Archive for the ‘Teaching Tips’ 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.

Good Behavior Rewards Cards

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Good Behavior Rewards Cards
Need a way to reward good behavior in the classroom? Use a rectangular accent piece or thick card stock to make a rewards card for each student. Write each student’s name in the middle of the rewards card and use a hole puncher to give hole punches to students when they are demonstrating good behavior. Keep the rewards card in a visible place on the student’s desk. This way, you can check to make sure that you are not missing a student or unfairly giving one student too many punches on his or her card. Randomly reward good behaviors such as the following:

-Completing work assignments
-Following instructions well
-Studying with another student
-Attention to task
-Helping another student
-Showing kindness to fellow students

Set a time limit on the card’s use, such as a new good behavior reward card every two weeks or so. You will find that students will count the number of holes they have earned. This makes the card a constant reinforcer of good behavior. If you are a preschool on kindergarten teacher, have students thread a string around all the holes when their rewards card is full. Threading is a great way to strengthen fine motor skills.

Have a special reward or treat when each student has earned a set number of hole punches. Students must know they are working to attain a goal.

Math Manipulative Games

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Math Manipulative Games - Teacher Created Resources

Many teachers know that manipulatives are helpful for teaching math to kids, especially younger kids. Using physical objects is a hands-on approach to learning math that helps kids develop math concepts. Pairing number spinners with counters is a great way to teach math by allowing kids to problem solve and count. Here are some great math games to play using math manipulatives and number spinners.

Addition & Subtraction Manipulative Games for Pre-K, Kindergarten & 1st Grade

Number Spinners & Counters - Teacher Created Resources

Practice basic addition and subtraction facts by having students spin a number spinner, this will be the first value. Then have the students spin again on another number spinner, this is the second value.  Have the students subtract the second number from the first. Have the students state their answers and show them using counters.

Here’s another game you can play using number spinners:

Number Sense and Place Value Game for  2nd – 3rd Grade

Have students practice spinning any of the number spinners and then call out the number they land on. Students can write the number down in word form, to practice the correlation between the word and the numeral representation.

Have students practice this with larger numbers, asking them to spin twice or even three times to make two-and-three-digit numbers. For example, if a student spins three times, and first spins a 3, then a 6, then a 9, he or she should write down the number 369.

Then have them write “three hundred sixty-nine” next to the numerals. Have students practice comparing different numbers they spin. If they first spin the above number (369), then an 8, a 2, and a 1, student should write: 369<821.

Teacher Tips: End of the School Year Organization

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Teacher Tips End of the School Year Organization Teacher Created Resources

Testing is done and you had another fantastic year of teaching! The school year is coming to an end but there’s just one last thing left to do—pack up the classroom! It’s important to do as much cleaning, packing, planning, and organizing in the classroom before the school year ends. It will save you a lot of time and stress when school is back in session. Here are some great end of the school year organization and summer tips that will keep you organized and prepared while you relax this summer.

Chevron Name Tags - Teacher Created Resources

 

1) Store everything in plastic bins with labels. On the label, write down the contents of the box as well as where the box will go in the classroom. This will save lots of time when unpacking at beginning of the school year.

2) Take photos of your classroom. Taking photos of your classroom after everything is cleaned up and empty will help you organize your decorating ideas for the next school year.  Let’s say you found some cute accents, but are having trouble trying to remember what your classroom looks like in order to find the perfect spot for them? Keeping photos of your classroom will serve as a reference and give you a visual of what your next classroom theme will be.

3) Have students keep inventory of supplies in each center or section of the room. (I.e. Group A will keep inventory of how many pairs of scissors and glue sticks you currently have). Once you have this inventory, you will know exactly how many supplies you need for the next school year.

4) Keep a teacher memory book. Add photos of field trips, class photos and more in a memory book. Writing down things like “funniest moments of the year” and “favorite classroom activity” are fun memories to look back on. Having a hard copy book is great keepsake for yourself and the students.

5) Stay involved. Attend teacher conferences and workshops in the summer to keep yourself learning new things. You will be surrounded by like-minded teachers that love teaching just as much as you do.

6) Pin, Pin, Pin. Use Pinterest to pin lessons and projects you’d like to save for the following school year. Create boards and organize them by subject.

7) Have older students or parents help clean up the classroom. Play some music and offer snacks and you’ll see just how quickly your classroom will be clean.

8) Out with the old, in with the new. Let go of any items you no longer need and put in a box with a sign that says “free”. Put the box in teacher lounge for other teachers to take.  Sometimes getting rid of items is difficult, so offering them to other teachers is a great way to reuse and share. This makes room for all the new supplies and decorations you will need for the new school year.