Using the App "Heads Up" by Ellen Degeneres in Our Homeschool Lessons

Ellen DeGeneres created this wonderful, free application called Heads Up!  It’s a guessing game you download onto iTunes or an Android.  You hold your device, i.e. iPad, facing away form you, and words or phrases will appear on the screen.  Your partner is looking at the screen and they have to get you to guess what’s there.  When you guess correctly, you tilt the screen forward to go to the next card; when you can’t get it or your partner can’t describe it, you tilt the screen back to pass.  You have a minute to guess as many as you can and the app keeps track of your score for you.

It’s like Charades and $100,000 Pyramid for the digital age (so dating myself!).  There are a number of categories called “decks” from which to choose – some are free and some are a one time fee of $0.99 – and there are decks for most ages.  It is so much fun!  We took it with us on our Thanksgiving trip to Boston and introduced it to my parents and my brother.  We were laughing so hard and yelling out our guesses so loud, we thought for sure the guests in the neighboring hotel rooms would call the front desk on us.

But it’s not just fun; there are great educational uses for this game, as well.  Anytime I can make a lesson into a game, I’ve got B’s attention.  With the clock running, B has to focus, read, recognize (do I know what that is or not?), make a decision whether to describe it or pass and figure out what to say or do to get me to guess correctly.  Those are a lot of skills to be working on at the same time!  With most decks, you have to use your words and/or sounds to describe things plus there is one deck where you cannot speak at all.

The only thing I dislike about this app, is that it uses the camera on your device to record video of the person acting out/describing what is on the screen.  You can choose to share this video with The Ellen Degeneres Show, your friends or not.  I am not interested in sharing with anyone and wish that I could turn this feature off.  So, I have covered the cameras on both sides of my device to prevent anything from showing up.  Because I don’t know what happens to those recordings if I don’t share.  Are they deleted?  Saved?  Who might be viewing them?

Although there are learning opportunities in any deck you choose,  I’m going to mention just four of them:

  1. “Animals Gone Wild” – B is an animal lover and huge fan of Wild Kratts.  He loves it when an animal he’s recently learned about shows up in the list.  And when there’s one he doesn’t know, he wants to research it and find out all he can about it.
  2. “Wish You Were Here” – This deck is a great Geography lesson.  It contains landmarks, bodies of waters, fun travel destinations, etc., from The Colosseum, to The Baltic Sea to Disney World.
  3. “Perfect Pairs” – This is a new deck to us and it’s a Language Arts lesson in alliteration.   It contains 2-word phrases that begin with the same letter.  We played it tonight and I could not complete the round after one of B’s clues had me laughing so hard.  He said, “Oh, oh!  This is something we can’t do when friends come over!”  It turns out, the phrase was “double dip”.  LOL
  4. “Build Your Own Deck” – This is the best one!  For $0.99, I just bought this deck tonight (you can buy as many as you want at $0.99/ea), named it “Fun with Homeschool” and started creating cards with things we’ve learned or are learning in homeschool.  Isn’t that AWESOME?!  I’ve added names of famous people, Math & Science terms, historical documents, etc.  I’m throwing it all into one deck because I’m frugal and not very organized, but you can buy and create decks about more specific topics if you want.
We don’t always use this app for lessons; plenty of times we just play for fun.  However, every time we play, we’re learning – about people, places, things and how to communicate with each other.

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