Thursday, February 23, 2017

St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge: Paper Bridge Challenge

St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge asks the students to create a paper bridge that will hold 100 pennies for 30 seconds to help the leprechaun transfer his gold coins to the bank.  Available versions for Grades 3-5 and Grades 5-8.
STEM Challenges are my favorite way to engage students during those times of the school year when keeping their attention might be almost impossible!  

You can still celebrate St. Patrick's Day while making the experience fun and educational for your students.  It is definitely a win-win situation for all involved!  

Plus, if you have a spring break scheduled around this time, a STEM Challenge would be a perfect activity to work into your plans to help keep students on task once you've wrapped up other coursework.

How does this St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge work?

This St. Patrick's Day Paper Bridge STEM Challenge asks the students to create a paper bridge that will hold 100 pennies for 30 seconds to help the leprechaun transfer his gold coins to the bank.  

The new bridge must be made out of a limited amount of common household / classroom materials and completed with a certain amount of time.

Students will go through the STEM design process to create the leprechaun's new bridge.  The students will then test the bridge prototypes using pennies (or anything else you may have handy - like unifix cubes or washers).  Students will then make improvements to the bridge after the first trial to yield a stronger bridge for the second trial.

St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge asks the students to create a paper bridge that will hold 100 pennies for 30 seconds to help the leprechaun transfer his gold coins to the bank.  Available versions for Grades 3-5 and Grades 5-8.
STEM Challenge Preview for Grades 3-5
The middle school kids in grades 5-8 are expected to identify the need, research the problem, design a solution by writing detailed procedures and sketching prototypes, build and test a prototype, and troubleshoot.  The younger students in grades 3-5 are asked to follow the same steps - but in a simpler way.  These kiddos will Ask, Imagine, Create, and Improve.

Your classroom will be buzzing with organized chaos as students collaborate on their designs!  It is always interesting to observe, as a facilitator, how the students are working together and which "roles" the students choose to take within the challenge.  

So, what should this paper bridge look like?

The great thing about a STEM Challenge is that there is not a cookie cutter "right answer" for the students to create.  

The students will amaze you with their creativity!  Often times, the students design prototypes that adults would never imagine from the limited amount of supplies provided within the challenge.

How do you measure the success of a STEM Challenge?

Of course, it is fun to cheer on the students to design the best prototype that will "win" the challenge.

But, as a teacher, the activity is a success when you observe your students actively following the STEM Design Process steps.

You see them critically thinking, creating, and analyzing the prototype's performance and design when troubleshooting.  Students have been activating those higher levels of thinking while having a wonderful time!  

Do you love this activity but don't have the time to design it yourself?  

A student handout, corresponding presentation, and detailed lesson plan is available in my TeachersPayTeachers store for grades 3-5 and grades 5-8 in either PowerPoint or SMART Notebook formats!


St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge asks the students to create a paper bridge that will hold 100 pennies for 30 seconds to help the leprechaun transfer his gold coins to the bank.  Available versions for Grades 3-5 and Grades 5-8.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Be Mine TpT Gift Card Giveaway

February can be lots of fun in the classroom!  Do you know what is even more fun? Winning a $10 TpT Gift Card to use during the big #BeMine TpT Sitewide Sale during February 7-8!

You can also save up to 28% on your winter must-haves by entering the coupon code: LoveTpT when you check out.

Want more chances to win?  Just visit a few of my blogging buddies to enter for another chance at a $10 TpT Gift Card.  If you visit everyone in our blog hop, you could win up to $110 in TpT Gift Cards.  Sounds good, right?  

So how do you enter?  Read about my Top 5 February Favorites and then complete the Rafflecopter entry.  Be sure to click on the button at the end of this post to be directed to the next post in the hop.  

Hurry!  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (EST) on Tuesday 02/07.  The winner will be notified via e-mail by noon (EST) on Wednesday, so you will have time to fill up your TpT cart with lots of goodies before the end of the sale!


The Night Before Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity is a great companion to the book and encourages students to build their comprehension and re-telling abilities.

The Night Before Series is a favorite at my house!  We love all the fun books that accompany each and every holiday.  I enjoy creating sequencing activities as a book companion.

The Night Before Valentine's Day Sequencing Activity is a great companion to the book and encourages students to build their comprehension and re-telling abilities.
Each sequencing activity includes illustrated cards of key events within the story, which enables the students to practice their comprehension and re-telling abilities.  Students just simply listen to the story, cut, sort, and paste onto a final copy.

The Night Before the 100th Day of School Sequencing is a great companion to the book!  This allows students to strengthen their comprehension and re-telling skills.The class can also check their results using an interactive presentation - available in both PowerPoint and SMART Notebook - which provides them with immediate feedback as they attempt to place the cards in the correct order on the slide.



Here's an example of The Night Before the 100th Day of School Sequencing Activity:


Cupid's Catapult STEM Challenge encourages students to follow the STEM Design Process while creating a catapult to help ease Cupid's workload!
Cupid's Catapult STEM Challenge encourages students to follow the STEM Design Process while creating a catapult to help ease Cupid's workload!

Cupid's Catapult STEM Challenge sets the stage to engage with a STEM Story about poor Cupid, who needed an upgrade to his bow and arrow technology with a catapult that would launch piercing hearts far distances.

 The students follow the STEM Design Process to design and build a catapult prototype made out of a limited amount regular household items within a certain period of time.  The students then test the prototype and troubleshoot to determine how to make the catapult launch the marshmallow heart even farther during the next trial.

The corresponding presentation and student handout makes this STEM Challenge super easy for a teacher to facilitate.  Available in Grades 3-5 and Grades 5-8.


Out of this World Conversation Heart Science Lab is a great way to use those conversation hearts plus practice following the scientific method - developing a scientific question, writing a hypothesis, analyzing data, and determining a conclusion.

Students are presented with a scenario where an alien is curious about the astronaut's candy hearts.  The astronaut then invites the alien into the space station to conduct an experiment to see if different temperatures of water will affect the candy heart.

This lab activity is available for Grades 3-5 and Grades 5-8.

Duck for President Sequencing Activity is a great companion to the book and encourages students to build their comprehension and re-telling abilities.


Duck for President Sequencing Activity is a great companion to the book and encourages students to build their comprehension and re-telling abilities.Mid-February brings Presidents' Day!

Duck for President Sequencing Activity is a fabulous companion activity to the hilarious book.

Students will cut out the illustrated cards, sort, and paste the events into the correct order on the final template.

An interactive PowerPoint or SMART Notebook file allows students to receive immediate feedback when modeling the activity or checking the answers as a class.

If I Were President Narrative Writing Prompt encourages students to brainstorm what they would do first, then, next, and last.

If I Were President Narrative Writing Prompt encourages students to brainstorm what they would do first, then, next, and last.Have your students ever thought about what they would do if they were president?

The If I Were President Narrative Writing Prompt encourages students to brainstorm what they would do first, then, next, and finally.

Students can then write and illustrate a final copy that would be a perfect bulletin board or hall display!  (And, I imagine some really interesting reading!)




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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cyber Monday TpT Gift Card Giveaway!

I'm excited to give you the gift of time this holiday season with a chance to win a $10 TpT gift card!

Use your gift card to stuff your cart full of goodies that get you through the winter months, so you have more time for family!
Plus, you can maximize your $10 by using it in the upcoming TpT Sitewide Sale on Monday, November 28 through Tuesday, November 29!  Save up to 28% using the code: CYBER2016  

Want more chances to win?  Just visit a few of my blogging buddies to enter for another chance at a $10 TpT Gift Card.  If you visit everyone in our blog hop, you could win up to $260 in TpT Gift Cards.  Sounds good, right?  

So how do you enter?  Read about my Top 5 Winter Activities and then complete the Rafflecopter entry.  Be sure to click on the button at the end of this post to be directed to the next post in the hop.  

Hurry!  The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM (EST) on Monday 11/28.  The winner will be notified via e-mail by noon (EST) on Tuesday, so you will have time to fill up your TpT cart with lots of goodies before the end of the sale!

STEM Challenges are a perfect way to spend those days leading up to winter break or to get the wheels turning on those first days back from break.  Some of my favorite winter STEM activities include:

The Marshmallow STEM Challenge is a great introductory STEM challenge allowing students to create and collaborate while using a limited amount of common household items within a certain amount of time to create the tallest, free-standing structure!The Marshmallow Challenge asks students to build the tallest, freestanding structure out of spaghetti sticks, tape, and string within a certain amount of time.  The tower must remain standing once time expires with a marshmallow stuck on the top of the structure.  

This is a great introductory STEM lab that works for all grades.  Read more about the Marshmallow Challenge in this blog post.  


Jingle All The Way Christmas STEM Challenge - Students must design a better sleigh for Santa using common household items.Another STEM Challenge perfect for December is the Jingle All The Way Christmas STEM Challenge.  Students must design a sleigh that is lightweight and sturdy out of common household items that can tolerate the weight of the many presents Santa has to deliver all over the world. 

Students work through the STEM Design Process to create a prototype with limited materials and time, test the prototype, and troubleshoot to enhance the original prototype to yield better results.

Read more about Jingle All The Way in this blog post.

Let It Grow! Winter Snowflake Science Activity - Help Elsa decorate her castle with beautiful homemade snowflakes using pipe cleaners and powdered laundry detergent while practicing the scientific method!Help Elsa decorate her castle with beautiful homemade snowflakes using pipe cleaners and powdered laundry detergent (Borax).  

Let It Grow! Snowflake Science Activity allows students to have a lot of fun while practicing their scientific inquiry skills.  Lab activities are differentiated and available for Grades 3-5 and 5-8. 

Depending on your grade level, you may want to allow the students to conduct this in several small groups or work together as a class.  Teachers who opt for the whole class activity can always select student volunteers to come up to the front of the class to help with the different steps of the lab.

This resource also includes a detailed lesson plan and corresponding PowerPoint or SMART Board presentation that provides a lot of visuals to help both the teacher and student conduct a relatively smooth science lab!

The 3-5 Grade Handout features choices that scaffold students' thinking when determining a scientific method, making a prediction, and forming a conclusion.



If I Were an Elf Who Lived on a Shelf - Christmas Narrative Writing Prompt - Students brainstorm a sequential story about what they would do if they were an elf who lived on a shelf using a graphic organizer and create a final copy that would make a great bulletin board display!If I Were an Elf Who Lived on a Shelf Narrative Writing Prompt will create lots of discussion in your elementary classroom - especially if you have a classroom elf or many of your students have an elf at home!

Students are provided with a graphic organizer which helps them organize their thoughts into a sequential story with a closing. Once the students have completed their brainstorming, then they can transfer the information to a final story board. 

This would look awesome on a bulletin board or in the hallway!
Would You Rather Interactive Christmas Game - Includes 30 fun, Christmas-related scenarios. Students will then answer each scenario by moving to the side of the room indicated by the arrow on the slide.  Perfect for those days just before winter break!Do you know those days when you have shorter gaps of time to fill before or after a holiday assembly?   Would You Rather - Christmas Edition - is the perfect class activity to have in your teacher toolkit for those types of situations.  Just open up this game and automatically engage your students!  

This resource has 30 fun, Christmas-themed Would You Rather scenarios. The slides can be projected on a white board, projection screen, or SMART Board through PowerPoint. The teacher (or a student) can read the scenario on the slide. The students will then show what they would prefer to do in the scenario by moving to the side of the room indicated by the arrow on the slide. 



Make sure to ask follow up questions after each Would You Rather scenario to promote the development of a learning community!



If you are a fan of "The Night Before..." stories by Natasha Wing, then these sequencing activities will be a fantastic companion piece to these books.  The Night Before the Night Before Christmas is a hilarious book to add to your collection as your get closer to winter break.

Are you reading The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing?  This sequencing activity is a great companion activity to this hilarious story.  Students will practice their retelling and comprehension skills by cutting and pasting illustrated cards into the correct order on a final storyboard.
This resource includes two worksheets: one includes illustrated cards that represents the key events that occurred in the story and the second includes numbered boxes to help students paste the cards into the correct order as the events happened in the story.

(Note: This resource is currently being updated to include color and black and white versions plus an interactive whole class answer check activity as mentioned below.  Debut date is 12/1/16!)

Also included is an Interactive Whole Class Answer Check Sequencing Activity in both PowerPoint and SMART Notebook formats. Students will press or click on the illustrated card they believe is the next in order. The students will receive instant feedback to either receive another try to select the correct answer or to move on to the next step of the activity.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Duck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource

Duck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource for Presidents' Day or Election Day
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin is a wonderful book to share in November and February - near Election Day and Presidents' Day!

Students can relate to Duck not wanting to do his chores and deciding to make a change around the farm.  This moment really captures the students' attention and introduces them to the election process.

Students are then exposed to local, state, and national government structures in a fun way through Duck's adventures.

One of my favorite activities to determine the comprehension of a read aloud is for students to work individually on a sequencing activity.


This sequencing activity includes two pages: a cut-out page featuring illustrated cards with short captions and a final student handout which allows the students to paste the cards in the correct order.


Duck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource for Presidents' Day or Election DayOnce students have worked their fine motor skills by cutting out the illustrated cards, then they can sort the cards to practice retelling the story.

Even a struggling reader, who might not be able to remember the order of events right away, can analyze the illustrated cards.

Where was Duck in this card?  Who was with Duck?  When did this happen in the story?  These are all questions that can start getting the wheels turning for a student.

Duck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource for Presidents' Day or Election DayStudents can then glue the illustrated cards in the correct order on the final student handout.

Kids get a kick out of checking their answers using an interactive PowerPoint or SMART Notebook resource.

Students are asked to press or click on the correct card and receive immediate feedback to either try again or go on to the next step of the activity.

This is a great way to get the class up and moving!

Do you love this activity?  Don't want to recreate the wheel?  Then, take a look at this no prep resource in my TeachersPayTeachers store!

Duck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource for Presidents' Day or Election DayDuck for President Sequencing Activity Companion Resource for Presidents' Day or Election Day


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Case of the Missing Cake: Using a CSI Lab to Teach Chemical and Physical Changes

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School Science
Everyone loves to solve a mystery, so The Case of the Missing Cake CSI Lab gets students excited to observe and classify physical and chemical changes!

The CSI Lab Scenario will definitely engage the students and make learning about physical and chemical changes much more interesting.

But, if you want to amp up the engagement, then you may want to decorate your classroom as a crime scene.

Add the caution tape.  Have an empty cake plate with a trail of white powder on the counter.  Dress up as a detective or crime scene investigator.  The more you sell this activity, then the more excited your students will be about learning the basics of chemistry.


Imagine being a student in your classroom when the room is staged like in the photo above.  Exciting, right?  In an instant, you have already captured their attention.  Then, you can explain the case.  In this lab, a cake decorated by a famous baker has gone missing from his bakery overnight.

It is up to the students to solve the case!  

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School ScienceThree suspects were found with white powder residue on their clothing.  So, the students must test samples of known and unknown substances to determine which suspect was the culprit.

The students will then observe what occurs when testing the known white substances with water, vinegar, and iodine.

Did it dissolve?  Did it fizz?  Did it turn colors?

Once the lab group discusses what was observed, then they classify the observation as a physical or chemical change.

Students will then be presented with unknown samples collected from the crime scene and each of the suspects.  They will then need to test these unknown samples as they did the known samples.

Once the results have been collected, then the data analysis begins.  You may have to walk through the data analysis with your students.  Help them be able to compare the known substance results to the unknown substance observations.

Can they determine which substance is which based on the observations?  Which sample collected from the suspect matches the observations made with the crime scene sample?  Who was the cake thief?


A photo posted by Esther Alvarez (@alvrze) on

The fun part, as a teacher, is that you can always have some tricks up your sleeve.  If you are conducting this lab with more than one class, then you may want to switch up the crime scene sample.

The different classes will yield different results as to which suspect is guilty of stealing the cake!  This will keep the students on their toes and avoid any spoiler situations that are lurking in the hallways or cafeterias.  There is always one student who can't wait to share the verdict with the others!

This lab helped students collaborate with others, classify the observations as either physical or chemical changes, and encouraged higher level thinking with the analysis of the collected data.  Plus, it got students excited about science!  Yes!!

Physical and Chemical Changes CSI Lab Activity for Middle School ScienceAre you interested in conducting this lab in your class but don't have the time to create the lab handouts or corresponding presentation?  Check this resource out in my TeachersPayTeachers store - it is available in PowerPoint and Smart Notebook formats.

Special thanks to Esther Alvarez!  She is a rock-star teacher in Texas who has conducted this lab in her middle school science class for a few years, and is always so nice to share the photos with me!  You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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