After the story and improv, we asked the students to make "gifts" for Santa using certain STEM toys. We had three different kinds of toys, so we separated the students into three groups and gave them the choice to work independently or as a small group. As this was the first time using these toys, I expected most students to work independently (and they did). What I was blow away by was the creativity that they applied to come up for gifts for Santa. We had everything from a vacuum robot to clean up after the elves, a scooter for Santa, to a device that would help Santa cut wrapping paper. I was able to walk around the room and talk with kids, but one of the best moments was when I sat down and started building with a couple of students and having them help me find solutions to how I would put a star on my Christmas tree. They were so eager to jump in and help!
I love it when we get to visit our K-2 Special Education friends. They are some of the best listeners for stories, least inhibited with improv, and excellent thinker-builders. Today was no exception!
We started out with the amazing Kelly McGee reading the story, The Elves' Night Before Christmas. The kids love it when he reads to them because he reads with such emotion and uses different voices - the adults are always entertained too! After reading the story, he led through a short improv game, "Santa Says" (a spin on "Simon Says"). It provides them with great practice in listening and following directions - plus when it relates back to the story it is even more fun!
We let the kids rotate to different groups after a while of building if they wanted to explore some of the other toys. They did a great job of respecting what each other had built and did even a better job of sharing with the class what they created after time was up. There are some future engineers in that room!
Recently, Kelly McGee shared something on Twitter about STREAM from the School Library Journal.
Combining STEAM and reading really makes for a learning powerhouse! He and I had a great conversation how focusing STEM/STEAM activities around the theme of a book really lends itself to meaningful extensions and connects with students on a totally different level. When he saw the tweet, we had already done our 10 Apples Up on Top activity, and realized we had already been doing STREAM without putting that tag to the concept! So, we decided to intentionally implement the concept for a fun Halloween-themed activity!
Big Pumpkin Building
To begin the activity, Kelly read the story, Big Pumpkin, to the students. Kelly is a very engaging reader to begin with, but as we were working with a small group of special education students, he upped his game a bit and the kids were totally captivated (fun accents and voices were a must!)! After reading the book, he led an adapted version of the improv game, "Hand of Power." As the story talked about the witch (and ghost, vampire, mummy, and bat) trying to pull the pumpkin off the vine, he changed the activity so there was a focus on actions and reactions.
The final part of our activity included the STEAM part - if we could build a person/thing to help the witch get the pumpkin off the vine, what would we create? Using LEGOS, students had to build a creation and then be able to explain how it would help get the pumpkin off the vine. Based on teacher recommendation, we placed the students into groups of three, and then gave them the choice to work together or individually to build a creation. The students did not hesitate to begin building and we all had some great conversations with the students as they were building their creations.
HOW MIGHT WE build relationships through engineering designs?
At the end of their building, we used the Fotobabble app to take a picture of their creation and give them the opportunity to explain how their creation would help get the pumpkin off the vine. It was great practice for verbal skills, reasoning, and thinking hands-on!
Click on the buttons to view the Fotobabbles with the students explaining their creations!
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