As Valentine's Day was approaching, I was trying to select a fun STEAM activity that would really get students working together and communicating. We have had so many snow days recently and I know it takes a bit of time to get back into a regular routine. So, no time like the present to revisit how we work together to create! As I was looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon (through someone sharing on Instagram) of Brooke Brown's Maker Mats, so I knew that I had an activity - a Valentine STEAM/Maker challenge! I really liked her mats, but knew that it wasn't quite what I was looking for the activity. So, I took the concept and created my own mat. We had recently done something similar with our Winter Brick Building task cards, so I knew the students would be up for the challenge.
For this activity, I gave each group a bin containing one type of resource. They had to use only that resource to create their objects - they could not mix with the resources from other groups. I had two bins of Plus Plus blocks, two of Brain Flakes, and two of pattern blocks. Some groups appreciate having a bin of one resource to use, while others share that they feel the challenge would be much easier of they had one of the other resources. With both groups that I did this activity with, I made a point to share that it might seem easier with one of the other resources, but each resource has it's highs and lows for the challenge - some of the tasks are easier and some are harder and it is not the same for each resource.
For this challenge, I told the students they could work as a group at their table (no more than 4), or they could choose to work in two groups at their table. The students have done really well when given this option because they know that they cannot work by themselves, but they have choice in how they work. Most times they actually choose to work as a whole table! After they had selected how they would work, the students could choose any square on the mat to begin their work. I told them it didn't matter to me which one they chose or which order they went in, but they had to decide as a group and they had to have a teacher sign off before they moved on to the next square. I was a little nervous with how they would work together after several weeks of snow days here and there, but they did really well and created some great things!
I love when students share their stories behind their creations. When I do activities like this with a class, I tell the students that they need to check in with a teacher before they can move on to the next building task. This has really helped them with thinking through their designs and not just throwing something together to move on to something else. Sometimes it is so hard to capture the thinking and demonstration that goes in their designs with just a picture. They each bring their talents and ideas to the table to work with their peers to create something new and there is such a special dynamic when you watch it all play out and see an object that has a fantastic story behind it. These STEAM and Maker opportunities may not always be tied directly to the curriculum content, but the creativity opportunity it provides opens news ways of thinking and working with others when the content comes in to play. I have to say, I am very lucky to work with amazing teachers who provide students with these learning opportunities!
Last month when I sent out my Winter QR Codes to the teachers in our district, I asked the teachers if they would be willing to share how they use the QR code printables in their classrooms or any suggestions for how to make them easier to use for students. When I first started this conversation several months ago with teachers, I had received some great suggestions and made some changes to how I put together the cards - such as adding AR book levels and Lexile levels right on the cards. I know there are many different ways they can be utilized and hearing how they are being used helps me with book selections and how I assemble the "cards." Some of the things teachers had to share as far as how they use them in their classroom:
I use them simply for centers... put them on binder rings and students can choose a book they would like to "listen to."
Students use these daily as part of "listen to reading." They love them and are always excited when it is their turn to use it! As the year progresses, the reading goals for my students increases. I know that higher level picture books can be hard to find, but I know my students would love them! Most of my students are reading between a 3rd and 5th grade reading level. One thing that is difficult for my students is typing in the title of the book on the iPad when they want to quiz on the book. On the AR book find website (http://www.arbookfind.com), it gives the AR quiz number along with the book level. If there is space on the cards and time in your day, I think that it would be much easier for the students if they could just put in the quiz number rather than making sure they spelled the titles correctly. Just a thought!
You may see this image when you try to download the file.
No worries! Just go ahead and click the Download button. It is just a big file and Google Drive cannot provide a preview for the document. There are many book resources after all!
Please leave any comments below on how you use these in your classroom or any other ways you use QR codes in the classroom. I always love hearing new ideas!
Would you like e-mail notifications? Enter your e-mail address below to subscribe.