Archive for the ‘Lesson Plans’ Category

STEM Design Process Simplified

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

STEM projects can sometimes be challenging to incorporate in the classroom. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending the annual CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference. I learned ideas for projects if a teacher has no budget, a low budget, or if they are fully funded. This proved that there are budget-friendly STEM resources available. Teachers can use project-based STEM books to incorporate activities year round. There are also various websites that students can use to help in the researching process.

Many of the sessions at the CUE Conference were full to bursting, and the “Integrating the T into STEM Design Challenges” session was no different.  The presenter was Cari Williams from the Tustin Unified School District.  She has been designing STEM for years, and focuses on grades 3–5 curriculum design, specifically robotics programs. Here is the simplified Engineering Design Process model Cari uses in the classroom:

STEM Engineering Design Process Simplified

Indentify the Problem

Cari mentioned that in younger classrooms, the teacher would define the problem and give specific instructions. Older students should come up with their own problems to solve.

Brainstorm

The students should brainstorm without a computer first, as otherwise they will just find pictures of other peoples’ solutions and will make their design just like what they see.  This limits creativity.

Design

Another creativity piece is to have students draw and/or use other art mediums during their design process, thus incorporating the “A’ in STEAM.  It is important for those students who want to give up and might not otherwise have a lot to show for their project.  At least this way they have this component.

Students can integrate the “T” in STEM by doing research online, and this is where programs such as Haiku, a site where teachers can organize their content online, come in handy. The teacher can set up sites all in one place for them to research.  Another program that helps is Simbaloo, a bookmarking site, or even making a wiki page.

The students then develop ideas by sketching with pencil and paper. (They can move on to CAD programs such as Auto Desk or Google Sketchup, if budget allows.)  They then choose the best idea from their group by creating a survey/decision matrix to vote.  This includes the necessary criteria for the project:  can the project be made by the deadline, which one takes the most expertise, which one has the lowest cost, etc.  This is great not only for teaching about how projects are decided upon in the real world, but it’s also good for teaching social skills.  Some students just want their own project no mater what, and this helps force them to think about it from a group’s point of view.

Build, Test & Evaluate, Redesign & Share Solution

Once the project is decided upon, the students build a model or prototype, and then test and evaluate it.  They must write down their process, and this can be done in journal entries in a notebook or online, or using a program like Excel to organize the different trials, etc.  The students then work on improving the design, and can have an online discussion about it, take photos of it, and graph the results.  They must communicate the results in some way, not just by building the finished product.  They also create a presentation for it at the end.

I really liked how technology was incorporated into each project, even when the budget is smaller.  I think as time goes on, more and more resources will be available to teachers online that will be free to low-cost and immeasurably helpful for integrating STEM in the classroom.

4th of July Fun Facts & Free Activity

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

4th of July Fun Facts and Free Activity

4th of July is all about patriotism and fireworks. Share these fun historical facts about the history of 4th of July with your kids, then try some of the suggested activities to celebrate.

4th of July Fun Facts 

  • Independence Day is celebrated every year in the United States on the Fourth of July.
  • The liberty bell weighs 2080 pounds and its circumference is 12 feet.
  • The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson.
  • On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence that gave freedom to all who lived in the United States.
  • The Declaration of Independence was first read to the public in Philadelphia, where it was celebrated with bells that rang all night long.
  • Twelve of the thirteen original colonies approved the final draft of the Declaration of the Independence.
  • The first Independence Day celebration took place on July 4, 1777.
  • On the 4th of July, we celebrate the birthday of the United States.
  • People celebrate the 4th of July by going to picnics, parades and firework shows.
  • In 1941, Congress declared the 4th of July a federal holiday.
4th of July Printable Decorations from Big & Easy Patterns & Celebrate the Holidays

4th of July Printable Decorations from Big & Easy Patterns & Celebrate the Holidays

4th of July Fun Activity Suggestions

  • Create and color your own U.S.A. flag and 4th of July pictures. Use them as decorations for a 4th of July party.
  • Create a mural of a 4th of July parade using paint and a roll of paper across the wall.
  • Discuss the Declaration of Independence and have the students write about the importance of freedom.
  • Compose an acrostic poem with the word “independence”.
  • Do patriotic brain teasers and word scrambles. Download free USA Brain Teasers here.

 

*Facts from the following books: Patriotic Songs & Symbols, Celebrate the Holidays & Multicultural Holidays

Spring Craft: Egg Carton Caterpillar

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Caterpillar TCR-Art for All Seasons

This spring craft offers kids so much room for imagination and learning. This is a great craft to bring a butterfly life cycle lesson to life! This project requires some recycled egg cartons so this would also be a perfect classroom craft for earth day to demonstrate recycling and reusing materials for new projects.

Materials:

-Cardboard Egg Cartons
-Scissors
-Green Paint
-Paintbrushes
-Markers
-Pipe Cleaners
-Tape (optional)
-Wiggly eyes (optional)

Let’s Do It!

  1. Cut off the top of the egg carton, and cut the bottom half into two strips to make two caterpillars.
  2. Place the egg carton strips upside down so the hollow of the cups cannot be seen. Paint them green, then allow the paint to dry.
  3. Once dry, use markers to add details, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, or glue on wiggly eyes.
  4. Cut two pipe cleaners into thirds. Insert one piece of pipe cleaner on the side of each cup to create the caterpillar’s legs.
  5. Cut two pipe cleaners into thirds. Insert one piece of pipe cleaner on the side of each cup to create the caterpillar’s legs.
  6. Inside each egg cup, bend down the ends of the pipe cleaners. Tape can be used to secure the antennae and legs.

Our little crafters loved the caterpillars so much they immediately took them to the trees so their caterpillars could eat leaves!

TCR Caterpillar-Art for All Seasons

Butterfly Life Cycle Idea: 

TCR Caterpillar

Have the students make butterfly wings out of construction paper and hold on to these for later. Keep the caterpillars in the trees. The next day, before the students come to class, add the butterfly wings to their caterpillars and put each caterpillar in a brown bag, like a chrysalis.  Hang them up in the trees and when they notice them, tell them we will have to wait and see what “those bags” could be.  The following morning, tear open the bags and have the caterpillars hanging half in and half outside the chrysalises, drying their butterfly wings.

More Ideas

-Add more personality to your caterpillars by using plastic wiggly eyes or construction paper for clothes and shoes.

-Other insects can be made from single sections of an egg carton. Try making ladybugs, painted black with red spots, or spiders, painted black with eight pipe cleaner legs.

-Obtain a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Putnam, 1969) and A Guide for Using The Very Hungry Caterpillar in the Classroom and try some of the creative writing activities and pocket chart patterns.

For more spring crafts and activities see, Art for All Seasons.

The Cat in the Hat: Classroom Discussion Topics & Free Activity

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The Cat in the Hat Classroom Discussion Topics & Free Activity

Read Across America Day is March 3 and many teachers and students will be celebrating by reading and having classroom discussions about Dr. Seuss’ classic story, The Cat in the Hat. This book is about a girl named Sally and her brother who don’t know what to do on a rainy day. Suddenly, in comes the Cat in a Hat, and that’s when the trouble begins! The pet fish reminds the children that the Cat should not be in the house because their mother is not home. However, the Cat insists on staying and entertaining the children with a variety of tricks. When Mother finally gets home she asks the children what they did while she was out. The kids cannot decide what to tell her. The Cat in the Hat ends by encouraging the readers to decide what they would tell their mothers in that situation.

There are a variety of fun classroom activities and discussion topics based around this story. Here are a few discussion topics:

  1. Discuss rainy day activities and create a Rainy Day Bulletin Board. Cut raindrops out of blue paper and have the students write down some rainy day activities on the raindrops to post on the bulletin board.
  2. Consider using The Cat in the Hat to introduce your social studies unit about safety or stranger awareness.
  3. Collect real hats and/or pictures of hats that can be displayed around the classroom to promote interest. Each day you teach the unit put on a hat (or show a picture of a hat) to signal to students that it is reading time. Encourage students to figure out who would wear such a hat.
  4. Have the students wear a hat when it is their turn to read a page out of the book. Discuss the feel and look of the hat and who would typically wear it.
  5. Set the stage and build background by discussing the following:
  • Have you ever been left home alone?
  • What activities are you allowed/not allowed to do when you are alone?
  • Talk about a time when it took courage to tell something to your parents
  • What would you do if a stranger came to your door while you were home alone?
  • Discuss and do(or review from the Rainy Day Bulletin Board) any fun rainy day activities

Need more Cat in the Hat activities? Download the free Pocket Chart Sequence Sentence Strips.

540 Cat in the Hat TCRPocket Chart Sequence Strips 2Use the Cat in the Hat sequence sentence strips to create a pocket chart activity. Teach and practice sequencing skills, reproduce, cut out and laminate the sequence sentence strips below. Have the students put them in the correct order and display them on a pocket chart. Students may also work in groups to create a book by cutting the strips, pasting them on drawing paper, and illustrating their sentences. Staple the strips in the correct order and read them to the class.

For more Cat in the Hat activities, discussion topics, and lessons see A Guide for Using The Cat in the Hat in the Classroom