In the ever-evolving landscape of education, fostering student engagement is a top priority for educators. To meet the needs of today's learners, educators are constantly seeking innovative instructional strategies that not only capture students' attention but also inspire deep, lasting understanding.
In this article, we will explore five instructional strategies that have emerged as powerful tools in the pursuit of enhanced student engagement. Join us as we share 5 different innovative teaching methods, each designed to ignite curiosity, stimulate critical thinking, and ultimately, empower students to become active participants in their own learning. Whether you're an experienced educator or a curious learner, these strategies hold the promise of transforming education into an engaging, dynamic, and unforgettable adventure.
1. Content Driven Instruction:
2. Purposeful Learning Experiences:
3. Beyond the Box Hooks:
Grab your students' interest and get them excited about the lesson with a hook! These could be:
- Short Video clips: like a venus fly trap, or an octopus escaping a jar
- Unboxing videos/activities: give them clues of what you will be learning
- Unusual photograph
- Investigation: what a better way for students to get to know what they are learning about than by getting to do a hands-on investigation right off the bat!
4. Multiple Learning Pathway Strategies:
You might not think this is out of the box but it needs to be brought back to the classroom. Provide students with the ability to learn with art, music, and movement that is incorporated into your units or lessons. Think about how you learn best as an adult and start there.
5. Engaging Read Alouds:
You might not be the teacher that is loud and animated everytime you read out loud to your students but think about how you could enhance the life of the story you are ready but adding voice or movement as you read. Your students will love it and the teacher across the hall might get the motivation to try it for themselves. If you want to take it a step further, there is even an app, Novel Effect, that will add sound effects for you as you read! Bring the books to life for your students!
The quest to improve student engagement is an ongoing endeavor. The five innovative instructional strategies we've explored in this article represent just a glimpse into the ever-expanding toolkit available to teachers.
Let's remember that student engagement is not a destination but a continuous exploration. Together, we can cultivate a learning environment where curiosity thrives, critical thinking flourishes, and students emerge as active, enthusiastic participants in their own education. By harnessing the power of innovation, we can pave the way for a brighter and more engaging future for all learners.
We hope you got some value out of our blog today! Be sure to follow us on our social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, @IntegratEDk12!
For more individualized and in depth learning on more innovative instructional strategies, planning content driven lessons/units, as well as classroom learning experiences, be sure to check out our PD opportunities! Keynotes, workshops, cohorts, coaching, all available and tailored to meet the needs of your team!
Climate and culture are two words as educators we hear a lot. They seem to be two words that are consistently talked about, trained on, and continually being honed and developed in schools. As they should be! Without a strong, positive climate and culture within one’s building or classroom, it doesn’t matter how much new “stuff” you have or how pretty your bulletin boards look, the students won’t feel valued, heard, or seen. And if they are feeling those negative emotions, the pathway to learning just got a whole lot harder. As educators, not only do we want our physical space to look welcoming, but we also need our space to feel welcoming. Students should feel that the classroom is not just the teacher’s space, but theirs as well. A space where their voices matter, they are safe, they are supported, and they are loved.
How do you create such a space? It is by taking the time at the beginning of the year and continually throughout the year, in implementing different activities/lessons that showcase those that make up the community in the classroom. Megan and I do not jump into content right away at the beginning of the school year. We take that precious time to work on building up the climate and culture within our classrooms. We believe wholeheartedly that taking the time at the beginning is so well worth it and will come back to you tenfold in the success you see, not only socially and emotionally but academically as well.
If you were to google climate and culture in the classroom, there are many different ideas from so many amazing educators out there. At times it can seem overwhelming! What we have done is compiled a few different classroom activities/lessons that you could implement to help you get started! These activities/lessons could be implemented at the beginning or the school year, or even throughout the school year to help strengthen the climate and culture in your classroom.
Building Climate & Culture in the Classroom Ideas
1. Me Bags: This is an oldie but a goodie. For this activity, each student is given a paper bag to take home with them. Students then fill the bag with 5 (or however many you choose) items to put in the bag. When they return the bag to school, the student shares what items they have chosen and why. This allows students to get to know one another and allows students to start some great conversations!
2. Morning Message/Joke of the Day: We are huge fans of morning messages! It is such a great way to start the day. With our morning message, we always add on a joke of the day. This has become such a hit in the classroom! Students look forward to the jokes and it's fun to hear them repeating them to other teachers in the building! It has become so popular that we have had to start a Joke Box, where students can submit jokes that they know, hear, or read. It is always fun to watch their expressions when they realize it is one of their jokes on the board!
6. All About Me Collages (Digital): This is a very simple and quick activity you can incorporate in any grade level or class. Students will create a collage of their favorite things or images that will tell about themselves on a digital platform. We like to use the app PicCollage. We love this app and it’s free! As the teacher, you can dictate how many images or items they need on their collage if you feel that your group of students needs that direction. When they are done, you can post them on a digital platform for students to see and comment on. You could also print them, have students speak on what they put in the collages, and then hang the collages in the classroom, in student lockers, or even on a bulletin board. This is one you can make as simple or as extravagant as you would like.
7. Snowball Fight: Who doesn’t like a little bit of Christmas in July?! This one gets students moving, you can involve music, and is simply FUN! Before the snowball fight can begin, you have to make the snowballs. We use cut up strips of paper. It is the teacher's choice of how many strips you want/need. Each student needs to write a fact about themselves on the strip of paper. We encourage more personal things, things that would help distinguish them from the crowd, not just what their favorite color is. After facts are written, students crumple them up. You then divide students up and have them start throwing snowballs! Now, this is where music can come into play. They have to stop when the music does, etc. You can make this as creative or extend this as much as you’d like! By the end students need however many snowballs they began with. Students then take turns reading the fact and guessing which student wrote that fact!
8. Paper Chain Challenge: This challenge encourages soft skills that students need continued practice with, collaboration and communication. Here students are put into groups. The goal is for each group to make the longest paper chain they can using only one piece of construction paper, scissors, and glue. They get 30 minutes to work. They do not get new paper throughout the process so encouraging collaboration and planning is important. At the end of the 30 minutes, have groups lay out their paper chains to see which group has the longest chain! After the chains are done, you can hang them up around the classroom as a reminder of the importance of teamwork, collaboration, and communication.
Now, again, we know there are SO many more ideas that can be implemented in the classroom to help build up the climate and culture. Because there are so many, it at times can feel overwhelming. We simply wanted to provide some ideas and resources from what we have seen success with in our classrooms.
If you have any that you would like to share with us, please do! We’d love to give you a shout out and provide educators with more awesome ideas!
For more individualized and in depth learning on planning content driven lessons/units as well as classroom learning experiences, be sure to check out our IntegratED cohort. LIMITED spots are available!
We hope you got some value out of our blog! Be sure to follow us on our social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, @IntegratEDk12 for more classroom ideas and happenings.
I am a mom of four. All of my children will be in school this year…how is that possible!? I will have one in junior high, two in grade school, and one in preschool. One of my favorite parts of having my own children in school is to hear how they are doing in their own classrooms, how they are with their peers, and who they are as a learner from their teachers.
Parent communication is very important to me (Meg) not only as a parent but as a teacher. When you stay connected with parents/guardians you build a relationship between home and school. This allows you, as their teacher, to learn about their home life to help better meet their needs in the classroom. It also opens the doors for you as the teacher to work together with the parents/guardians to give the best learning experience for their student.
There are many different ways you can communicate with parents/guardians in your classroom. Whatever you choose, it should be what you feel most comfortable with. My rule of thumb for communication is to make sure I am sending home positive notes or messages about each student frequently, especially your challenging students. Trust me, the parents/guardians know their student is difficult and when you make a phone call home or send a message they are expecting it to be bad. Turn that narrative around and surprise them and share a positive. The impact on the relationship between parents, teachers, and students is powerful.
Ideas for Family Communication
Monthly Newsletter: Create a template that you can easily change out each month to give families updates on what is happening in your classroom. You could include what you are learning about, upcoming activities, school happenings, important dates, etc… Keep it simple and add some pictures.
Unit Family Letter: If you have started to create IntegratED Units with us or have tried them on your own, create a newsletter letting parents know what is coming up in their learning. This puts families in the know for a great start to a discussion at the dinner table. Bonus: If parents/guardians have an idea about the topic it gives them a pathway to tell their student what they know.
Instant Messaging (Class DoJo, Remind, etc.): I am constantly seeing notes home on the floor after the bell has rang and students have left. You know the one saying we are going on a field trip and to make sure to pack a lunch. Using an app that supports instant messaging allows us and families to make a quick reminder or message home, taking away the stress of wondering if your student got that very important paper home safe. You can also send out pictures and reminders on a “Class Story” so families can see what is happening in the classroom.
Volunteers: At the beginning of each quarter send out a volunteer letter. This might be something that is going on in your building or in your classroom. I have met so many family members that would love to dedicate some of their time during the week helping me or my students. Some ideas to put on your list are: listening to students read, playing a game, cutting out lamination, helping with PTO activities, etc…
Real teacher talk coming at you, because I know so many of you will understand. As I sit down to write this blog, my mind is going a million miles a minute thinking about school and all the things that I need to start doing. Anyone else have that happening to them? It’s like on August 1, a switch gets turned on in my brain and I go into school mode. I want to enjoy the rest of my summer, what little is left, but school starts to take over my thoughts.
The beginning of the school year comes with so many mixed feelings. The top two… excitement and stress. If you’re like me, you get excited to set up your classroom, meet your new students, catch up with colleagues, and have that sense of refreshness and new beginnings. But there is a flip side to that as well. You start to feel a bit stressed as the to-do lists get longer, the time in your classroom to work gets shorter, and the laminator breaks! 😉 Add to that a new grade level, new team members, or a new school and you have a stressed out teacher before students ever enter the classroom!
We all want to start the new year with our best foot forward. So we put together a few ideas that help us minimize the stress and keep the excitement level up! We hope this might help you as well!
Setting Boundaries: This is one thing that I (Kara) had to learn the hard way when I first began teaching. I did not set boundaries at all when I first began my career and almost quite within the first 6 months of teaching. You need to set up boundaries for you and your family. School does not need to become your end all be all. Is it important, yes but it cannot take over everything. Set a time that you are going to leave everyday and stick to it. It will help you utilize any planning time more effectively and prioritize what needs to be done. Don’t bring it home! Don’t bring home a crate full of things to work on every night. I know there are certain times when it does happen, but don’t make that your habit and your norm!
Gratitude: Look for at least 5 things that you were grateful for during the day. During this time of the year because of the stress we experience, we can become quite hyper focused on the negative. Take a moment to breathe and think back on the day. What are 5 things that you were grateful for? It could be something as simple as a coworker complimenting your outfit. When we focus on the good, the good only gets better! And then the negative doesn’t take as strong of hold in our lives. When we can be grateful, we can have joy!
Flexibility: No matter how good of a plan you have laid out, we know as educators there will always be something thrown at us that we didn’t expect! Flexibility is an attribute that good educators possess and the beginning of the year is when we have to bend and flex the most.
Team Building: This year we have a brand new team. I am so incredibly excited for it, but it can be nerve wracking thinking about how to make it all work with new team members. See… stressed but excited! 😉 Even if you have a veteran team, it is always good to start the year off on the right foot. Think of different things that will encourage one another and support one another. If you don’t have a team, those in your building. Small beginning of the year gifts, coffee runs, quarterly breakfasts, their favorite candy or drink stashed in your desk that you could give them if they are having a bad day, collaborative planning times, and shared resources are just a few small gestures that could go a long way in building up your team.
FUN: Plan for some FUN! The beginning of the year is the perfect time for those fun icebreakers and games (also great community building activities). Oftentimes we can bombard students with the drill and kill of routines and procedures. It can make for long days, off task students, and tired teachers. Yes, of course routines and procedures need to be taught, but there are so many creative ways that it can be done. Task cards, class contests, board games, mentor texts are just some ways you could teach routines and procedures while adding in some fun! If you are excited for an activity, it is contagious and the students will be too!
Grace: Give yourself grace as easily as you give it to others. There is a lot to be done in a short amount of time. And if you’re anything like me, a bit of a perfectionist and can get down on myself when things are not all crossed off the list or something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. We just need to remember that students are not needing perfection, they are just needing YOU!
As the school year gets underway, here at IntegratED we are wishing you the very best school year!
Also, if you are starting the school year and feeling a bit overwhelmed with knowing what and how to plan, there are still two spots available in our cohort! Check out our website for more information!
Starting an IntegratED Year
It is hard to believe but July 4th has already passed! As an educator that means we are starting to think and plan for the upcoming school year. In this article we have included our favorite teacher must have, classroom setup ideas, and planning favorites. No matter if you are moving grade levels/schools or if you are a veteran teacher, there is something here for you!
Our Favorite Teacher Must Haves
As much as I am opposed to Target starting their school supply section in June, I LOVE walking down the school supply isles. There is something about buying new markers, pens, and notepads that brings me joy. We have listed a few of our favorites throughout the years.
Classroom Set-up Ideas
When it comes to setting up your classroom the most important thing to remember is to make it your own! You do not have to spend a lot of money or have everything matching to have a fantastic classroom that feels welcoming and safe. Here are some things that might help give you some ideas as you start to think about your home away from home.
Art Supplies: It’s time to stock up on some art supplies. Yes, even intermediate teachers! We always have paint brushes, tempera paint, and watercolors paint on hand. We have found so many ways to integrate that into our classroom learning experiences and each time the kids LOVE IT!
Flexible Seating: When flexible seating was hip and new I tried to go all out and make my classroom filled with seating options except the traditional desks and chairs. I found in my primary classroom that it was a mistake. Flexible seating can look many different ways but we have found some students would still like the option of a traditional desk and chair. Now, our classrooms have options like pillows to use around the room, wobble stools, rocking chairs, standing desks, and bouncing balls and a table with regular chairs. Just remember you do not have to break the bank to have a flexible seating classroom.
Pro Tip: Buy outdoor pillows for your classroom for easier washing. They even might be on clearance at the end of summer right before school starts!
All Our Favorite Planning Things
There are so many resources for us to use. That can be very overwhelming for us as educators to find and use the ones we think will work best. We have compiled a list of our favorite planning things that might help you get started. Remember when you plan an integrated unit you are taking away the challenge of fitting it all in. We bring the joy back into our teaching and students' learning!
IntegratED Unit Planner: We use our planner when we sit down and plan a unit together. This helps us think about what standards to put together, classroom experiences to incorporate, timeline, and materials. To learn more about how to plan a unit join our IntegratED cohort where we walk you through how to plan an IntegratED Unit.
We hope this article provided you with some ideas and excitement to start the new year. As ALWAYS we are here for our educators. Please reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org or on any social media.
I am not sure about you, but we are absolutely in shock that the end of the school year is already approaching! It is crazy how slow, but fast the days and weeks seem to go. We were just coming back from Christmas break and now we are in the middle of May!
If you are anything like Meg and I, we are working hard at finishing up any content that we would like the students to have access to, but we are also figuring out fun activities and ideas on how we can make the end of the year special for this group of students! What we thought we would do is compile a list of different end of the year ideas that we have done that you might also be able to use with your students!
Review Relays: It is exactly what it sounds like! We utilize the playground or school soccer field for this one. We set up different relay races using any content that we have gone over throughout the year. We stick to mostly math, science, and social studies content for the races. Even some simple math flash cards or vocabulary terms would be a good start!
Picnic at the Park: This one you can get families involved! We like to celebrate students’ hard work at the end of the year. One way we do that is by taking them to one of the parks in our local community for a long lunch. Students pack a sack lunch, or their parents can meet us at the park with lunch. We play, we eat, and we have a great time! If the weather takes a turn for the worse, we set up our classrooms for a picnic and play board games instead.
Memory Books: Every year we like to give students a memory book to work on through the last two weeks of school. It gives them a chance to reflect on their year and it is fun to see what resonated with the students throughout their year. Click the link to see what we use from TPT.
Summer Bucket Lists: These are always fun to do with students to see what they have planned for the summer and what crazy things that they’d like to do. As the teacher, fill one out too! Students love reading about what you will be up to during the summer as well. Click the button for a free activity.
Meet the Teacher: For this activity, you would need to collaborate with the grade level above/below you, or you could propose to do it school wide. With this, students get 30 min on one of the last days of school to meet their upcoming teacher for the next school year. Teachers have a little activity for the students to participate in, getting them excited for the next year.
Escape Room: Escape rooms are so much fun! It definitely gives students a challenge. You can do escape rooms either digitally or in the actual classroom. Escape rooms are another great way for students to review skills and content that were taught throughout the year. If you are looking for more specific escape room ideas, go check out Matt Miller’s website! He has a ton of digital escape room ideas for any classroom.
Themed Days: (Beach Day, Camping, etc.) Turn your classroom into a summer getaway! Students can bring in beach towels, sleeping bags, flashlights, sunglasses, etc. to go with whatever theme you choose. Students can spend time reading in the sun or under the stars.
Minute to Win it Games (just for fun): Is there much academic content happening with this…no. Probably not. But it sure is fun! What a fun way to send your kids into the summer!
Dear New __ Graders: (students writing/creating video for next year’s class) Students create either a writing or technology piece for the upcoming class. Your current students give the upcoming class advice on how to make their year successful, fun things that they will get to do, challenges that they had to overcome, and some of their favorite memories from the year.
What are some of your favorite EOY activities?
As you head into the summer and start looking into the next school year, don’t hesitate to get a hold of us at email@example.com or follow us on any of our social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, @IntegratEDk12 for any questions, PD opportunities, or coaching.
Also, to ensure that you don’t miss out any upcoming blogs or IntegratED news, be sure to subscribe to our email list so that you have these blogs, resources, and news coming straight to your inbox!
Teachers are influential people in student and adult lives. When we first started in education we were all inspired or impacted by another teacher that led us down the path that we are on today. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we wanted to share the stories of the teachers who helped shape us into the educators we are today.
I have been very fortunate in my educational career to have many teachers that worked so hard to ensure my success. But I have two teachers that stand out to me, who pushed me in the direction of becoming a teacher myself.
It was third grade. I was a very shy kid, maybe an average student, and did not have confidence in myself at all. Even at that young age, I knew that about myself. Then Mrs. Medima walks into my life. She impacted me so greatly because she SAW me. I wasn’t able to sit back and slip through the cracks because she saw me, pushed me, and believed that I was so much more capable than I believed for myself. She made such an impact in my life that I can still see her smile and her amazing ‘teacher’ outfits. ;) Every Christmas I am reminded of all that she did for me by hanging the ornament she gave me all those years ago on my Christmas tree.
Many years pass and I am now a junior in high school. There was a new teacher in our high school and his name was Mr. Doust. I was in one of his classes. At the beginning of the year, class started off like most high school classes do. Lecture, note taking, quizzes, tests, etc. But as the year went on, Mr. Doust’s teaching began to change. One day walking up to class, all you saw was black butcher paper across his doorway. He had created a ‘secret’ entry to his classroom. Once inside, there were lamps, with bar tables set up everywhere…. No desks to be seen. He had set up a speakeasy in his classroom. He had created a classroom simulation for us to become immersed in what he had to teach us. Then another project we had to create videos in order to teach the class about another time period… and back then making videos was not as easily done like it is today on our phones! I remember that he challenged me and wasn’t satisfied with just rote memorization of the information (which I was really good at doing!). His style of teaching and how he interacted with us as students, as people, was different and breathed life into the high school. Was it easy for him? No… Many other teachers pushed back on him and how he was teaching, but he continued because he knew it was the best thing for my classmates and I.
Both of these teachers in my life impacted me greatly in different ways. Mrs. Medima taught me the beauty and necessity of seeing each student individually for who they are. She taught me the power of the love of a teacher and how that love can be a vehicle for students to move mountains, personally and academically. Mr. Doust taught me that you don’t have to follow in everyone’s footsteps and that being indiuvally you is a powerful thing. He taught me that teachers have a voice and can have individuality in their instructional delivery. He taught me that even if it’s not the ‘norm’, you need to do what is best for your students.
As long as I can remember, my dream job was to be a teacher. I was that little girl that set up a classroom in her room and taught her dolls and stuffies about math, writing, and reading. My first grade teacher was someone who started my love of learning and teaching. Mrs. Parks was kind, compassionate, and always greeted her students with a warm smile. Above her love for her students she was someone who saw each student for who they were and respected each student's unique personalities. Mrs. Parks was the teacher that tried new strategies, incorporated activities, and made learning fun.
Moving forward to my student teaching year, I asked Mrs. Parks if she could be my mentor. She was in her last year of teaching and I wanted to learn from a teacher I admired all these years. In that year, I learned more than any textbook could offer. Mrs. Parks taught me to love my students the way she did with me all those years ago by having conversations with them, listening to them, and then teaching them. Mrs. Parks taught me that building relationships with your students was the foundation of being an outstanding teacher. Now almost 30 years later she is still my cheerleader, and for that I am so grateful.
We share these stories to remind you of the power of an educator. Being an educator is no easy task. And in the past few years, the job seems almost impossible at times. But remember, the students that are in front of you today are being molded and shaped by YOU. They are looking up to YOU. They are learning from YOU. Those students are depending and trusting in YOU. And even when they may not always show it, those students care for YOU. There is not a more powerful job in the world than that of an educator.
"A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops."
IntegratED Classroom Learning Experiences with Technology
Integrating technology has been a hot topic for quite some time. If you search you will find many different PD books, articles, and tips and tricks on the subject. All of this can be very overwhelming if you're someone that isn’t as “tech savvy” as you think others might be. I’m here (Meg) to tell you I was that person. When I first was introduced to “THE DRIVE” for google I was terrified I would lose all of my desktop folders full of all the goodies. I put up a wall that stopped me and my students from this new learning. It took me some time and some navigating around a few learning curves but now I work in nothing but the drive. You could say it's my life. And now I am a one to one classroom, Google certified and I am always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom and my personal life.
Our Live by Tips and Tricks
There are so many different ways that you can incorporate technology into your classroom to give students an experience they will remember. Here are just some of the ideas/apps we use frequently throughout the year.
Do you have some favorites? We would love to hear them! Comment on our blog or message us on any social media and we will be sure to shout you and your idea out!
NearPod: Create your own learning pathway for your students by adding tons of different multimedia to a very easy to use slide deck. You can choose to put this as student lead or teacher lead. Check out the Mrs. Everest preview Kara created during our landforms unit.
Google Earth/Maps: Are you learning about a battle? What about an ecosystem? A different culture? Before your lesson, direct your students to a place on the earth for them to explore and ask questions. You can go just about anywhere in the world!
Green Screen: Green screen projects are a great way to integrate technology into your classroom, no matter the grade level! Here are some ideas that can be used as is or modified to fit whatever grade level or subject you teach. Using a green screen with video allows you to replace the background with any image or video of your choice. You can transport yourself anywhere in the world, and beyond, with a green screen. Using any recording device the person filming stands in front of a large green screen and records their video. After the video is recorded your students can use an app like PicCollage, iMovie or DoInk to add your own video or image.
If you want more specific ideas on how to incorporate a green screen into your learning experiences, click here to read our article, 10 Green Screen Ideas for the Classroom.
Skype: Bring in an expert, explorer, or veteran to you! Using the platforms of Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, you can easily bring in people to interview. This is a great way to connect students to others in their community/world and to hear first hand about different real life experiences. National Geographic has a place where you can book an explorer to talk with your students. Who could you “bring in” to give your students an experience on interviewing and learning more about your topic? This is also a great way to integrate different reading, writing, speaking and listening skills by having them prepare questions for guests. After visiting and interviewing your guest, students could use this information to add to a research paper or presentation for a final assessment at the end of the unit.
Digital Escape Room: These are a great way to get your students to use their problem solving skills, collaboration, learning content and provide some game play. You can create your own or use some that are already made to fit your content. Check out Matt Miller’s blog for 40 Free Digital Escape Rooms and a step by step guide on how to create your own.
IntegratED Classroom Learning Experience: Visual Arts
Classroom learning experiences are powerful, effective, engaging, and did we mention fun! :) Classroom learning experiences can also take on many different forms. Last week we discussed classroom learning experiences that were movement focused. If you missed that blog, go check it out!
This week we are focusing on the arts. Now, if you are anything like me (Kara), you hear the word art and immediately start to panic. But don’t worry! Perfection is not the goal. This art is meant to let students express their thinking, their learning, their creative side. We want to show you how the power of classroom learning experiences and the power of the arts can come together and create unforgettable learning in your classroom.
Writing Storyboards: Provide students with a set of squares to plan out their story using drawings. Some students have a very difficult time writing down their story in order. Having students draw their story in order will provide them a visual support to verbally tell their story, get their story all out on paper, and give them a tool to look back on when it's time to write.
Picture This Window: Have students draw a picture on paper slightly longer than a 5x7 frame. Use a 5x7 frame to put their picture into a window. Provide students with different multimedia (crayons, chalk, markers, etc). This visual activity has many different uses. For example, you could have students write a poem to their picture, create a story through a different perspective of someone looking into the window, or create a visual to go with a research paper like a habitat.
Symmetry Face: Take a picture of your students and print them in 5x7 or 8x10. Cut their face in half and glue it to a white paper. Have students draw the other side of their face.
Build it: In science your students have been learning about atoms and molecules or maybe different landforms. To show understanding, have students create a model using playdough, clay, plaint or other media.
History Connection: Take a look at some of your social studies standards. In our state standards it asks for 2nd graders to recognize and describe culture influences people including Indigenous Tribes of Wyoming. This would be a great opportunity to look at the different drawings, clothing, pottery etc. Then have students create their own piece.
Art Collaboration: Put students into small groups and give them different art supplies. Ask the groups of students to work together to create some type of art piece. This could be centered around what you are learning in class or free creativity. The point of this activity is to have students create together. You are looking for students who are listening to each other, giving their opinions, sharing, and being flexible. This is a great way to practice those soft (interpersonal) skills.
Classroom Tip: Try to use and provide different types of media for your students to create with. For example, give them paper, crayons, paint, watercolor, chalk, etc. Give them the tools to explore and find what they love. Remember every student is going to react differently to creating, give them time, the tools, and space to show you what they can do.
Visual arts can change the entire perspective of a student’s day in the classroom just by being supportive and encouraging their unique ideas. It also could knock down a barrier for them to understand vital content. As teachers we ask our students to produce a certain answer on standardized tests, a form of writing, a set answer in math, and so forth. Integrating the visual arts into their day provides some of those students the outlet to be themselves or a pathway to understanding content they might not have understood through a text. As teachers we need to become excited about learning in different ways and let students have more control of their knowledge and how they want to express it.
IntegratED Classroom Learning Experiences
How many of you have seen the cute videos on social media of little babies bouncing or jumping to the beat of a song? They are so cute! But even more importantly, even as babies, they are reminding us the importance of getting up and moving! As humans, we are meant to move!
Movement is natural for children, no one has to teach them to move to a beat of a song or jump up and down when they are excited. Susan Griss says “Children naturally move. They react to and explore their world in a physical way. When they arrive in school, they are fluent in this nonverbal, physical language”. By fostering their movement and integrating it into their learning, children are going to thrive. Students will be able to take something that comes naturally to them and apply it to their learning of the content, giving them the opportunity to express their understanding of the content in a way that makes sense to them.
Plot: In the primary grades students are asked to understand the plot of the story with character, setting, and plot. After reading a story with a distinctive plot students map out their path on paper to show the beginning, middle, and end. They move through each section with different movements/poses.
Life Cycle: After students have learned the life cycle stages of an animal or plant, have them create different movements to show each stage with their bodies. Encourage them to be big/small tall/short. For example, if they are showing movements for a life cycle of a flower a seed would be close to the ground, bodies in a ball. Their flowers might be tall, reaching for the sky, making blooming motions.
Movement Math: Have students use their bodies to show different shapes. Students use their feet to draw the shape on the ground.
Clock Movement: Students use their bodies to show different times on an analog clock.
Story Problems: Students could ‘act’ out the story problems to help solve.
Addition vs. Subtraction: Students could have different moments/action for addition and subtraction to help them differentiate between the two and to help them pay closer attention to the symbols.
Vocabulary Movement: Have students stand up and use their bodies to act out different meanings of words.
Habitat Movement: Are you learning about different animals? Have students act out their animals in their habitat.
Topic Movement: Let’s say you are learning about matter. Have your students move like a solid, liquid, or gas. This not only gets them up and moving but provides you with a quick idea of what students might still need clarification.
Writing Movement: Have students create different movements for parts of their writing. For example, If you are teaching opinion writing, the introduction sentence, three reasons, and close would each have a movement.
Song & Dance: So many of us educators have little songs or jingles to help students remember different content. Put simple little actions to that song/jingle (no need for Broadway level choreography 😉) and you will be amazed at how that will stick with the students!
Benefits of Integrating Movement
If we really want students to learn we must connect the material with their memories so that it sticks.” -The Playful Classroom
Megan and Kara are educational leaders, professional development experts, and current classroom teachers who are improving the way instruction is being delivered in the standard classroom.