The end of the year is always so eventful and brings lots of excitement. But with that excitement sometimes brings lots of restless students, too! My school year doesn’t end until June 30th. That typically means our weather is hot, the kids are a bit distracted, and everyone is ready for a break. For me, this means getting a bit more creative in the classroom!
I often find that I have finished writing my report cards by the first week of June, so the lessons I teach aren’t reflected in those report cards. Because of this, I try to steer away from traditional tests, quizzes, or graded homework, and focus more on STEM. STEM is super engaging and educational. It gets kids thinking about solving a problem, working with peers, and allows them to choose topics that interest them. It’s fun for them, for me, and is an all-around educational experience.
One of my favorite ways to use STEM in my classroom is to integrate it with literacy. I’d love to share with you a few STEM activity ideas, as well as things to consider as you’re planning your STEM lessons in the last few weeks of school!
Things to Consider
Just because a lesson incorporates math, science, or even building some type of apparatus, doesn’t necessarily make it a genuine STEM activity. A true STEM activity has a problem to solve. Once the problem has been stated, students then use their science, technology, engineering, and math skills to solve that problem. My district uses a curriculum called, “Applied Design.” I’m fortunate that this curriculum fits perfectly into STEM!
Another thing to recognize as you plan your STEM activities is to consider how you can differentiate the activity. As we already know, every student has different academic abilities and this same concept still applies to STEM. While one student may excel in reading, another may struggle with engineering and coming up with ideas on their own. Consider how you will make modifications or how you will group students when completing the activity!
You can also focus on differentiation by tweaking the activities and lessons to focus on specific literacy or problem-solving skills. There is so much flexibility when using STEM!
Integrating STEM and Literacy
By this point in the school year, you’ve probably already covered most, if not all, of your science topics. The best part about STEM is that there are so many ways to integrate other subjects besides just math and science. Personally, one of my favorite ways to use STEM is by integrating it with literacy! I teach 2nd grade and I love using fairy tales to correlate with my STEM activities. One of the perks of using fairy tales is that most children are already familiar with them, but yet are still engaging for those who don’t know the stories yet. Since I teach in a high ELL area of my city, not all students are familiar with the fairy tales I choose, but if they are, it’s a great way to nurture the language barrier by choosing a familiar title. Fairy tales are so motivating and I love the values and morals behind a good tale!
I typically try to look for a newer edition of a fairytale to read aloud, because there always seems to be new ones coming out all the time and the different variations are super fun for the kids. I focus on one story at a time, but bring other versions into the classroom that the kids can read themselves from our school library. If we have time to do more than one fairy tale challenge, I like to keep all the books in a bin that are available to the kids to find a version of the story that they enjoy reading. Doing this allows for a bit of differentiation in reading abilities.
Some typical examples of fairy tales that could be integrated with STEM could be The Three Little Pigs and having students create various houses made out of different supplies to see what can withhold the most force by wind or even water. The Three Billy Goats Gruff could be incorporated by using different supplies to build a bridge that can hold the most coins on top. Or students could work to build a ladder or something that could safely repel Rapunzel down from her castle. There’s always a problem presented in a story for you to solve with a STEM lesson, or you can tweak it to better fit the activity you have in mind!
One of my own personal favorites is The Little Red Hen. If you’d like to get a FREE sample of materials I use for my Little Red Hen STEM lesson, you can snag it below! The text is very simple for beginning readers, and the pictures and activities are detailed for comprehension throughout the story.
I typically teach the STEM challenge and lessons over a one-week period. I supplement the ELA portion by using my own ELA units that I developed back when I was teaching 1st grade many years ago. That’s the beauty in STEM – there’s no specific grade it only works for. Every lesson can be adapted to fit the age you are working with, and you can focus more on specific literacy skills that you’d like to, depending on what your students need most.
CLICK HERE for a link to the Fairy Tale Products in my store. There’s even some class decor items thrown in. Scroll down if you want the free copy of the Little Red Hen.
I hope you find some inspiration in these activities and can take these ideas and make them your own to fit your classroom and students’ needs in the best way possible! Math and science experiments always seem so intriguing, compared to anything reading related. But when you can incorporate literacy into hands-on learning experiences and practice true problem solving skills, you will see your students evolve into curious readers and excellent critical thinkers! I hope you enjoy the last few weeks of school to their fullest potential and make tons of STEM memories with your students! 🙂 Enjoy!