3 Easy STEM Centers Using Wacky Links

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 / 1 comment
My students love building. Legos, pattern blocks, playdoh... basically anything that is hands on. I love incorporating any type of manipulative into their learning, so I was super excited to give Wacky Links a try. 

In the past few weeks, we have done three different STEM activities using Wacky Links and they have been all the rage in our classroom.

Before I introduce any new manipulatives into our independent rotations, I let them explore them a bit. This way, when I actually want them to do a structured activity, they actually do it. 

Wacky Links are super easy to use and SUPER easy to take apart and reset, which is a big deal for this busy teacher. You can cut them, wash them, and reuse them over and over again, OR you can let students make their creations and take them home to show off!

The first center we completed was building 2D and 3D shapes. A few of my kindergarten students just finished up their Geometry unit, so it was great timing to see how their learning would transfer over. 

In this center, the students had flashcards to reference, and they had the challenge to try a 3D shape. You can grab these shape flashcards for free at the end of this post. 

I was SUPER impressed with their abilities!

I pulled out our 3D shapes and noticed some of the students using them to figure out how to assemble the 3D shapes. I get so excited when I see their determination and the wheels in their heads turning!

The second center was introduced during our reading rotations. The students had to make their names out of the Wacky Links

I loved seeing how they recreated the letters.

Sometimes when they got stuck on the letter it helped to write it down so they could visualize a plan for creating it. 

The most common center I've used is "Free Build."

Please note: While I did receive these sets at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

During our math rotations, I have two centers that involve independent tasks. Students have a specific amount of work to do, and then they get to do a choice STEM activity. 

I'm sure you can guess which activity they like to choose.

If you want to grab the printable I used for the centers, click below.

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Butterfly Observation Journal Freebie

Monday, May 22, 2017 / Leave a Comment

Like most primary grades in the spring time, we are learning all things life cycle. Butterflies, ladybugs, plants, preying mantis..... ALL THE THINGS.

At our school, they set up an "observation station" in the multipurpose room, so students could look at the caterpillars daily to see the life cycle take place. We also have preying mantis eggs we are waiting to see hatch (eek!)

Watching my students so into the caterpillars is one of my favorite things about Spring. So many fun activities to teach!

I decided to incorporate their high interest into a writing opportunity. Every day, they go to the observation area and write about what they observe. My teacher assistant facilitates this process. 

On each journal entry, they circle the stage of the life cycle, describe what they observe, and draw a picture.

"I saw six caterpillars. I think they are gross yucky and terrible."

Kids are so truthful - I love it!

For my lovelies that aren't quite writing yet or on PECS, I made two versions. In the second version, they have pictures to choose from.

Click below to grab the freebie journal!

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Ladybug Length Measurement Creativity

Saturday, May 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment

I love doing crafts with my students as much as possible. I try to add some writing activity to each craft, but I also wanted to tie in math to some of our crafts as well. 

Right now, we have been working on measuring the length of objects. Some of my younger students are using blocks to do non-standard measurement.

My older students are working on measuring to the nearest inch. Our vocabulary story the past few weeks involved ladybugs, and we had been talking about the life cycle of ladybugs, so I decided a ladybug craft was necessary.

With this activity, I was able to tie in our math lesson with the craft. I love how they turned out! They look awesome outside our classroom. 

Scroll to end to download the freebie! 

Click on the picture to download the freebie measurement activity!

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Keeping Math Skills Sharp All Year with File Folder Tasks (Math Labels Freebie)

Saturday, May 6, 2017 / 3 comments
Like most special educators, I teach several different skills in math a day. In our math rotations, I am able to see each students 1:1 for about 10 minutes to teach them new skills, and then they rotate through the other centers to practice that skill and previously mastered skills. This is the first year I have done this system, and it's been magical!

Here is a quick run down of our math rotations (we color code our stations):
Blue Table: Work with teacher on new skill
Black Table: Practice new skill with teacher assistant (I use a lot of my cut and paste pages here)
Yellow Table: Technology (math games - I love ABCYA Pre-K/K level for my young lads and Prodigy for my older kiddos - both are FREE)
Red Table: Independent binder work - I keep their binders stocked with sheets of previously mastered skills.
Green Table: File Folder Tasks - more practice with mastered skills

Since the red and green tables are independent, I mark or provide the amount of work they have to do. I always have fun, MOTIVATING, STEM-esk activities for them to do if they finish early, so they are typically motivated to kick it in high gear and work efficiently so they have time to do the fun activity before the timer goes off to rotate. Some of the "fun" activities included pattern blocks, gears, popsticle sticks, Legos, building sticks, marble run, etc. I'll save those for another post.

Today I want to talk about magic that happens at the green table. This station used to BUG. ME. OUT. before I started using strictly file folders. With so many different levels, I would be constantly switching out materials while the timer was going off, which left the student at my table free to do whatevs (which is NOT good). Now, I have all of the file folders prepped and on shelves at the station. As I've said before, I color-code everything in my classroom, and that does not leave out the actual children. At the beginning of every year, I assign each of my students a color (kind of like larger elementary classes assign numbers). I talk about color-coding a lot in THIS POST if you want to check it out.

Back to the topic at hand.. 

I organized all of my file folders by math topic. The levels in my class right now are about PreK - 2nd, so I start with Numbers and go all the way through Division and Fractions. I use file folders from my Math Skills Megabundle, so I know that I'm covered for all the skills I will be teaching throughout the year, even though I have so many different levels in my class.

I loving using the bins to store my file folders, but I also like the idea of using a filing cabinet as well. I've even seen people use dish strainers to store them. I personally like to have them out in the open because it's functional and also very pretty (let's be honest). The bins are from Really Good Stuff's website.

Each day, pull 2-3 folders out and place them in the student's bins. I use these File Holders from Amazon. They've held up great! I only place mastered skills in a students bin, so that they can do them completely independently.

During rotations, the students just pull down their color, complete the tasks, and put them back in the bin and back on the shelf when they are finished. At the end of the day, or whenever I have time throughout the day, I check their folders, take the data I need, and reset the station for the next day.

Since I have so many folders prepped, the students work on a variety of skills and folders throughout the week. They don't get bored doing the same things over and over again, and I'm happy because they are reviewing skills they've learned throughout the year and keeping their mathematic minds SHARP.

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