Using STEM activites to encourage PROBLEM SOLVING!

Hello friends!  Heather here from Learning with Mrs. Langley and today is all about STEM in the classroom!

What is STEM?

The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  For me though the idea of STEM based lesson plans goes back to teaching across disciplines, integrating knowledge, and solving problems in a cooperative environment.  You know.....the way we were taught to teach! 

STEM based lesson plans and projects are inquiry based by nature.  Here are a few of the important skills students gain when exposed to inquiry in the early years. 
  • asking questions
  • explore materials, objects, and events and noticing what happens as changes are made
  • using all the senses to explore
  • making predictions
  • recording observations
  • working collaboratively

How do I start?

How do we integrate STEM activities in our classrooms?  Where do we start?  Here are a few tips to get you going in your room: 

1.  Starting a new unit in reading?  Here is an example of how I integrated a STEM activity with my Kindergarteners and the book Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman.  It is part of our reading series so I "have to" read it (although I love this one so I'm not complaining!).  We spent the week comparing make believe stories with real stories and read a lot of non fiction books about bears.  To keep the investigation going we had our STEM center set up with these materials:

Sounds dangerous right?  I think that only added to the excitement!  My favorite solution from one of my kiddos was pretty simple. He suggested we leave the parents behind because the kids are lighter and it would be easier to build a raft to float them.  I guess he showed me!  I feel a little bad for his parents though when it comes to survival! The materials I used were from Lakeshore.  I love their STEM kits! 

2. If we don't have a reading book to go along with the center I simply call this our "Problem Solving" station.  It's a class favorite!  We have experimented with magnets, ramps, and things that roll so far.  To integrate Math and Technology we incorporate some of our apps on the iPads to our problem solving station but I have to admit, that's been the hardest part of STEM for me to include so far.

3. Rethink your favorite units!  Instead of a Halloween party or Halloween centers this year I went with an "All About Pumpkins" unit instead.  The kiddos loved experimenting, making predictions, and measuring our pumpkins.  In years past we would have made jack-o-lanterns, instead this year we cleaned out the pumpkins, dried out the seeds, and counted/compared the numbers of seeds to the size of the pumpkin.  It was so much fun! 
 So that's how I integrate STEM into our daily kindergarten routine.  How do you incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math into your science lessons?  I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for stopping by Hello Sunshine today!

Naked Egg Experiment

Hello! This is my very first post for Hello Sunshine!  My name is Maribel and I blog over at Learning in Wonderland.
For those of you that don't know me, I am a first grade teacher from Arizona.  I have been teaching for nine years.  I love teaching and love sharing our adventures in the classroom via my blog and Instagram.  I am so excited to join this talented team of Arizona bloggers and join my fellow Sunshine girls!
Today I'm going to share one of my favorite science experiments I've done with my class.  My students were so excited to see the results and so was I.

This experiment was to find how eggs change in different liquids.

We left one egg inside water, another inside Coke, and another one in vinegar. 

We then left the eggs inside of the liquids for a day.   The main purpose was to see what vinegar did. 

 We made predictions and the kids were sure that the only one that would change was the one left in Coke.

That is until one of the eggs hit the vinegar.  It instantly started to fizz and this is what it looked like after a few minutes.  It was weird how the eggshell began to dissolve immediately.

After about 5 minutes, the top layer of the shell had dissolved and even the logo lifted to the top.

The next day the shell had dissolved completely.  The egg was soft and squishy at that point and the only thing holding it together was the egg membrane.  
The kids loved touching the "naked" egg.  

The egg left in Coke turned brown and made me question every Coke I ever drank.  The one left in water didn't change at all.

It was such a fun and easy way to infuse science into our day.

Have you ever tried this experiment? Is there anything else I could try this with that will give us some fun results?  Please share below :-) 

Sharing Sunshine {November}

It's the 15th... so that means it's time to share some of our Arizona sunshine!  Welcome back to our monthly link up, where we share tips, ideas, and resources with you.  Our November theme has been Sensational Science and Social Studies, but the link up can feature absolutely anything that helps our fellow educators. 

We hope you'll grab these buttons and link up to share some of your own sunshine too!

Edible Science

I am so excited to be sharing with you some of my favorite ways to make science not only fun but also engaging and hands on!!

One of my favorite ways to keep students engaged is by putting science in their mouths!  Students learn more when they have something to grab on to!  How much more do you think they remember when you give them something to eat that also has to do with what they are learning!?

When we were talking about rocks we were learning about the three different types of rocks.  Of course we also had there different foods that we could eat to help us remember the difference between sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.  It was a great to be able to see them apply that knowledge on their tests, and to tell each other more about it.

Every time I plan out a science unit I go through and make sure that I have a hands on lesson to go with each chapter.  I also make sure that I have not only a hands on lesson, but also something that they can eat!

What science lessons have you taught that were edible!?!  Did your students enjoy the activity and hold on to the information?!  I would love to hear more about your edible science lessons!

5 Tips for using Informational Text

You can use informational text to teach reading skills.  Tips for using content area texts from science and social studies for your reading instruction.

We all know that informational text is playing a bigger role in our reading instruction.  Teachers are also aware that their instructional day is packed and that the content areas of science and social studies often gets squeezed out.  I've gathered some tips to help you use your science and social studies texts and curriculum to teach the required reading skills. Stop thinking of the content areas as a separate part of your day,, bring them into your ELA block.

1.  Show students the difference between literary and informational text structure.  
     One of the first things students need to understand is the structural difference between literary and informational text.  Literary text will generally have characters, a setting and a plot that has a beginning, middle and end. While informational text will usually be organized by topic with sections having main ideas and details. To help students compare these two types of texts you can use a T-Chart along with sample texts.  Set the students up in small groups.  Give each group a few text samples and a T-Chart.  Let them explore the text and make note of what they see.  You can sum up the activity by having them list things the texts have in common and some of the major differences they noticed.  Make sure you have a list of the main points you want to make with this activity.  Depending on the age of the students you can guide the summing up discussions to make sure all the main points are covered. 
Click on the image to download the organizer.

Students can use this t chart as they explore the differences between literary and informational texts.

2.  Teach students how to find information using the table of contents and index.
     I think the two most important features of an informational book are the table of contents and the index.  As students begin to use informational texts for research projects they will not always be reading the entire book from beginning to end.  They will use the table of contents and the index to find the specific places in the book that has the information they need.
     A fun way to give students practice in using these features is to have a scavenger hunt.  Choose an informational text for which you have enough copies for each student or each pair of students.  I always did this activity with our Science and Social Studies texts because we had a class set.   Write a set of questions that can be answered from the text.  Make sure some of the questions require the table of contents and some require the index in order to find the answer. I also leave a space to write the page number where they found the answer and if they used the table of contents or the index.

3.  Use graphic organizers to gather information.
     Graphic organizers are a must for gathering and organizing information.  There are many different types of graphic organizers that can be used, depending on the text structure and the type of information to be organized. This handy chart will give you an idea of which organizer to use with your students. 
Click on the image to download the chart and 3 free organizers.
 Graphic Organizers, free sample to use with informational text.

4.  Choose reading strategies and or skills that fit the text.

     Throughout the year students will be learning many different strategies and skills as they become better readers.  You’ll want to choose just one or two to use with this lesson with informational text.  When you’re planning, read the text with fresh eyes and think about the skills and strategies you’re using as a reader.  Mark places where you used specific skills or strategies. When you finish, go over your notes and decide which skills/strategies fit the text and also fit the needs of your students. Then you’re ready to plan you lesson!

5.  Reread the text to teach different comprehension skills.
     Now that you have your first lesson planned, use the text again to target a different skill or strategy.  On the first day you may cover main idea and details with a graphic organizer.  On the second day the focus may be cutting down the details to just the most important ideas and writing a summary.  Later in the week you might focus on vocabulary or author’s word choice. Reading the same text again and again is always a good thing!

Kids love learning about things in their world.  I hope these tips will help you begin using more informational texts in your ELA lessons.

Past, Present, Future

Timeline for Children

Before beginning teaching any history standards at any grade level, students need to understand the concept of time. Teaching the key words of past, present, and future will help them build their understanding of history. 

I always model what a timeline is and show them what I mean using the words past, present and future by constructing a timeline of my life. They love hearing stories of my past and counting the number of years since I was born or when I started kindergarten. Yes, I know they get so excited to find out that I am old. But, no I'm not as old as Abraham Lincoln (as one student asked me one year).

After learning about timelines I give each student the opportunity to make their own timelines at home. I send this home as a homework project because I love seeing the help and support from parents. The students create wonderful models of their lives using real photographs and newspaper ads. The students love sharing their timelines with the class and learning about one another.

One thing I plan on using this year in my classroom is a history timeline. I love how this 3rd grade teacher from my school posted a large timeline and adds to it as they move through history in their lessons and units. 

Classroom Timeline

In second grade we begin talking about the Native Americans and the settling of Jamestown. Following this we begin discussing the 13 colonies and the Revolutionary War. Finally we finish our 2nd grade history units with westward expansion and explorers. Having a visual timeline posted in the classroom will be a great visual aide to show the students how much time passes between each important event. Throughout my years of teaching I've noticed that is the one area that the students have a hard time understanding in history, they have difficulty grasping the concept of time. 

Hopefully you can use these ideas in your classroom to bring your timelines of history to life. Help your students understand the past, present, and future. 


Thanks for reading my post on Hello Sunshine. Please visit my blog, The Creative Classroom to find other creative ways to engage your students every day!

 The Creative Classroom

Spotlight on Social Studies

The theme for this month is Social Studies and Science.  

To be honest, I've never loved Social Studies.  I remember being in High School and absolutely dreading it!  Social Studies was just so boring!  Last year I decided that instead of complaining about our social studies curriculum, I would rewrite/find better resources.  Now I have three social studies units that I absolutely LOVE to teach!    


This was the first unit I rewrote.  I put together an entire unit for my 2nd graders to learn all about Ancient China.  It was definitely their favorite!  

My school district provides these social studies kits to go along with each of our units.  This is just about a third of what we get.  My class loved seeing all the real, authentic artifacts from China!  

During the course of the unit, we learn about Chinese geography, flag, map, rivers, Confucius, Great Wall, Writing, Inventions, Silk, and Chinese New Year.  One of our favorite activities was to practice using chopsticks.  I gave each student a bag of fruit snacks, two cups, and a set of chopsticks.  They had to put all their fruit snacks in one cup.  Then, they had to use their chopsticks to move them into the other cup.  Once they did it twice, they were allowed to eat their fruit snacks.  It proved to be pretty difficult for some of them, but they loved the challenge!

Check it out here.

American Revolution

My coworker's student teacher helped me come up with a unit all about The Road to the Revolution.  It is full of fun and engaging activities to teach about the events leading up the American Revolution.  

My class LOVED this song about the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  

I put it on my staff website, and they watch it ALL.THE.TIME.

One of our favorite activities from this unit was about The Stamp Act.  We actually put on a class demonstration on taxation.  Full, detailed instructions, name-tags, and cards are included in the unit, but here's a quick rundown for you.  Choose students to be the king, two members of parliament, and two tax collectors.  The rest of the students are the colonists.  Give each colonist some classroom money.  The members of parliament read the cards to say who is going to be taxed.  The cards say things like, "If you are wearing a headband, you are taxed 15 cents".  Tax collectors collect the money, and also have to pay taxes.  Once all the colonists have been taxed, the money is counted and half of it is given to the king.  The tax collectors get a small portion, and the members of parliament split the rest.  My class had a love/hate relationship with this activity.  It really hit home to them how awful taxation without representation was.  We had great discussions on what was/wasn't fair, and how the colonists must have felt during this time.  

Check out more of the fun included in this packet here!


I found the best book to help us learn all about economics - Striker Jones.  

It's an excellent chapter book that helps teach students basic economic principles.  It even has a Teacher's Companion that lays out every lesson for you with objectives, questions, and activities.  We used about half of the book for our unit and loved it!  They get so excited to hear the next chapter.  The first chapter/lesson was all about trading.  One of the activities was to give each child one piece of candy, so they each get something different.  Then, they spent a few minutes trading.  At the end, we had a lot of great discussion on the pros and cons of trading.  Some children ended up happy, but there were still a few unhappy with their trades.  It was an awesome activity!

How do you make Social Studies exciting for your class?
What are your favorite topics to teach?

Veterans Day Activities

November has arrived... and I think we all can agree that this is the first official start of the holiday season! From now until December, teachers everywhere will be attempting to fit holiday themes into their teaching including Thanksgiving, Winter, and holidays around the world... and it's tough to fit it all in! However, I will be kicking off the month of November by teaching about a holiday that is often overlooked amidst all the hubbub of the last two months of the year: Veterans Day!

I usually don't have more than a day or two to devote to teaching my students about Veterans Day, so in the past, I've tried to find quick, low-prep activities that are still engaging for my students to learn about this important day.

The easiest place to start is by finding some great books that tell the history of Veterans Day in kid-friendly language. Here are some fantastic books to start your collection:

My two favorites pictured above are H is for Honor and the Rookie Read About Holidays: Veterans Day

Videos are also a great way to get students interested in new topics. I found this great little video on Youtube that tells about Veterans Day in a way that young students will understand. I'll definitely be showing this one to my first graders this year!

I also love implementing fun little songs and creating movements to go along with them. My students love them and end up singing them all day long! I sang this adorable song last year, courtesy of this freebie from First Grade Wow! I wanted my students to have access to a version that they would be able to use and read themselves, so I added a little Melonheadz clipart and turned it into a poster that the kids could refer to. Love it! 
After researching facts about Veterans Day together, we usually do a fun little activity together. I used this coloring sheet with my kindergarten kiddos last year and had a sentence for them to trace and tell about the meaning of the holiday.
We also made a Veterans Day hat with three badges on it to tell about the importance of the day.

You can download the hat for FREE by clicking on the picture below!

 photo veterans day link pic_zpsn3hcfdoa.png

Be sure to check back on the blog all month long for more freebies, resources, and teaching ideas for November's theme: Sensational Science and Social Studies from all of your favorite Hello Sunshine bloggers!