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Oct 29, 2016

Ways to BOOST Your Already Existing Lessons!

Boosting Your Lesson Plans

Are you growing tired of repeating the same lessons and activities year after year? Are you currently stuck in a unit that lacks a little bit of luster? Are you beginning to notice your students losing interest?
If you can relate, your lesson plans may need a little boost! Sometimes as teachers we can get stuck in a routine and think that maybe there is only one way to create our lesson plans. Perhaps we think that we have to stick to a certain “formula” so that the kids can get the most out of the material provided. But sometimes, that formula lacks enthusiasm after be repeated so many times! So what is a way to give pre-existing lesson plans that extra push to bring them from average to excellent?

With any lesson plan, there is always an opportunity to enrich. The challenge is deciding just how to enrich without changing the main objective of the lesson. With pre-existing lesson plans, there is always the opportunity to get up and move! Incorporating a physical activity and some movement, or even a game, will peak the students’ interest and keep them engaged in the material. Perhaps you’re exploring different civilizations in social studies or topics in science and you need a change of pace in the lesson. Try some Interactive PowerPoints! (Check out the link at the end of the post!) Also, changing work from independent to partnering or small group work can also transform a lesson plan, providing opportunities to interact with other students and collaborate to form new ideas.

There are many tools and ideas to enhance your lessons, but my favorite strategy is incorporating graphic organizers. Graphic organizers can be used across the board in all subjects, which is what makes them so versatile and so easy to use in lesson plans that have already been written!

With graphic organizers, teachers can find resources that are relatable to the students, and that is one of the best ways to boost lesson plans—get the students involved and keep them interested. If the students are just writing a simple summary on a blank sheet of paper, they might fall short, becoming bored or not working their hardest. However, if the students are given a graphic organizer that asks them to create their own website to summarize the story, including details such as a URL, a photo, and a catchy opening, they can relate to that! Our students today are incredibly tech-savvy and know exactly what to do.
Maybe your students need to write their opinions on a specific topic. Take the OREO approach and use a graphic organizer instead of having the students just write an essay! Students will write an Opinion, a Reason, an Explanation, and another Opinion, boosting both their writing skills and enriching their learning environment. And for an added bonus, why not bring in some Oreos?!

The best part about graphic organizers is how easy they are to adapt to any lesson. These are instantly editable, meant to suit any lesson plan you may already have laying around that just needs a little “oomph.” Say, perhaps, that you’re teaching a lesson on how to brainstorm ideas for an essay. Instead of just having students jot down ideas on a list, provide them a graphic organizer that’s all about brainstorming, complete with thought bubbles! Let them add some color to it, share their thoughts with their classmates, display their work on a bulletin board. The possibilities with graphic organizers are endless!

If you'd like to give your lesson plans a boost, check out the link below!

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Oct 5, 2016

October STEM Challenges!

                  STEM Isn’t So Scary!
STEM challenges

October is upon us, which means that Halloween is right around the corner! Fall has also arrived, and with it comes a world of opportunities to incorporate STEM activities into the classroom that can directly tie in to the season. There are countless fun science, technology, engineering, and math activities to do with your upper elementary kids that will really get their brains going this autumn season!

Eyeball Catapults
 Dress up a ping pong ball and you have one creepy eyeball to launch! Students can use plastic spoons or cupcake liners as the resting place for their eyeball. All they need to build the catapult properly is some Popsicle sticks and some rubber bands. It is trial and error, discovering what engineering works and what will not work! Students can contend to see whose eyeball will fly the farthest and spook the competition.
STEM challenges activities science

Extended Learning: Can students design a more complex style catapult? 
STEM halloween
***For materials, scroll down to the end of the post! 

What’s the weight? 
Gather classic fall materials like mini pumpkins, candy corn, pine cones, ears of corn, a bundle of leaves, and some apples. Ask the students to estimate what they believe each item will weigh. Once they estimate, ask the students to construct a scale to measure the weight of each item! They can then compare and contrast, or work on addition and subtraction—what is the weight of the pumpkin plus the weight of the ears of corn? Can you subtract the weight of the apple? The possibilities are endless!
STEM lessons

***For materials, scroll down to the end of the post! 

No-Bake Baking: 
Access to an oven at school isn’t always common, so no-bake treats are a dream come true! Google is full of recipes for no-bake pumpkin pies, and usually these pies just including adding gelatin and allowing time for the pie to chill in a refrigerator. Students will use measurement skills, math skills, and even science skills as they learn how gelatin shapes the pie.

DIY Slime: 
This one might get messy, but what’s Halloween without a little mess? Slime always excites kids because it’s different from anything they’ve ever felt. There are a plethora of simple recipes online for slime, but most include white glue, water, Borax powder (easy to find in the laundry detergent aisle), and some food coloring for fun. Bring some measuring spoons and maybe a few paper cups for the students to mix in and you’re in for a slimy surprise! Making slime works on how different substances come together to make the slime and some measurement skills.
teaching resources STEM

Flying Witches:
Have students take a simple piece of paper and construct it into a flying “broom” on which they can place a witch they have drawn. Cut the witch out and place it into the student’s flying contraption, and then see how far the witch can fly! It is paper airplane-building Halloween style, and it’s a great way to incorporate engineering skills and the scientific process—which kind of folding technique will be most beneficial? Does the weight of the witch affect how the “broom” flies?

Haunted House: 
By far the coolest project to take on would be a haunted house. This kind of project is the pinnacle of STEM. Students first collaborate and brainstorm ideas for what they would like their haunted house to be like (your classroom environment will work just fine, unless you can grab the gymnasium!). 
**They can even model their design ideas using a shoe box in small groups and then as a class vote on their favorite design! 
haunted house STEM resource

Once the class decides which elements to incorporate, and whether or not they’d like it to be scary or silly, the engineering part begins! The students will need to think of materials that they need and how they can build their haunted house and make it work. They might want different lighting or music, which means that plenty of technology is going to be incorporated. The students will become engineers as they build their haunted house, setting up different zones and areas and maybe even bringing in their DIY slime as a surprise for their visitors to play with. As the teacher, you can ask the students to summarize their findings once they have visitors—how many students came through? How many where teachers? What percentage of students were scared? The possibilities are endless!

Integrating seasonal activities into the classroom can sometimes be tricky, but with STEM, fall and Halloween are easy!

bridge challenge stem


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