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5 Tips for Using STEM Challenges in Your Classroom

STEM Challenges are one of my favorite ways to engage my students. STEM challenges require the use of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in a way that replicates real-world challenges and how teams really work together to solve a problem. A STEM challenge is also a way for students to be creative and hands-on and may help students who seemingly struggle academically, to show off their creative, innovative design and building skills. A well-designed STEM challenge can teach students so much more than just academic standards.

  1. OBJECTIVE. What is your objective?  STEM challenge activities can be planned around a theme or a standard. Either way, a STEM challenge is targeting engineering, design, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills.   A theme could be a season, a holiday (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.), even a book.  A STEM challenge can also be planned around a standard in any subject like social studies, music, art, and of course, science. For St. Patrick's Day, you could have students build a Leprechaun Trap. To integrate with other subjects or seasons you could have students design a house for the 3 Little Pigs, float for the Thanksgiving Day parade, or a catapult for launching pumpkins in the fall.

Start the New Year Off Right in Your Classroom!

Image of an iPad, pencil, and paper with text that reads 5 Simple Tips for a Great New Year

Happy New Year!  I always like to start the new year with renewed energy and a positive outlook.  I am excited to get back into the classroom with my sweet students - I've missed them!  The school year is nearly half-way over (already??!) and I want to continue pushing my students to learn and grow to be their best!  I want to maintain a positive and safe classroom environment - the new year is a perfect time for a review of procedures and to introduce some new ideas!

Here are 5 things I plan to do to start the year off right:

1. It's the First School Day of the New Year!  You've been on break for a bit now, right?  So guess what? Your students (and YOU) are a bit out of the school routine.  While it's not actually the first day of school, try incorporating some fun activities to review procedures and expectations.  At the beginning of the year, I show a meme slideshow to go over procedures in my classroom.  My students love it! And the best part?  They remember the procedures! Search the internet for a couple of silly memes that will help you review your procedures.

Celebrate Christmas with a FUN Math Project!

The week before winter break is always an exciting time in the classroom and it can be a challenge to keep students on task and learning!  Students seem even more energetic than usual and less focused on learning.  I'm always looking for fun and meaningful ways to integrate the holidays into my classroom to keep my students focused on academics.   My 12 Days of Christmas Math Project is challenging, yet fun, and allows students to practice problem-solving skills by calculating the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas and now includes a DIGITAL version in Google Slides for distance learning.

Give Thanks: Gratitude Activities for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is always a great time to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for!  In my classroom, I like to work on writing activities the week before the holiday to think about the people in our lives and meaningful ways to show our gratitude.

I've created an "I Am Thankful" poem template for students to share their gratitude and I love how simple and beautiful the poems turn out!  Students just need to come up with something or someone they are thankful for and write their ideas around that topic.  The most popular topic is FAMILY.  I model an example for them using my family to help them get started.

How to Use Book Talks

I love to read and I love helping to teach children a love of reading. I've found that just putting a good book in a student's hands is not always enough for all kids.  Some kids need a little more encouragement to pick up a good book and book talks are a great way to help kids find a book they will love to read!

Customize Your Google Classroom!

Wow. So much has changed in the course of just a few short weeks. Like most of you, I'm now trying to figure out how to teach my class remotely. Fortunately, I am beginning Spring Break right now so I have some time to work on it.

Like many people, when I have too much time on my hands, I tend to want to play and not work. I decided to make an effort to be somewhat productive and began to organize my Google Classroom.  While doing that, I thought it would be fun to create my own Google Classroom header images.  This caused me to have to research images sizes, converting pixels to inches, and playing around in PowerPoint. I love to create things in PowerPoint since I can use any fonts that I want, unlike Google where I'm restricted to using just Google fonts. (Google has many great font options, I just like to be different!).

Leap Day Fun!

Leap Day only comes around every four years so I like to give February 29th some special recognition in my classroom! We have some Leap Day Fun and my students read about it, write about it, math about it, and just have some fun with it too.

Four years ago, I created a reading passage with questions and a math activity all about Leap Day and Leap Year.  I've recently added some math questions, a writing activity, and a fun brainstorm activity of 29 "extra" things that students could do on the "extra" day this year.

What is Leap Day? First, I have my students read about why we have a leap day every four years. The reason ties in well with what we're learning about the relationship between the sun and the Earth in fourth grade too.

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