puzzles have future possibilities as classroom activities because puzzles are inherently fun for students, and most students have an inner motivation to want to solve more puzzles. The Link-a-Pix and Maze-a-Pix puzzles provide educators with the ability to facilitate a problem-centered approach to teaching some areas of curriculum using interesting puzzles that can launch some lessons and engage students. In this way, students can be constructive participants as new ideas, techniques, and new relationships emerge and become the focus of discussion.
A suggestion for future Link-a-Pix puzzles is to create more puzzles in a variety of curriculum content areas. This would allow teachers to more easily incorporate the puzzles into the demanding curriculum while still maintaining the restraints of time on task and time on learning. For younger children having more Link-a-Pix puzzles that utilize the smaller numbers in large boxes would also be an option for future development. If students have more practice with puzzles with the lower numbers in their younger experiences, they will develop a greater competency. In addition, younger students love color. A possible enhancement would be to create Link-a-Pix puzzles of individual pictures that utilize color.
The World Map Link-a-Pix puzzle could be differentiated for younger students by incorporating smaller numbers into the puzzle and making the squares a little larger. In addition, the puzzles could be incorporated more readily into various curriculums by developing puzzles that focus on a continent, a country, and/or individual provinces or states within a country.
A suggestion for future Maze-a-Pix puzzles is to create more puzzles for younger children by having more puzzles that utilize smaller, simpler mazes. In addition, creating pictures that cover more curriculum content areas, not just faces, would also allow teachers to integrate these puzzles more easily into their demanding curriculum.
About the author
Kathleen Harlow is a public school teacher in Medfield, Massachusetts and a member of Polly Carter's NCTA Puzzle Course. This article is taken from her final paper for Spring Course 2005.