Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Design Process in First Grade

Since we started using the provincial report card some years back, teachers have really had to intentionally teach their students about the design process. I've kind of simplified the way that I teach the process. I try to do one big design project each term (so three a year), but often other little STEM lessons or mini projects also use this format, just a bit less formal.

The six general steps for the scientific design process are: (1) recognize a problem (this is usually teacher led, but sometimes students come up with their own ideas!), (2) create a plan (this can be brainstorming ideas, drawing a detailed picture/plan, and creating a list of criteria), (3) construct the object (I collect A LOT of recycled materials to use for this, as well as various craft supplies), (4) test the object (does it meet the criteria? does it work?), (5) make improvements (if it doesn't work or if you just want it to work better), and (6) communicate results (this can be a turn and talk with a partner, uploading a picture or video to Seesaw, checking off a checklist, etc.). 

We have had so much fun with some of our projects throughout the year! Here's a peak at a few of them. I usually do three major projects a year, so I don't always do one from each cluster. It just depends on the order that I do them in. Here's a look at some of our design projects throughout the years...

Cluster 1: Characteristics and Needs of Living Things

This is the design project from my First Grade Interactive Science Journals: Living Things unit. I've done it with my classes a few times, but I could not find any pictures of them! One time we made them to go with our non-fiction writing project--students designed the habitat for their living thing and had to include things like food, water, and shelter. 



This is another project we did. We were learning about the characteristics of insects and created some "litterbugs" out of recycled materials for Earth Day. I put out a bunch of recycled materials such as cardboard tubes, small milk cartons, packing peanuts from an old package, old plastic lids, scrap paper, newspaper, etc. They had to design an insect using recycled materials that had all the parts of an insect (such as antennae and six legs). You can download the recording sheets for free from {here}. There's a single page version or an interactive journal version, as well as the large insect and labels.



Cluster 2: The Senses

This one has been challenging, but in the past we have done two different things: made sunglasses to protect our eyes (students had to choose an appropriate material to use to make their lenses) or design something to protect one of your senses (sunglasses, earmuffs, mittens, etc.). You can find three different versions of the recording sheets in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: The Five Senses unit. Here's a look at our devices for protecting our senses:



Cluster 3: Characteristics of Objects and Materials

This is one of my favourite units to do because you can pretty much tie any sort of project to it. I often tie this project into a favourite book or character. 

One of our projects was to build a comfy chair for the pigeon stuffy. We received an email from the Pigeon asking us to make him a new, comfy chair. I put out the craft stuff, had them design their chair, then build it and test it with the stuffed pigeon! You can downloading the recording sheets for free from {here}.





Another project we have done is build a house for the three little pigs. We used little Lego people with pig masks and a blow dryer disguised as the wolf. Students built a house, put the pigs in it, and try to see if it will stand up the wolf! You can download the recording sheet for free from {here}.





Another favourite project is reading the story "The Day the Crayons Quit" and making a crayon box for a pack of 24 crayons. There is a similar activity in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: Objects and Materials unit about holding pencils, but you can download the crayon activity for free {here}.



We brought the Pigeon back for another project. This time we read the story "Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!" and build a bed for the sleepy Pigeon. Find the freebie recording sheets {here}.




Last year I gave all my students their own little puppy reading buddy at the beginning of the year. I got them from Oriental Trading. For our design project, my students had to build something useful for their reading buddy. We had houses, beds, clothing, toys, leashes--lots of creative ideas! You can download the free recording sheets from {here}.




Another activity we have done is for the Gingerbread Man. Students had to build something to get the Gingerbread Man across the river safely--a bridge or a boat! This Gingerbread Man STEM activity is available on TpT for free {here}.


Cluster 4: Daily and Seasonal Changes

One of the design projects we have done in our seasons unit is to build bird feeders. We made a criteria list together--it had to have a spot for the birds to get the seeds, a cover or top so the seeds wouldn't get wet, it had to be strong enough to hold the food, and it had to be able to hang on a tree branch. We tested our bird feeders inside by having them hang on a metre stick with some bird seed in it. You can find this recording sheet in my First Grade Interactive Science Journal: Weather and Seasons unit. 




This idea came from Mrs. Meyer's Kindergarten. They also used cardboard tubes to make their animals. It wasn't really a "problem" they had to solve, but it was a design project. We had been studying how people, animals, and plants prepare for winter. We learned about animals who hibernate, migrate, and adapt to 




This was a super fun project! I found some instructions on Pinterest on how to make a wind tunnel. I used clear poster board, wooden embroidery hoops, a circular fan (that can tilt upwards), and a stand built out of wood (although this broke my second year and I just ended up using stacks of plastic bins). We made a list of all the things that fly or float in the air. Students had to design and build an object that would float or fly in the wind tunnel. It was pretty fun! We used lots of balloons, tissue papers, and feathers for these wind devices. You can download the anchor chart pieces and recording sheets for free {here}






I hope these give you some ideas. Happy designing, scientists!

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Play Time in First Grade (Even During a Pandemic)

I have always believed that 6-year-olds need time to just be kids and have free play time. I have always tried to make room in my schedule for playtime in grade one. Usually it's at the end of the day, after our Science/Theme lesson. It varies from about 10-30 minutes each day, depending on how our other lessons go.

In the past, I have just had buckets of toys and let the kids use whatever they want, spreading out on the carpet, switching up tables, sitting where ever they want. Obviously this year, things had to be a little different. We need to be at our tables all the time, so I tried to create more individual play bins that students could bring to their own table spots to play with safely.

Some of the inspiration for these bins were from some awesome kindergarten teachers I follow on Instagram: @inquiryteacher, @learninginkindergarten, @joysofkinder, and @itskindie. Thank you to them for sharing their amazing ideas with us!!

I spread out my play time toys into two areas. It just helps with crowd control. Plus I wasn't using this shelf for anything this year and the open dish tubs make it easier to spray down with sanitizer at the end of the day. In these bins I have mostly my building/STEM toys: Lego, Brain Flakes, coloring books, Snowflake Blocks (from Target), Lincoln Logs, Locktagons, Castle Blocks, and Bristle Blocks. (All things I had in my classroom previously.)

This shelf is where I keep the themed play bins. There are a few small bins of building toys: Magnetic Tiles, Hashtag Blocks (from Target), Plus Plus Blocks, and Play Doh tools (which they use with their own individual tubs of Play Doh). There's a few simple toy bins such as Mr. Potato Head, cars, and Learning Resources Playground Engineering STEM Kit.

Here are a closer look at some of the individual play bins. I took various things I already had in my classroom and put them together to create these bins (Keva Planks, Wooden Logs, Wooden Blocks, gems, pom poms, felt, living thing toy sets from Science, etc.), only purchasing a few things from the Dollar Store or Amazon. This is what happens when you hoard over 13 years... you collect A LOT of stuff. lol

Bin #1: Superheroes

  • Wooden blocks (cut by my dad from 2x4s and painted with black chalkboard paint)
  • Little People Superhero Figures (bought these on Amazon last year when I was doing a superhero theme in my classroom)
  • Keva Planks
  • Black Gems (from Michaels)


Bin #2: Pete the Cat

Bin #3: Construction
  • Keva Planks
  • Worker Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me 
  • Rocks
  • Various construction vehicles from the Dollar Tree/Dollarama

Bin #4: Frozen
  • Little People Frozen figures (from Amazon--one of the purchases I did make; totally worth it though!)
  • Double-Sided Castle Block (made by my dad out of a 2x4--I printed out the Arendelle Castle and Elsa's Ice Palace and Modge-Podged them to either side of the block)
  • Character Stones (printed out some various Frozen 2 characters and Modge-Podged them to some white rocks I had)
  • Blue Wooden Blocks (from a tub of wooden blocks I already had)
  • Blue and White Gems (from Michaels)
  • Blue and White Sparkly Pom Poms (from Michaels)


Bin #5: Trains
  • Wooden Trains (from IKEA--I actually stole these from home because my kids have a gigantic bucket of them and wouldn't notice a few missing! lol)
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Trees (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)

Bin #6: Fairies & Ponies

Bin #7: Zoo
  • Various Animal Safari Ltd. Toobs (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Keva Planks
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)
  • Zookeeper Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me

Bin #8: Dinosaurs
  • Wooden Logs and Coins (bought these natural blocks from Scholastic a few years ago)
  • Dinosaur and Tree figures (from dollar store--these ones I also "borrowed" from my kids' collection)
  • Red and Orange gems (from Michaels)
  • Wood Fire


Bin #9: Ocean
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Ocean and Coral Reef (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)--can also usually find ocean animals at the dollar store
  • Felt Mat made by me
  • Diver Wooden Peg Dolls painted by me
  • Blue Gems (from Michaels)
  • Wood Waves

Bin #10: Arctic
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Arctic (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)
  • Felt Mat made by me
  • Blue and White Gems (from Michaels)
  • Blue and White Sparkly Pom Poms (from Michaels)

Bin #11: Farm
  • Safari Ltd. Toobs: Farm (from Michaels--already had these as part of a Living Things activity/explore tub)--can also usually find farm animals at the dollar store
  • Keva Planks
  • Barn Block (made by my dad out of a 2x4--I printed out a barn clipart and Modge-Podged it to the block)

Bin #12: Toy Story
  • Little People Toy Story figures (I have a soft spot for Fisher Price Little People, can you tell??)
  • Wooden Alphabet Blocks
  • Character Stones (printed out some various Toy Story 4 characters and Modge-Podged them to some white rocks I had)
  • Colourful Gems (from Michaels)

These bins have been a big hit! I love seeing how engaged they are and how creative their imaginations and story telling can be. Play time is a great time for them to develop their oral language skills, fine motor and dexterity (using the small pieces such as gems), socio-emotional learning, problem solving, and more. It is also just FUN and joyful to see them happily playing in a time where things are hard, different, and confusing for their young minds.

Let them play! :)

I hope you are surviving your year and finding joy throughout it.