Online World War 1 Simulation Game

Online WW! Simulation Game

If you are studying WW1 with middle or high school students I cannot recommend this World War 1 simulation game highly enough. The kids LOVED it!! Imagine turning World War 1 into a big online game of Risk! That is what you will be doing.

The battles begin

A word of explanation: I teach at a homeschool co-op and my classroom is a church sanctuary, so don’t be surprised when you see pews in my photos!

The game is played over 6 days. We did it one day a week over 6 weeks. The students are divided into countries. There were 30 students in my class and we had a President and Vice-President for each country and also a Secretary of State for some. The first lesson is the introduction where you explain what will happen.

WW1 Country binders

Each country has different objectives which only they know about. The objectives could include invading a specific country or making an alliance with another one. At the end of the simulation, each country is evaluated on how close they came to reaching all their objectives. We had one final lesson where we talked about what happened and compared it to the actual war.

Each day the game is played is one year of the war, starting in 1914. The different countries get the chance to ally with each other (either secretly or openly) and to plan where they will attack. The Allies and the Central Powers take turns to decide where they will move their armies and how many they will move.

WW1 Forms

The students submit their moves on paper and the teacher keys them into the website … and hits Enter! You cannot believe how excited the students get!

Each year of the war brought different twists. There were news bulletins with the main news (eg sinking of the Lusitania) and changes in what countries could do (eg some got access to poison gas after a few years).

The simulation game comes with everyone you need to print off for the students and clear instructions (including a very useful video). You do need to spend a few hours doing prep before the first class. I uploaded everything to Office Depot’s print service and just collected when it was done. But then you need to put the binders together (1 per country). Each binder has information specific to that country.

Country binders inside

Initially, you need to buy the Simulation Activity and the one-year Online Subscription but if you re-use it you just need to get the online subscription. There is also a homeschool version available

It was worth every cent and every minute it took me to get the materials together. I am now planning to get WW2 to play this coming year. Other options are Civil War and the Cold War.

Online WW1 Simulation Game

**Please note some of the links above are affiliate links

Election Challenge: Can your students correctly predict what will happen?

Election Challenge Contest


An election year is a great time to get students involved in learning about government and politics. But as they can’t vote, you need to find creative ways to engage them in the whole election process.

This is why Election Challenge is such a great tool to use with students. It is an online contest created by which gets students to predict how think each state will vote. It also requires them to estimate voter turnout.

Election Challenge is free for anyone to use and provides links to resources to help students make their predictions. It is extremely simple – students just go through 3 rounds and select which way they think each state will vote. In the first round, they are presented with “solid” states that everyone expects to vote a certain way. Then things get a bit trickier as they predict the states “leaning” to one side. And, in the final round, they are presented with the battleground states.

After making these predictions they finish up by making predictions about voter turnout and the margin of victory percentage.

They can change their minds until November 1 – but must submit their maps by then. The maps can easily be shared on social media which also provides a great talking point as students will naturally argue about whose predictions are more correct.

Here’s a video overview

You can view the prizes as well as lesson plans teachers can use here.

Election Challenge can be used with middle or high schoolers, in class, at home or at after school clubs. It is a really fun engaging way to get students to get involved in the election this year.


FundaFunda’s Online Biology Class for homeschoolers

Online biology class

This year FundaFunda will be offering a high school online Biology class for the first time. To let you know more about the class, I interviewed the instructor Dr Dana Underwood.

What does each unit look like?

Dr Dana UnderwoodDr. Underwood: We do small projects for each unit – not worth a ton in terms of points, but the goal is to have students work with the material at a deeper level.  They can draw, write, make a chart, do a computer animation, sculpt, etc.  Some approaches work better with certain material – nobody has ever sculpted glycolysis – but I also want for them to learn that, if there is an approach to learning that helps them (writing, modeling, acting it out, whatever) then they can use it to learn even if they’re not specifically assigned to make a 3D model.

In my last few years of college and in grad school, I kept play-doh at my desk so that I could make a model of anything that I couldn’t visualize (and just sniff it if I needed to channel my non-stressed 6-year-old self).

I see you assign a textbook. How do you use it in the class?  

Dr. Underwood: The textbook is there so that students can refer back in case their notes from the lectures are missing anything, and to look at specific figures and diagrams. Occasionally short passages are assigned for students to read, but it is not the primary way the material is taught.

Are there tests?

Dr. Underwood: We do one test per unit, which ends up being 4 per semester. The last unit is set up to be a little shorter so that the last test is 1/2 new material, 1/2 cumulative.
How are students graded?

Dr. Underwood: In addition to the test gradesstudents get points for homework and projects, but what I keep emphasizing to them is that usually if they do all of the work, they learn the material enough that the points don’t matter.  Except in the (rare) cases where students have some sort of learning/test taking disability, homework pulls up test grades by no more than one letter grade.  I can do difficult material and they don’t fear that they’ll bomb it because they have homework to ‘pull them up’, but for most students the act of doing the work causes them to learn the difficult material.  I emphasize that even the absence of the assignments that I give, they should still use the techniques – making up practice tests, drawing, making flowcharts or lumping things into categories – to study anything.

Biology is a lot of studying – how do you help the students do that?

Dr. Underwood: We talk about how to approach different parts of the class – for genetics, I tell them to treat it like math and practice many problems.  For the parts of the cell, I tell them to quit saying that they’re ‘confused’ because it’s mostly a list to memorize and they just need to buckle down and do it because they cacelln’t do much else until they know the parts, and for the metabolism and replication/transcription sections, I tell them that they need to think through flowcharts because it’s a process – they can memorize the steps, but they can also choose to think logically about what has to happen next to get to the end result and they’ll end up understanding what’s happening.

We do learn a lot of material.  Much of it is molecular biology and even students who don’t especially enjoy the topic are impressed with its complexity and how much they learned.  At the end of the year, we do ecology, which most students find to be easier – it’s a good way to end the year.

How does this class prepare students for college?

Dr Underwood: The entire class is set up to teach students how to prepare for a college class, in addition to the biology content.  Instead of dcell diagrametailed questions for homework, I give questions that they should use as a study guide – in college they might not give you homework questions asking ‘why is x important’ or ‘why does y have to come first in the pathway?’, but hopefully at the end of my class you’ve learned that if you’re given a list of 8 reasons that something is important, you should familiarize yourself with it, and if you’re presented with a pathway or flow chart, understanding why it happens in that order is important.

What are students likely to gain from this class?

Dr. Underwood: Alas, as much as I think that biology is the coolest subject ever, I know that many of them will use the study methods more than they’ll use the details of cellular metabolism.

Anything else you do that most biology classes don’t?

Throughout the year they write article reviews about the science articles of their choice, so they can either do something with topics that they find interesting or they can learn about current ‘science in the news’.

To sign up for this class click here. And you can view our other FundaFunda Academy classes for homeschoolers here.

Interview with Sofia Tomov, a middle school author

Interview with student author

It’s not every day a student comes up to you and hands you a copy of a book they just wrote and published. That happened to me last year and as I got mentioned in the credits it made it even more special.

Sofia Tomov researched, wrote and illustrated Sneaky Creatures: Amazing True Tales of Animal Spies  – when she was only 11! As I was teaching a history class about spies last semester, I read the book and used what I learned from it as the basis of a lesson plan for one of my classes.

I have never written a book and so I was curious about how Sofia went about the process and thought others might be too. So here is my interview with her:

Sofia Tomov
Why did you decide to write a book?

Sofia: I first found out about animal spies through reading about Project Bat Bomb, a proposed alternative to the Manhattan Project that involved bats dropping bombs on Japan. I am interested in animals and was excited to learn more about this subject as I wondered if animal spies could have saved lives as a viable alternative to nuclear weapons. I wanted to share this fascination with others and got the idea to write a book about it.

How did you pick the topic?

Sofia: I have always been interested in nature and animal behavior. After taking a fantastic class on spies throughout history at my homeschool co-op (thanks, Mrs. Van der Merwe!), I combined my interests and wondered if it was possible to train animals to become ‘spies.’ I researched this, and found fascinating articles about bats, cats, dolphins, and pigeons that have been trained to assist the American military.

How long did it take you to write it?

Sofia: It took me around four months to research and write the book.

How did you create the illustrations?

Sofia: I created the illustrations using a photo editing software called Photoshop. I used an existing image as a background, and then added images taken during the actual animal spy projects. Then, I altered certain properties of the images such as contrast and color, and used certain filters that altered the texture of the image.

Sneaky Creatures illustration

What software did you use to create the book?

Sofia: I used Google documents to write the book, and then uploaded that document into Amazon’s createSpace.

What was the hardest thing about the whole process?

Sofia: The hardest thing about writing Sneaky Creatures was narrowing down all my research to focus on several main aspects of each animal spy project. While I felt tempted to include all the fascinating details I had read about, I knew I needed to find only the most interesting and important information and include that in each chapter.

What did you learn from the experience?

Sofia: I learned not only about the specific animal spy projects, but I also learned how to effectively and engagingly communicate my research. I also realized that the notion of using animals for military purposes has more ethical flaws than I originally thought, because the animals are often placed in physical danger, and are disrespected as living beings.

What is your advice to someone your age who is thinking of writing a book?
Sofia: I would advise a young writer to choose a book topic they are truly interested in and are excited to explore in depth, and also to not give up on writing the book. It is sometimes challenging to continue writing when you feel overwhelmed by information, or when you feel like your writing is not exactly how you envision it. In this situation, I would recommend considering what you would most like to know about, or asking someone such as a parent, teacher, or friend for feedback on your writing.

Sofia is a very impressive young lady who does a lot more than just write books! She is a currently a Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge national finalist. If you want to keep up with Sofia – follow her on twitter @KatnissofCode.

Sneaky Creatures: Amazing True Tales of Animal Spies is easy to read and full of interesting stories that will engage anyone from elementary school up. This will make a great gift – and when children see it is written by someone their own age, I hope some will be inspired to go and write a book themselves!

Pokémon Go: The Pros, the Cons and other Random Thoughts

Pokemon Go: Pros and Cons

As someone on the wrong side of 50, even one who has been very active in the tech world for a long time, I was fascinated to watch how fast Pokémon Go became a thing!

It seems almost bizarre that the app now has more active users than Twitter, but as the first augmented reality game that is readily available to almost everyone (who doesn’t have a smart phone these days?) I suppose it is not really that surprising.

My curiosity was piqued as soon as I heard one of my kids telling another one of mine that they had to get this app. And so, for the purpose of “educational research”, I downloaded it a few days later. And I have been playing it ever since 🙂

But as I am an adult, and a parent of a teen, and a teacher, I have tried to stand back a bit and think about the game in a more analytical way than most of the players. Don’t expect anything profound here, but I thought some parents who perhaps haven’t tried it out might like to read this post.

Pokemon Go screenshot

Firstly, some random thoughts

  • Niantic has created a really great game – simple yet with plenty to keep one playing for a long time
  • Augmented reality games are now going to be the new rage. Expect to see many many more like this – but none are likely to have the same impact, of course.
  • Also expect existing augmented reality apps to suddenly become more popular. I just discovered there is a Zombies, Run app that allows you to be part of a story, and you guessed it, you do a lot of running!
  • Niantic programmers are going to be working long hours as the app is still very buggy! It often (for me ‘often’ equals about 8 times out of 10) fails to load and the app freezes regularly.
  • The sales of external battery packs could soar. This app eats through your battery in no time at all! (You can prolong battery life by using low power mode).
  • It’s going to be interesting once school starts up again. If Pokémon are roaming the school corridors along with the students, the number of students late to class and the inventive reasons for being late could escalate.


It’s fun to play – watch this video of kids teaching their gran to play!

The Pros
  • As has been mentioned repeatedly online, it does get kids and teens up and moving! My friends have reported that their teens now ask to accompany them on errands to find Pokémon, Pokéstops to replenish supplies and Pokémon gyms to train their Pokémon. They are also going for walks as this is the only way to hatch eggs. The app can detect the speed at which you are moving, and so you really do have to cover the distance on your legs. The shortest distance is 2km but I know some eggs require you to walk 10km!
  • I have not yet visited a gym but I know that’s where you go to train and fight. Even without knowing the details of how it will work it is obvious that strategy is going to be involved. And that gets the players using their brains.
The Cons
  • Players will do stupid things. Like trying to break into a medical facility at night to catch Pokémon. (This happened in my home town) And not looking where they are going (Niantic has a big warning as you open the app – but well, you know how it goes – look at all the accidents with people taking selfies!)
  • Players will do inconsiderate things. Like trying to catch Pokémon in the parking lot while a funeral service was in progress. (This happened at my home church).
  • Some players will get addicted. Pokémon Go will become their purpose in life. But those people would likely always find something to become addicted to anyway.
  • It uses data – so families with multiple players may have extra charges on their cellphone accounts as a result. So far this hasn’t been a problem for us, but we aren’t playing much in non-wifi areas.,

Overall, I think Pokémon Go will do for augmented reality apps what Serial did for podcasts – make people aware of what they are. I am excited to see the way augmented reality can be used in education.

And in my house, there is no unhealthy obsession with the game, just an increased desire by some of us to get out and moving a bit more. If an app can make exercise more enjoyable – that’s a good thing in my opinion.

I am sure the craze will die down somewhat in a few weeks – but no doubt thousands will keep on playing and hopefully the end result be healthier and mentally sharper players.

What do you think? Are your kids playing? Are you?

Padlet – a review of a great classroom tool

Padlet Review


As I reflected back over this past year of teaching in both live classes and online I realized that the tool I had used the most over the year was Padlet. If you’ve never heard of Padlet, let me just explain it is a very simple online “pin board” for want of a better way of describing it. All you do is simply click the screen or the + sign and add whatever you want to on this online board.

You can make your Padlets so that Google doesn’t see them i.e.  they can’t be found on searches. You can password protect them if you want, and you can limit who can comment on them or add things to the board, so there is a lot of flexibility. Padlet is free to use and once you start using it you are going to find more and more reasons to use it.

And another great feature is the board collaborators do not need an account! This means the teacher can create a board, and students can add to it or comment on it – without needing to sign up!

I’m going to give you some ways that I used Padlet in the classroom and then I am also going to give you some ways that I think you could use it outside the classroom just in everyday life. In fact, some of these I have used too.

The first way I used Padlet was when I wanted to put a collection of items together and have my students take a look at them. In the example below I created a flag quiz.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 9.18.40 PM


The second way I used Padlet was for the students to share their work with each other. For example, in one class I asked them to each create e-books on different countries in eastern Europe. Once they created the e-books they went and pinned them on to a Padlet board. That way they could all see what the other students had created. They did a great job, btw, and if you have 5 to 8 year olds, their target audience, you might want to read them to your kids.

padlet - ebooks

Another way to use it is when students are researching one topic – but working on different aspects of the topic. Let them all pin their research on the same board. I actually used this last year with middle schoolers in the history class that was focused on historical criminals. Here is the board let they created on D.B Cooper

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 9.06.28 PM


Those are the ways that I have used it in the classroom, but Padlet is something you can use outside the classroom too. I just used it as a birthday wishlist. It’s an easy way to pin different pictures or whatever you would like. You could also use Padlet to cooperatively plan a vacation. Everyone can go on and pin their ideas and you can see them all in one place. It’s particularly great because with Padlet you can pin links, videos, photographs etc. People can also leave comments on things others have pinned.

If you have used Padlet and used it in some different ways than I have described, please leave a note in the comments to give us all more ideas.

“Crazydash” your way around a city this summer!

Crazy Dash


Crazy Dash is a fun way to explore a city – and a perfect activity to do with students. Crazy Dash is a scavenger hunt game you access from your cell phone that has you running around and doing crazy things while learning about the city you are in.

The middle school students at the after school center I help in did one recently and loved it. I did it with a friend a few weeks later and we had fun too! So it works for all ages which makes it a good activity to do as a family in the summer vacation.

Playing Crazy Dash


So – how exactly does it work.

  1. See if Crazy Dash operates in the city you live in or are visiting.
  2. Buy a “game”. You can buy from their site, or check if Groupon or Living Social is offering it at a discount. When you buy you select the time you expect to start playing.
  3. When you are ready to play travel to the area in your city where the game will start and click the link you have been sent on your phone to launch the game.
  4. You will be sent clues to follow and instructions on fun things to do. And you will have questions to answer. Continue until you reach the end!

What makes Crazy Dash different from other scavenger hunt games like Stray Boots is the crazy things you have to do. This will make it very appealing to children (children under 12 play free with a playing adult). You may need to strike a funny pose next to a statue, or interact with passersby.

You could turn it into a race and have different groups competing against each other to see who finishes first, or you can just do it at your leisure. It will take between 1 and 2 hours – depending on the speed you move at :). You could also see who scores the most points as you are awarded points for each correct answer.

Crazy Dash Screenshot

Unlike Stray Boots, Crazy Dash does not provide a lot of extra information on the places you visit BUT it is still educational as you read information on plaques at various places you visit.

Doada S., a 7th grader in the program I work with, had this to say about his experience participating in Crazy Dash:

It was fun and exciting and I discovered new things I did not know.

If you have done a Crazy Dash, how did you enjoy it? Please leave a comment to tell us.

**Some of the links may be affiliate links. Doesn’t cost you anything more and helps support this blog.

South America Games: A Fun Way to Review

South America Games

As we were nearing the end of our unit on South America, I decide to spend a class period with my high schoolers doing review – game show style! As you can guess, playing South America games was a whole lot more popular than doing South America pop quizzes.

Here is a video I created that shows clips of each activity.

Dancing (with the stars)

As part of an assignment while they were studying Brazil, I had posted a video for them to learn to Samba at home. Now they got to show off how good they were. I first let them practice with this video

and then I used the music I downloaded here while they competed. Three did it really well and three others weren’t bad – so all six won candy.

South America Jeopardy

South America Jeopardy







The students always love playing Jeopardy. I have a buzzer system as I coach our quiz bowl team so it makes it easy to do. The clip in the video was actually taken after the event as I forgot to do it while we were playing. There were 16 in the class and they paired up to play.

I used one I found online instead of making my own. The one I used was on Central and South America. I love how easy it is to keep score like this! Just hook up a laptop to a screen and it feels like you are on the set of Jeopardy!

South America Kahoot






If you have never used Kahoot with your students, you should. They love it as you could tell in the video. While Kahoot is not an actual game show – it could be! Students do all need a device – anything works. They log in to your game room. Multiple choice questions appear on the screen and the select the shape that corresponds with their answer.

Immediately the time is up they can see if they were correct and where they stand on the leaderboard. At the end they were begging to play again but time had run out.

I adapted a public Kahoot – Features of South America – by removing the questions we hadn’t covered. I could also have added some of my own but as I had 16 questions I didn’t feel I needed to.

This was such a success that I plan to have a “Game Show” type review at the end of each continent we study. I have a few more game show ideas in mind to mix up the format.

Do you have any game shows you have used for Geography Review? Please share in the comments!

CSI Florence: A Renaissance Lesson Plan

Renaissance Lesson Plan


This semester I am teaching 16 classes on Criminals in History. Over the summer I was on vacation in Italy and went wine and olive-oil tasting at a villa just outside Florence. Part of the experience included a tour through the house which dated back to the 12th century. The house had belonged to the Pazzi family. On the tour we were taken into the Conspiracy Room. It was here, during the Renaissance, that a murder plot against the Medici family was hatched. As I heard the story I knew this would be great for my middle school class. The story would hold their interest and would be a fantastic way for them to learn about Renaissance Italy.

As I started mulling over how to make the lesson interactive and fun, I searched a bit online – and that’s when I found the fantastic lesson Mr Roughton created. I used it just as he suggested and it was a great success.

In a nutshell, students investigate 8 different pieces of evidence related to the murder of Giuliano de’ Medici and then come to their own conclusions about who was involved in the crime.

What to do before the lesson

1. I read through everything and researched more about the story of the murder and what happened afterwards.

2. If you don’t have good wifi (my problem) or your school blocks Youtube, be sure to download the 3 videos you will need.

3. Make copies of the documents the students have to look at. I just made them in black and white (color for some would have been nice – but that was beyond my budget). I made 4 copies of each evidence set as I have 30 students in my class so I wanted everyone to be able to have access to something at all times. I put each piece of evidence in a plastic sheet protector as I want to be able to re-use them.

4. I got a big roll of paper (from Office Depot) and lay face down on it and my daughter took a sharpie and outlined the “body”. (This was hard to do as our kittens wanted in on the fun! So the paper also ended up with multiple small claw holes!)

5. The Forensics teacher supplied me with police tape. You can buy it on Amazon.

6. I copied an Evidence booklet for each student.

Evidence booklet



How the lesson turned out

Fortunately I had the lunch break straight before this class, so I had time to set everything up. I happen to teach in the sanctuary of a church – and the murder took place in a church – so that was great! I put down the sheet with the body outlined and cordoned it off with police tape. Then I spread out the rest of the evidence around the room.

I made a Storie while the students were working. You can see how I turned off the lights at the start which is what Mr Roughton suggests – and I started the first video. The students were very quiet and engaged immediately!

I had 55 minutes for the lesson but as this was the first time I had seen these students this year I had to spend a few minutes at the start doing roll call and going over some things so that took some time away from the lesson. I gave the students about 20 minutes to work on their own investigating exhibits B through G and most of them didn’t get through everything. Quite a few got stuck on Exhibit D as they saw it was in Italian. I had to point out to them that many words were the same as the English words so they could actually figure it out.

The lesson was a success and it was so easy to do thanks to the work Mr Roughton put in to creating it. You can find everything you need here. Oh, and if you use it, drop him a note via his Contact form. I know he would appreciate that!

And come back and leave a comment here to let me know how it went!

** Disclaimer: some of the links are affiliate links. You don’t pay more, but I get a small percentage of any sales.


Fantasy Geopolitics: A unique way to learn about the world


Fantasy Geopolitics Review


I am always looking for ways to make learning real and relevant and fun – so I was thrilled when I learned about Fantasy Geopolitics.

Mashable described the game as “Fantasy Football” meets “Model United Nations”.

Students get the chance to decide which countries they want on their “team” – and this requires them to learn about what’s happening in the world if they want to be successful.

How does Fantasy Geopolitics work?


Teachers set up leagues for their classrooms and decide how many countries will be on each student’s team. On draft day students take it in turns to make their selection.

Then for the duration of the game (the teacher decides how long that will be) students are awarded points depending on how often their countries are mentioned in the news, and whether they are mentioned in a favorable light or not.

Students can trade with other students during that time, or drop countries and select ones that haven’t been drafted already.

Fantasy Geopolitics Leaderboard

Steps to take before the Fantasy Geopolitics draft

1. Give the students a few weeks to follow world news

2. Make sure all students have an email address they can use. This allows them to access the game outside of the classroom.

3. Get the students to write down a list of countries they would like to draft. Remind them the popular ones will be chosen quickly, so they need plenty of options. If they don’t have an extensive list to work through you will find yourself waiting while students try to decide on countries to select.

What students think about Fantasy Geopolitics

My students loved playing and the first thing they would ask to do when arriving in class was to check the leaderboard. Here’s what two of them told me after we had concluded the game:

Tyler said:

I thought it was great. It gave me a reason to look up and see what was happening around the world. I learned lots about the Middle East and I came in second place!
Chance said:
My experience in Fantasy Geopolitics was great. I spent time reading the news and learned many new things. It was so much fun.
Who should use Fantasy Geopolitics?

This is a great game to play with middle or high schoolers (or even college students!) who are taking classes in Geography or Economics or anything related to current affairs and world politics.

The game works on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones – which means it is accessible to almost everyone.

It does cost – but if you have a few classes it turns out to be $1 per student or even less. And that’s for a full year. They do have various plan options. You can sign up and get a free account that allows you to play with 5 people so that is a good way to try it out and see if it is right for your students.

So – go and check it out at and let me know in the comments if you are playing it with your classes.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...