Tips to Add STEM into Your Classroom
When schools begin to integrate STEM into the classrooms, teachers naturally wonder — how will I accomplish that? Here are a few tips to address that simple, yet compelling question.
- Ask “what” not “why” questions. If you ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do leaves fall off the trees?” you are implying there is a right answer. And, if your students do not know that answer, their confidence wanes, as does their interest. By asking “what” questions, you are leading them to observe something and then describe it in words, drawings, or actions. They can communicate what they see or feel, which increases their confidence while building early STEM skills of inquiry, critical thinking, observation, and communication. Ask questions like, “What is happening to the leaves?”
- Introduce vocabulary to help students begin to understand STEM–related words associated with scientific inquiry. When young learners are in different classroom stations like block play, for instance, use words such as “design,” or “construct.” At the sand and water table, mention & “experiment,” “test,” and “observe,” to help students understand those words by hands–on learning what they mean. Use terminology that links what they are doing with how they are learning. By starting to use those words with early learners, the next time they hear them, those words will be more familiar and will reinforce prior exposure. When relevant, carefully craft these additional words into your lesson: analyze, collaborate, conclusions, evidence, data, inference, innovation, predict, and solve.
- Classroom set up is important. Look around your classroom. Are there ways to reconfigure desks for different types of activities? STEM learning often centers on hands–on activities in small groups, and having a flexible environment is key. This encourages teamwork and communication in addition to the work of the actual project. Can students desks be easily moved into groups so that they are all facing each other with workspace in the middle? Or do you have higher tables (or height adjustable tables) for groups to stand and actively participate in an experiment or activity?
- Technology is a necessary component in 21st century learning. Do you have a way to access the internet? Do you have equipment for students to present their projects or solutions? Students can use websites to gather data and research topics. Slideshow programs and document cameras help students develop skills to present their projects, conclusions, or solutions — much like they would in a business meeting as adults. Check out Twist, Zoomy and Luna for effective classroom technology for you and your students to use.
- Give kids a challenge. Early learners are naturally curious. They like to investigate with their hands and their minds follow right along. Pose questions to them. During what would otherwise be open–ended play, challenge them with an idea so they have to figure out solutions. They can work together to set up trials, test them out, find what works best — and conclude why it works best! Sand and water tables are great for open-ended challenges. So is our Tumble Trax — how fast can you make the marble descend using 5 runs of track?
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