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It’s All in Your Head (The Brain) #2: Brain Games

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Lesson Overview:

Having learned different ways of being smart, it’s now time to have some fun letting the children challenge themselves.  This is a simple lesson in which you set up stations so that the children can see new things, figure things out, solve puzzles, and generally increase their brain power!  Exercise for the brain is the name of the game today.  The kids will love the games, and I believe that you will have repeated requests for more and harder puzzles.  Let the games begin!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To challenge children to use some of the library’s puzzle/game collection to stretch their thinking and reasoning skills.  (AASL 4.1.3, “Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.”)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will participate in four game station activities.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the children that people are smart in different ways.  Ask the children the different ways people can be smart and see whether they can remember all eight categories from last week.  (Answer:  Word, Number, Body, Music, Picture/Art, People, Self, Nature.)

Explain that today the students will use some of the library’s collection of picture puzzle games to challenge their thinking.  They’ll also use a few other games/activities to make sure that their brains are getting lots of exercise.

Tell the children that there are six activity stations.  Each student will be able to choose three or four of the stations for today’s lesson.  If they enjoy the challenges, they might get to work with them on another day.

2. Main:

Set-up six activity stations.  At various times in the past, I have used:

  1. Mazes (Spatial awareness)
  2. Dot-to-Dot (Numerical order)
  3. Doodle Pages (Creative thinking)
  4. Crossword Puzzles for Kids (Verbal challenge)
  5. Mandalas (Patterns)
  6. Sudoku for Kids (Numbers)
  7. Hidden Pictures (Visual details)
  8. I Spy (Visual details)
  9. Spot the Difference puzzles (Visual details)
  10. Look Alike Challenges (Visual details)

Believe it or not, some students have never tried a crossword puzzle.  Others have never worked a dot-to-dot or maze.  As simple as it sounds, I assure you that many of these will be new activities for the children.

I’ve listed a few books for the “I Spy” and “Look Alike” stations.  There are also wonderful maze and dot-to-dot books, but most of these challenges have several free, online resources.  I’ve included a few in the “Resources” section below.

You may need an assistant for this lesson to help with the crossword or sudoku stations.  Children may need extra instruction for these potentially new and challenging games.

Let the kids choose three or four of the stations.  Set a timer for eight minutes and rotate the kids through as many games/activities as possible.  In my experience, mazes and dot-to-dot activities hold their attention and get them to concentrate for extended periods.

3. Conclusion:

Bring everyone back to the carpet for a few minutes.  Ask which activities/games were the hardest.  Why were they hard?  Which did the children enjoy the most?  Which made them think the most?  Which were word games?  Which were number games?  Which had to do with pictures or art?  Sort the games into the Multiple Intelligences family, then ask if the children would like to play again.  Wrap up by promising to take a few of these activities to their classrooms and by making the brain games available in the library on a regular basis.

  1. Several of the I Spy books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick.  Example: I Spy School Days or I Spy Year-Round Challenger.
  2. Look Alikes Around the World by Joan Steiner. Any of Joan Steiner’s other “Look Alike” books.
  3. Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes by Carl Warner.
  4. Fill-in-the-picture doodle pages, found here: http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Printables/PrintablesThumbs.php?category=Doodle_Pages
  5. A selection of Usborne Publishing’s Doodle Books.  Example: A Doodle-a-Day pad, or Travel Doodles.
  6. Guide to free Hidden Picture Puzzles: https://www.thebalance.com/hidden-pictures-for-kids-1357609
  7. Guide to free Maze Puzzles: https://www.thebalance.com/free-printable-mazes-for-kids-1357612
  8. Crossword puzzle or sudoku books for kids, anything by Will Shortz, puzzle master extraordinaire.

Avoid using coloring pages unless you think there are some students who would not be able to do any of the other activities.  Coloring pages fit with some lessons, but not this one.  We’re trying to get the kids to think about words, numbers, patterns, and there is much less thinking required on a coloring page.  I’ve included mandalas as the exception since they are more about patterns!

Also, only use doodle books in which the children must supply part of the drawing!  Be careful with your purchases of doodle books.  Some doodle books are actually coloring sheets.

I’ve not listed a source for crossword puzzles because the sources I have tried have not been easy enough for English Language Learners.  Perhaps a book would be better, but I am not comfortable enough with them to recommend one.  If you know of a good source for crosswords that is appropriate for early elementary and English Language Learners, please let me know!

Recommended books for this lesson: 
  1. Several of the I Spy books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick.
  2. Look Alikes Around the World by Joan Steiner. Any of Joan Steiner’s other “Look Alike” books.
  3. Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes by Carl Warner.
Key Terms:

Picture Puzzles, Hidden-Picture Books, Mazes, Brain Games, I Spy, Mandalas