Why Technology?

The purpose of technology in the classroom is to enhance instruction.  Simple explanation, but what does it mean?  The word enhance means to magnify, intensify, raise to a higher degree.  That is the purpose of technology in today’s classrooms, to raise instruction to a higher degree.

A prime example of raising instruction to a higher degree can be found in a recent Reading and Social Studies unit 2nd graders at my school completed.  We combined Reading and Social Studies TEKS in a biography unit on famous Americans.  Our students checked out library books on the famous American of their choice.  Our 2nd graders love to go to the library and get new books.  They enjoy reading a variety of genres, including biographies.  We read lots of fun stories about famous Americans to our students.  We also use technology to raise our instruction to a higher degree.

We created YouTube playlists of famous Americans to supplement the reading material our students found in the library.  We visited websites to discover more about our famous Americans.

A study of George Washington included a virtual tour of Mt. Vernon.  NASA was a great place to discover photos and information about John Glenn.   Some of our friends discovered a new passion for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder.

How did watching videos on YouTube and visiting websites magnify our instruction?  Seeing the places we were reading and learning about and how they look in real life enhanced (raised to a higher level) our students interest in all that we were learning.

The payoff?  Our students are still searching and exploring people they find fascinating.  Jean Michel Basquiat, the subject of the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner, just a few pages in and my kiddos were chomping at the bit to go find his artwork.

The bigger payoff?  These 2nd graders have unlocked a whole new world of learning and discovery.  They know that NASA is a great place to find all sorts of information about space.  National Geographic Kids is a favorite site to learn about the animal kingdom.  DOGO News is the place to go for news lovers.  Science Bob is captivating for my scientists.

Learning to use technology in the classroom is teaching our students how to be in charge of their own learning.  Learning to use technology in the classroom teaches our 2nd graders how to delve into new worlds in a safe and responsible way.

We owe our students an education that opens new horizons in this global world.  We can provide our students with an education that enables them to navigate this global world to raise their learning and awareness to the highest degree imaginable.

Math Makers: Fraction Flags

A few weeks ago we were learning about fractions in my 2nd grade classroom.  We don’t do worksheets or workbook pages very often, but this unit offered a worksheet that allowed my students to create a flag.  They were offered various boxes divided into halves, thirds, and fourths.  I knew my little artists would enjoy creating flags so I gave them the worksheets and let them design colorful flags.  I was right.  My 2nd graders thoroughly enjoyed this activity!  They enjoyed it so much that they requested (over and over again) to make the flags they designed.

Fridays at my school are devoted to enrichment.  We have Genius Hour.  We don’t do RTI on Friday.  We try to allow our students to chase their passions and discover new talents.  On a recent Friday, I handed back their flag designs and provided various types of colorful paper for my 2nd graders to create their Fraction Flags.

After they were finished creating their Fraction Flags, we headed for the iPads.  We used Educreations to take photos of our flags.  They used the pen tool to write the fractions portrayed on each flag.  My students were then able to record themselves explaining the fractions they created in their flags.  Explaining their reasoning addresses 2nd Grade Texas Math TEK 1.D.  We do this often in a variety of ways.  Second graders love to use the iPad and record themselves explaining their math thinking and reasoning.  They solidify their own learning and help others learn at the same time.

Some of my friends chose to use Seesaw and our class blog to showcase their Fraction Flag.  Others chose to use Shadow Puppets Edu.

Check out our Fraction Flags.  They are as diverse as the learners in my classroom.  That’s what makes being a teacher fresh and exciting every day.

Scan the QR Code to view some of our finished products on Padlet.

Are your students Makers?  Share your ideas in the comments section.

What Floats Your Boat? The Components of an Elementary STEAM Lesson

 

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics!  Adding Art to STEM allows for the creativity side of the brain that is so needed in design.

If you’re an elementary school teacher you probably spend some time thinking about STEM/STEAM lessons.  You probably scour Pinterest for ideas.  Search TPT for more ideas.  Seek the advise and ideas of the professionals you know and those you may not know.  Finding a STEM/STEAM lesson that will truly be a STEM/STEAM lesson can be serious business.  You’ve probably found more than a few lessons that purported to be STEM/STEAM which really weren’t.

What does a STEM/STEAM (from here on, I will just use the STEAM acronym.) lesson need to be authentic. Here are the components my teammate, Leighann, and I used in a STEAM lesson on boat building and buoyancy.  We teach in Texas so we just have to make sure our lessons connect to our TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) and standards.  There are several 2nd Grade Science and Math TEKS this lesson addressed.

Before we began our lesson we took some time to build BACKGROUND for our students.  We used children’s literature.  We watched some videos of sail boats.  We let the kids share their experiences with boats.  The experiences of some our students ranged from fishing on a jon boat to sailing on luxury cruise liner.  Two of our favorite books for this lesson are The Raft by Jim La Marche and Maggie and the Pirate by Ezra Jack Keats.

boat the raft

boat Maggie pirate

Building Background is necessary as so many children today have varied experiences.  Not every child will have the experience of sailing or riding on a boat.  Not every child will have the experience of playing with boats in the water.  Building Background gives them a point of reference for the lesson.

EXPLORATION comes after building Background.  This is also where we talk about the problem or challenge to the STEAM lesson.  In this lesson, students had to build a boat that would float across a pool with weight and without weight.  In the Exploration phase, we show the materials available to use during boat building (the ENGINEERING phase).  We experiment with the materials and a tub of water to see which materials float and which do not float.  This phase is fun for both students and teachers.  I enjoy hearing them “talk” about what will happen to each item placed in the tub of water.  Some of them are very accurate and some are way off on what they think will happen.

After exploring what the materials will do in water, we begin the BRAINSTORMING phase of the lesson.  Brainstorming can be done as a whole group or in small groups.  In this phase students discussed ways to build a boat that would float.  They discussed which materials they thought would be best for floating and carrying weight.  They also shared some of their ideas on how they wanted to construct their boats.

Build Boat Brainstorm withblur

When Brainstorming is completed, we split the kids up into small groups for the PLANNING phase.  Groups of 2-4 work best.  I also like to use random pairing to group my students.  When the small groups are formed, the kids begin to plan with their team how they will design their boat.  They will discuss together.  Every team member gets to voice ideas.  They sketch their ideas and list the materials they will use in constructing their boats.  They “write” out their plan, including measurements.

boat planning 1 with blur

Finally, we are to the ENGINEERING phase of the lesson.  This is where the teams actually build their boats using the materials designated for the challenge.  They have explored the materials, brainstormed for ideas, and created a plan for constructing their boat.

boat 1   boat 2

They are very proud of their engineering skills!

Thus begins the TESTING phase.  Real engineers test their inventions in some way.  Whether it be a prototype or the actual invention, or both.  The work is tested to see if the problem or challenge has been solved.  Our students had to float their boat across a pool with and without weight.  We used a fan as a source of wind to help the boats sail.  I will never forget the cheering and encouragement as the students tested their boats.  They wanted the boats of every team to float all the way across the pool!

boat test 2  boat test 3

The final phase of the lesson is the REFLECTION phase.  In this phase we visit with teams, either whole group or small group.  We discuss the success or failure of their boat.  We also discuss what they would do differently next time.  We have the students talk and write about what they learned.  This is an important phase!  Don’t skip it; this is where we make sure learning has taken place and that students understand exactly what they have learned.

These 7 phases (BACKGROUND, EXPLORATION, BRAINSTORMING, PLANNING, ENGINEERING, TESTING, and REFLECTION) of a STEAM lesson are my version of the components of a successful STEAM lesson for elementary students.  There are many great resources available.  Find a resource that works for your classroom and enjoy creating and teaching STEAM lessons that will enhance your students math, science, problem solving, and collaboration skills for years to come.

Here are some links to some great resources.

Link 1                                          Link 2                                   Link 3

If you have a successful STEAM lesson, please share in the comments!

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