How to Make “Infinite” Piles

I’ve never been the most tech-savvy person around, but I’ve always been able to hold my own. I know how to do everything I need to do and can generally figure out how to do new things quickly. This past year and a half meant that I, along with so many others, had to learn new skills quickly. As a hands-on, activity-based teacher I found myself having to completely revamp my methods and find digital ways to play our favorite games. Infinite piles have become standard in my digital activities and games.

This blog is full of posts describing the paper-based games and activities and how I converted them to digital, including digital board games (a big part of the credit for those goes to my husband, who is the author of all those wonderful scripts I use to make them). The majority of the games and activities involve dragging and dropping items (at least place markers), and many of them require multiples of the same item. At first, when making games such as Cover Up and Connect Four, I created long rows and columns of X’s, or whatever I wanted dragged and dropped. Then I started hearing about infinite piles. My first thought was these were shapes that were somehow self-reproducing: drag one off the pile and a new one automatically appears. I quickly learned that this is not case, they are actually piles of the same shape on top of one another, what makes them “infinite” is the fact that the creator has included far more than the amount you’ll ever need for the activity in the pile. I immediately understood the appeal and, in future activities such as Jeopardy in Slides and new Cover Up games, I started using infinite piles.

Making an infinite pile is incredibly easy:

  1. Draw or insert the image or shape you want to reuse. (Most of time this is simply an X for me, but I have used other shapes, such as the apples in Picking Apples.)
  2. Make copies of the image or shape. I do this by simply copying and pasting it (ctrl+C once and ctrl+V as many times as needed). Make at least as many copies as will be required to complete the activity and then, just for good measure, make another 5-10 (or 15, or 20…) more.
  3. Select all of the shapes. It these are the only selectable items on the slide (i.e.: everything else is part of the background), simply click ctrl+A. If these are not the only selectable items on the slide, you can either click on each individual item or, as I prefer to do, click on an empty spot near the top corner of the first item and drag your mouse to form a box around all of the items you desire. This is a bit easier in Slides than PowerPoint because you do not need to get the entire shape inside the selection box in Slides, as you do in PowerPoint, but it’s a very fast process in either program. Finally, be sure you haven’t accidentally selected anything that you don’t want as part of your pile (if you did, hold down the ctrl key and click on it to unselect it).
  4. In the format menu click on “Align.”
  5. Under align, click “Middle.”
  6. Open the format menu again and choose “Align” and “Center.”
  7. Drag your pile of shapes to wherever you’d like it to be on the screen.

Didn’t I tell you it was easy? The whole process takes only a minute or two and I now use this method constantly. Besides games and activities, I also use infinite piles to track student progress in real time. I assign my students an individual drag and drop activity (such as French Fry Synonyms), assigning individual slides to each student (before assigning the activity I make a copy of the activity slide for each student and put their names on them). I then add an infinite pile of smiley faces to the side of each student’s activity slide(s). As students work, I move from slide to slide, checking their answers. When an answer is correct, I drag and drop a smiley face next to it (incorrect answers are dragged back to where they came from). This makes it easy to quickly let students know what is correct, and for me to keep track of which answers I’ve checked.

I’m sure there are many more uses for infinite piles, I just haven’t thought of or had a need for them yet. Hopefully infinite piles will improve your digital activities as they have mine. Happy teaching, everyone!