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!
So far this winter has been a bit disappointing for us in terms of snow accumulation. We have had a little snow, but not enough to truly get outside and have fun sledding and playing outside. Just cold enough (and some days icy), to be better off inside where it is warm. As the forecast for this weekend and next week includes the potential for some significant snowfall in our area, I thought it would be fun to do a snowflake activity with my 4th grade friends.
We started off by watching a read aloud of the book Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Kids loved hearing the story of how he began working with snowflakes and how it took him pretty much a lifetime to accomplish the work that he completed. We talked about how snowflakes are each unique, but all have 6 branches.
After watching the video and having a brief discussion about snowflakes, I told the students they would be working with a partner to create an unique snowflake using a 3D printing pen. Before I even showed the students how to use the pens, I asked them to work with their partner to create a snowflake design on a scrap piece of paper. Some things that worked really well for us in this activity:
Since we were creating snowflakes today, I decided to wear my fun snowflake leggings (with my simple example to show them before beginning the project). The kids loved them and thought it was cool to see different patterns...what I did not expect was to constantly be turning around and having a student staring at my calves...I mean snowflakes. I guess I walked right into that one! :)
This week was our first week back after our holiday break, so I thought it might be a good idea to ease back into our STEAM activities. I created some winter-themed task cards that could be used with any kind of STEAM resource, but I chose to use LEGOs as I recently received a DonorsChoose project for them so I had enough for the whole class to build at the same time. I like having a variety of resources, but having enough is a game changer in teaching students that it everyone can be successful in different ways with the same resources.
With this activity, I gave the students the choice to work in pairs of in a group of 3-4 (based on the number of people in their table group). Students did a great job of choosing their groups and working together. I thought being off for a bit on break would be a little rough on getting back into the routine of communicating and collaborating, but the students did an awesome job! I asked them to use the task cards to build the given structures however they wanted to (it did not have to look just like the picture), but they had to show a teacher before they could move on to the next card. Some groups had to do some revising on their creations as we could not really tell what they were, significant details were missing, or was sloppy work. Those groups really only had to be send back once as they spent more time on their future designs, making sure they were meeting expectations.
Some of the awesome things I saw while students were building:
What time is it? Winter QR Code time!
Below is a file that will take you to the Winter QR Codes that can be used for listening centers in your classroom or in any other way you feel is beneficial.
Favorite Valentine's Day Book?
I haven't started putting together the QR Codes for Valentine's Day yet, so now is your time to tell me your favorite Valentine's Day book! If you are lucky, you might see it show up in the QR codes next month. Simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post with your favorite Valentine's book(s)!
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!
Recently, I had two middle school ELA teachers ask me if I would be willing to come into their classrooms and talk to their students about sketchnotes. You bet I will! I love talking about sketchnotes!
So, over the course of two days, I was in two middle school classrooms and did the same presentation for each hour I visited. Earlier in the year, I had spoken to a couple of other classes about sketchnotes and new there would be some overlap with the students I would be presenting to, so I changed up my presentation a little so that those students who had already heard me talk about sketchnotes would still have an opportunity to try new things.
It is always nice when you get to spend a day with students and you have a nice welcome on the board! :)
If you are unable to view the presentation below, please click here.
As mentioned in the presentation, students used the 5 Frozen Facts About Winter video to practice their sketchnoting.
As I always ask teachers to participant in this presentation and share what they did with their students, I like to do the same myself. On the left is an image of my text notes from watching the video and on the right are my sketchnotes.
When I come into classrooms to talk about sketchnotes, I always encourage the teacher(s) to follow along and do the activities with students. I feel this is especially important (especially if the concept of sketchnotes and visual note-taking is new to the teacher), that the students have the opportunity to see their teacher learning alongside them. The students always flock to see what their teacher(s) have sketched and it opens up to interesting dialogue about what they were sketchnoting about. This is also a great opportunity for students to see their teachers as learners and not always "knowing everything."
Below are some images I captured of what the teachers sketched during my time in their classrooms.
When I come and speak to students about sketchnotes, I feel that doing a gallery walk at the end may be one of the most powerful parts of my time with them. They have an opportunity to see what their classmates designed and see a visual representation of their thought process. It is always interesting to me how there are students who gravitate to different representations when doing their notes - some mostly bullet points, others full of images and few words, and another group that lies between those two groups. I always tell them that there is not a "right way" or "wrong way" to sketchnote, but the purpose of our exercises are to learn to step outside our comfort zone and learn to use both text and images to represent our thoughts and ideas.
Below are some pictures I collected throughout my 2 days in the classrooms. It is always amazing to see student growth (throughout the hour) and their amazing creativity!
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