It's never a good idea to step into a classroom without clear, ready lessons. But, one day last fall it happened. I knew we were going to build a treasure box, but I really needed a way to set this up. I immediately thought of a pirate book! The book I was thinking about is a Mem Fox book and I didn't have a copy. So, I went to the bookshelf and pulled out a book randomly and a new challenge was born. Dare I say it worked like magic?
That's right- magic - just like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! I promise this technique worked and it will work for you, too. It's so simple.
- Read a picture book.
- Laugh about it and mention parts in particular. (More about that later.)
- Tell kids what they will build.
- Use materials you already have.
- Share! (Be sure you have a sharing time at the end of the building time!)
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This monthly update on using books and STEM has turned into the best posts to help first and second-grade teachers. Today, you will have five book suggestions, five challenges, and the directions for trying them! Have fun!
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman
Oh, how the first graders loved this book. It's the story of Officer Buckle who visits schools for talks about safety. The problem is - he's boring. Until one day he shows up with his dog, Gloria. Suddenly, his shows are getting a lot of attention and the kids are fascinated. Officer Buckle doesn't know that in the background Gloria is turning flips, imitating him, and just being silly. He can't see her, but the kids in the audience can! My first graders loved her! This was probably the first time all year that I had their full attention. Magic, right?
So, of course, we had to build a doghouse!
STEM Challenge: Build a doghouse for Gloria! Each group had 12 craft sticks, 20 interlocking cubes, masking tape, and scrap paper. We used a plastic counting bear for our "dog" and the kids were fine with that. If you have some small dog figures it would be even better.
The doghouses were all shapes and sizes and each had a story behind it. The smallest engineers love to make up stories about their designs.
If you need interlocking cubes, here's the set we use all the time:
These cubes have round connectors and I like those better for little hands. The ones with square connectors seem harder to snap together.
The Magic Hat by Mem Fox
Another giggle-inducing picture book and it's written by the fabulous Mem Fox. In a small village, a hat flies through the sky and lands on the head of a villager. The person is turned into a large, silly animal and this happens over and over. As soon as the hat takes off to fly to another person the book repeats this line,
"Oh the magic hat, the magic hat, it moved like this, it moved like that!"
I guess I don't have to tell you that your first and second-graders will sing that line, too!
What did we build?
First graders were told to think about what they might turn into if the magic hat landed on their heads and then build that animal. Each group had modeling dough, pipe cleaners, big googly eyes, and scrap paper.
Pictured above: a large spider and a pink flamingo. Below: a frog (I think) and a lizard (it has scales).
Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes by James Dean
"I love my red shoes, I love my red shoes...."
Just change the color each time! The kids loved this book and sang every line. Honestly, is there anything more magical than kids singing?
Can you build a shoe?
The STEM challenge was to build a new shoe for Pete and it needed to be decorated as if he has stepped in something. I fully expected to get a shoe that had stepped in 'poo', but no one did that!
Materials were cardboard tubes, scrap paper, string, tape.
I also thought the kids would make the shoe out of the tube, but most of them made that tube a leg!
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
What a fun book! This one has lots of words and we did not read all of it. Each page shows an animal in one of the categories of biggest, smallest, longest, etc. That animal is described and there is even a picture to compare its size to a human. What fun! We flipped through the book quickly but stopped at one specific page...
The page we liked best was the longest jellyfish. This creature is actually 200 feet long and to show it the book had the picture covering three pages! The kids loved it when I had to stand up to share the picture. This is what I meant earlier in this post when I said to only mention parts of a book. It's perfectly okay not to read the entire book. Sometimes, you don't have time! So focus on the pages that will lead to the STEM task- in this case, it was that fabulous jellyfish page!
Let's build a jellyfish!
Each group had cardboard, tissue paper, tape, and markers. The cardboard we used is from a craft store's cake decorating department and it was already round. You can use any cardboard, but I would suggest cardboard and not just posterboard. It needs to be sturdy.
Above you can see the kids tracing the cardboard to make round pieces of tissue. They also used tissue paper to "stuff" the jellyfish body.
Of course, they also cut streamers for the jellyfish tentacles!
These turned out so great! They made a fabulous display hanging in the hallway! Quite a 'magical' little underwater scene!
Down the Back of the Chair by Margaret Mahy
Have you read this book? Oh. My. Goodness. I picked it up and skimmed through it and then just knew the kids would LOVE it! They did, but only after I explained what it means to reach into the back of the chair (under the cushions) and find things. Many of the second graders had never done this and did not know they might find treasures under the seat cushions or stuck in the back of the chair!
In this book, the dad is complaining about not having enough money and he cannot find his car keys. One of the kids says,
"Why don't you do what we do? Just reach into the back of the chair!"
The kid then shows dad what he can find in the chair (think coins). However, when dad reaches into the chair he pulls out,
- a hairy string and a diamond ring
- a pineapple peel and a conger eel
- a skink, a skunk, a skate, and a ski
The book is totally silly, but ends happily when dad pulls out his uncle's will which gives the family a lot of money! (So, check the back of your chair right now- that would truly be magic!)
Build a chair
Magical, right? I told you. Read a book, tell the kids what to build, and then stand back and watch them! They will amaze you. You are covering reading and STEM, not to mention teamwork, collaboration, art, and science. Win-win!