December 14, 2014

Sights and Sounds of the Season

For me Christmas is all about the sights and sounds, the songs and the traditions. Teaching in a Catholic school allows me to focus on the religious aspect of the holiday more than my peers who teach in a public school, but we also include the secular side of the holiday in our activities.

For instance, this week before break my sixth graders will play this fun, engaging ZAP game that focuses on Language Arts skills combined with the story of the Nativity. You can read more about and download it HERE.

For those of you who don't know how to play ZAP, here's a quick run down. The game consists of playing cards in a container (generally a Pringle's can). The cards focus on a particular skill.

  1. Divide your class into several teams depending on the number of students. Determine how long you will play or how many rounds you will complete. 
  2. Have a student draw a strip from the container without looking inside. 
  3. The team should read the words on the strip, then confer to determine the answer.
  4. If the team answers correctly, it keeps the strip. If it answers incorrectly the strip is returned to the container.
  5. Teams take turns drawing/collecting the strips. However, there is a twist. If a team draws a ZAP! card, it must return ALL of its strips to the container. 
  6. The winner is the team that collects the most strips. You may want to award them with a simple prize such as a treat, bonus points on an upcoming quiz/test, 5 minutes of free time, etc.

During this last hectic holiday week, we will also play this ZAP game, a brand new addition to my TpT storeThis ZAP! game requires students to identify which of four words is NOT a synonym of the other three. It, too, is available in my TpT Store.

I've included two sizes of playing cards in this product. The smaller size is suitable for use with the 2 to 2.5 ounce Pringle's cans while the larger size works well with the standard to large sized Pringle's cans.
All of the cards carry a QR code, making the game perfect for use as a self-checking literacy center.

Finally, I added something new to this ZAP! game: two additional cards. You'll notice that besides the ZAP! cards there are cards marked ZIP and ZOP. These are optional cards and add a great twist to the typical ZAP! game. My kiddos love to play ZAP! but they went wild for this variation, even my junior highers!
If a team draws a ZIP card, the team draws two cards to answer. If it draws a ZOP card, the team may steal a card from another team. Return the ZIP, ZAP, ZOP cards to the container after each turn and continue playing.

This ZAP! game as well as many more holiday themed games and activities can be found in my TpT Store. All of them are perfect for the last, hectic week before the holiday break.

Since I made a brand new version of an old favorite, I'm linking up this post with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It. Be sure to stop by her blog for lots of other great ideas by teacher bloggers.

Remember I did say that the sounds of the seasons are important to me? Although I don't teach music, per se, I do incorporate music into all areas of the curriculum and even teach my sixth graders to play the choir chimes so they can lead the singing at many of our school prayer services and masses. It's a great way to emphasize reading for a purpose and paying very close attention to the text. Throw in listening skills and general music playing skills and you've got a learning activity packed with punch.

Excuse my loud humming (the camera is close to my mouth). By humming, we are able to play together without me actually directing them. During Mass or a prayer service they need to be as independent as possible so that there is no distraction to the others present. My sixers had just learned to play this song. It had taken them three days of copying the music from the board, learning the chords and notes, rehearsing section by section, and following my direction.  Notice how engaged they all are? A teacher can't ask for more. We will be sharing this piece at our final Advent prayer service held directly before dismissal on our final day, the last thing that every K-6 student will experience before they leave for home,  a beautiful and peaceful ending to a tremendously hectic week.


  1. I'm so excited to play this new ZAP game with my students. I know my students are going to totally LOVE the ZIP and ZOP cards as they will make the game more interesting.

    I've had lots of good come out of playing your ZAP games with my students. My students have learned to listen to their peers because they know they may possibly get the same card again later in the game. For this reason when we started playing I shared that a great strategy to this game is to listen, so when you get that repeat card a different group already had they know the answer. Thus my students listen when we play these games.

    One of the greatest things that has come from me playing ZAP with my students is that my students have learned to be good sports. One day while playing I rewarded a team of great sports with PBIS tickets because they kept telling all the students in the class whether they were on their team or not, "GOOD JOB!" or if someone pulled a ZAP card they would say, GOOD JOB ______ YOU CAN DO IT NEXT TIME!" Now every time my students play ZAP the whole class responds this way, and I LOVE that my students have learned to become good sports while reviewing content.

    Thanks for all the AMAZING QUALITY products.

  2. The ZAP games look so fun!! The chime music is simply beautiful! What a great. Way to end 2014 at school!

  3. I love that you get to celebrate Christmas with your students - I think I would love to have had you as a teacher! :)

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle


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