Natalie, the creator of Orthodox Pebbles, was honored to have been invited by the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Church of America to speak at their WEB SEMINAR: Keeping The Summer Connection Active, on Wednesday May 20, 2020. Her talk focused on tips and strategies for holding an online Vacation Church School program. The games on this page are part of this effort.
Social distancing has changed our lives in so many ways, and it has modified our Sunday School classes as well. Having switched to digital teaching almost immediately after the stay-at-home guidelines were put into place, we have gone through a steep learning curve trying to figure out how we could transfer the activities we used to do in our analog class to the digital realm.
We love playing games in our real classroom, so we had to find ways of playing them in our online classroom as well. We experimented with different options and came up with a few general guidelines and helpful tools for making our own games that we thought might be useful to share. We are also including below some games that we created and we have been using in our own online classes. At our parish, we are planning an end-of-year Sunday School celebration session for the whole school to play them together.
A few helpful tips for making your own games
- The games have to be quick and simple – this benefits both the teacher preparing them and the students playing them.
- For technical reasons, it is not practical to have the children directly play against each other, even though this would be more enjoyable. It is much easier if only the teacher controls the game while sharing his/her screen. The students get to watch, answer questions and give directions, while the teacher performs the actions for them.
* Click HERE for an example video from Natalie’s online classroom.*
ORTHODOX PEBBLES GAMES
The following games are versatile enough to be used with any topic. Natalie’s teenage son Antonios helped out by programming them on Scratch, a coding platform that allows you to create your own interactive online activities. We are amateur coders, so please excuse any technical shortcomings!
Reveal the Icon
This is a platform for playing a two-player game in an online teaching session. When the boxes are clicked they disappear to reveal the image behind them.
HOW TO PLAY
Before the game, the teacher has prepared questions relative to the topic being taught. The teacher shares his/her screen. One player (or team) picks blue and the other picks yellow. The players take turns answering a question asked by the teacher. If the player answers the question correctly, the teacher clicks on a box of the player’s color to reveal part of the image underneath. Winner is the player whose entire image is revealed first.
This is a Christian-themed hangman-type game. A fire has broken out and it is sweeping through the city. Find the word to save the city churches from burning down!
HOW TO PLAY
First, a player selects a word and types it in, keeping it secret from the other players. *Only lowercase letters work!* Then, the other players try to guess letters, which are typed into the text box. Every time a wrong letter is picked, one church burns down. When all the churches have burnt down, the game is lost. The fire burnt down the whole city!
To play in an online teaching session
The teacher chooses a word related to the lesson before sharing his/her screen with the students. After the screen is shared, the students watch and suggest the letters while the teacher types them in.
Orthodox-themed Board Game
This is a virtual board game that can be used with any topic. It includes a generic game board, colored placeholders, and a working digital die. The number of placeholders can be adjusted according to the number of the players. The placeholders can be dragged to move around on the game board. Click on the die to roll. It is a very flexible platform to use: the teacher can make up his/her own game rules. We are suggesting a possible game scenario below.
On an online session, the game is controlled by the teacher who is sharing his/her screen with the players. The players watch as the teacher rolls the die and moves the placeholders for them, and they get to answer questions when needed. Before the game, the teacher has prepared questions related to the topic being taught.
POSSIBLE GAME SCENARIO
- Each player is assigned a placeholder.
- The teacher drags all the placeholders on “start” and clicks on the die to roll it for the first player. The teacher moves the player’s placeholder ahead as many squares as the number that came up.
- If the placeholder lands on a “?” square, the teacher asks a question. The player has to answer correctly for the placeholder to stay where it landed. Otherwise it is moved back to where it was before.
- If the placeholder lands on a “1” square, the placeholder exchanges positions with the leader.
- If the placeholder lands on a “!” square, the placeholder is moved back to “start”.
- Then it’s the next player’s turn. Winner is the player whose placeholder reaches “finish” first.
This is a letter scramble platform. It can be used with any phrase up to 20 characters long. After the user types in a phrase, the letters will appear mixed up on the top part of the screen. The user can drag the letters to move them around.
HOW TO USE IN AN ONLINE TEACHING SESSION
The teacher types in the desired phrase before sharing his/her screen, and the letters appear scrambled on the top part of the screen. S/he shares the screen and starts the phrase by moving the first letter to the gray part. Then the students take turns suggesting the letters that should follow until the phrase is complete.
Puzzel.org – A great web site for creating a variety of games and challenges. It is free, simple to use, and customer support is very friendly and helpful. We created many of the games we are offering in our other pages using this resource.
Kahoot.com – A popular platform that allows one to easily create online challenges with a gameshow feel. The most fun part of a Kahoot game is that the players get to compare themselves with the other players in real time. You can use the “Challenge” mode to set up an asynchronous challenge that the players complete at their own time. We found Kahoot a little too complicated for using as a resource with young children – but it is a great resource for planning a preteen or GOYA event.
Scratch – This is a resource for the adventurous Sunday School teacher – it is not for the faint-at-heart! It is a coding platform created by the MIT Media Lab, which allows one to program interactive stories, games, and animations.