Guest Post: STEM in the Classroom by Miss Tech Queen


This month, I am excited to bring back the monthly guest blog post! STEM has always
been one of my favorite ways to promote hands on and engaging learning in my classroom.
Today, Dena from Miss Tech Queen is sharing some ways to use STEM activities in the
classroom.
Hi! I am Dena from New Jersey. I am currently an enrichment/gifted & talented teacher
for grades K-4, which allows me to work with 360 students each week. I was a computer
teacher for three years and have also taught special education. Using STEAM activities
in my classroom allows students to demonstrate creativity while designing. STEAM
incorporates teamwork, fine motor skills, problem-solving, and more.

Setting Up:
Finding basic, reusable materials is the easiest way to go. Students can infuse their
creativity in multiple ways with materials such as: Magformers, Plus Plus Blocks,
Building Bricks, wooden blocks, and more. For an easy STEM station, provide students
with task cards that allow them to recreate items. Tie in geography to allow students to
build structures from around the world. Check out my winter themed task cards as an
example.  Provide students with various materials to build their sight words and numbers.
Students can draw or write about their creations, which makes it easy for you to check for
understanding!


Hands-on Learning:
Infuse hands on learning throughout your curriculum. Set a designated time for STEM,
such as Maker Mondays, Tinker Tuesdays, or Fun Fridays.  If your science unit is instructing
students to learn about animals, have students build a habitat. Provide STEM centers during
math and allow students to problem solve while building items they can measure, count, or
add up into equations. Create a STEM challenge after reading a favorite book! Be creative
and listen for an opportunity to create a building challenge for students that connects to the
book, such as stacking cups to form a cat’s hat. During Read Across America Week I always
create several building activities related to Dr. Seuss books. Tying STEM into multiple content
areas can be easy.


Technology:
Computer science is one of the most needed career fields and an important area for us
to expose our students to. Students can begin to explore coding as young as pre-school.
There are a wide variety of free apps that allow students to problem solve and learn that an
algorithm is simply a set of directions. My kindergarteners catch on so quickly and enjoy
using these apps! They are easy to use and allow students to drag arrows and provide
directions to various characters. Here are some of my students’ favorite apps: Code Safari,
Kodeable, Box Island, Code Karts. Hear more on these items in my Youtube video.
Another great resource is the Robot Mouse by The Learning Resources. This mouse can be programmed to follow directions. This is a great way to encourage teamwork in your classroom, as students work together to control the robot. The buttons and colors on the mouse make it easy for young students to click and explore. Students build their own maze and use direction cards to get their mouse through.
                   
I hope you are motivated to begin exploring STEM further in your classroom. The future
starts with our students, so let’s help prepare them! Please do not hesitate to reach out to
me through email or Instagram with any questions. A big thanks to Kristina for always being
so kind and helpful.

-Dena

Miss Tech Queen



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January Read Alouds

The weather outside is frightful (aka COLD!), but the read alouds are delightful! In January, we learn about snow, penguins, and the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Today, I am going to share 15 of my favorite read alouds, perfect for the month of January.

Snow
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
When I think about snow, I instantly think of this classic! Growing up, my winters in Florida did not have snow, so this painted a picture of what a snowy day is really like. The illustrations are simply gorgeous in this one!
Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
This rhyming read aloud is an imaginative story of what fun and games snowmen are up to at night! This would pair well with a fun writing prompt asking students what they think snowmen do at night.

This sweet story about a girl who is looking for a friend, and finds an unusual one made with the magical friendship snow! This would pair well with a fun science experiment of making snow, like the one found here.

What happens when a snowman drinks hot cocoa?? He MELTS! Luckily, he has some children to help build him back up! This makes an adorable craft and bulletin board, like this one below from the Teachers Pay Teachers seller- From September to Mrs May.

When a mitten is dropped in the snow, winter animals find shelter in it from the cold snow! This book is a winter classic and a must read every year!

This story shows animals that live both over and under the snow, like squirrels, snow hares, and bears! It is a great introduction to teaching students about hibernation. 

Penguins
What's not to love about a penguin wearing a Hawaiian shirt?!? This story is about a misfit penguin who doesn't quite fit in, but becomes an unlikely hero when other animals need his help! 

A penguin makes a friend with a small pinecone. When he realizes that the pinecone is far from his home, he goes on an adventure to get it back where it belongs! 

A little penguin is lost and has to find it's family! Follow along as it goes on an adventure to find Little Pip's home. This heartwarming story is from the Bear Sleeps On series author- Karma Wilson. 

Your students will love this story all about baby penguins! A momma penguin keeps finding baby penguins everywhere and tries to take care of all of them. I have this book for both my class AND my daughter, it's such an adorable read aloud!

This is the perfect non fiction read aloud about penguins brought to you by National Geographic Kids! We like to create a KWL chart and list all the new facts we learn about penguins after reading this book. 


Martin Luther King Jr. 
His famous speech is now in a picture book for your students to read. I love how the pictures are very realistic! This is a great way to share his important speech and why it still matters today. 

This is a picture book biography about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his impact on the civil rights movement. It is the perfect read aloud for grades K-2 to learn about his life. 

This is another great choice to teach your students about Martin Luther King Jr's life. This series "Ordinary People Change the World" have other great biography options perfect for little ones. 

This book is geared towards a younger Pre-K- Kindergarten crowd with it's illustrations and easy to read vocabulary. I also like how it shows him as a younger kid as well. 

I hope you found some new books to add to your collection!



This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my affiliate links. This helps support my blog, Sweet for Kindergarten. I only recommend products that I love. All ideas shared are my own.

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Four Activities to Practice Building CVC Fluency

In Kindergarten, one of the major phonics skill we practice with our students is reading CVC words. Kindergarteners should have a solid grasp on blending CVC words before entering 1st Grade. My goal is to have them read a CVC word fluently by the end of the year. Today, I am going to share a few activities to try with your students to get them reading CVC words fluently.

What is a CVC word?
Before I share the activities, it is important that you understand what a CVC word is. A CVC word is a 3 letter word that starts and ends with a consonant, with a short vowel sound in the middle. Students can blend them using the onset and rime or by sounding out each individual sound. I always teach BOTH ways, but ultimately let the students use whichever way is easier for them.

Why is CVC word fluency important?
In addition to learning sight words, students need to be able to decode words. As they go to each grade level, they will need to learn more phonics skills, such as long vowel sounds, multi-syllable words, and variant vowels. Building a SOLID foundation with CVC words helps students succeed in the long run.

How fast should students be reading CVC words?
The first step to reading CVC words is sounding it out slooooooowly. Your student should be saying each sound correctly. Once they can sound it out, they repeat the word quickly. The next step is for your student to sound it out quickly, in about 3 seconds. This is when you start to work on fluency, rather than sounding out each word. Ultimately they will be able to say a word faster than you can snap your fingers. This step may not happen in Kindergarten, and that's okay. However, they should be able to do this within the first part of the year in First Grade.

Here are some of my favorite activities to practice CVC word fluency!

1. Roll and Read 
Grab a dice and go! Roll and Read activities are an easy way to practice fluency with many different skills. Just print the page and slide into a page protector. You can also display it on the SMART Board or under a Doc Cam. The student comes up, rolls the dice, and reads the first word under the number. Cross off the word with a dry erase marker and continue playing.

To challenge your students, have them read the whole line as fast and accurate as they can! You could also time them to see how fast they can read the words.


This activity can be done as a whole group or in centers! I like to use this as a "warm-up" at my teacher table center during our reading centers. I leave it on the table for my group to start, while I walk around and make sure the rest of the class is ready to go. No time is wasted time in my classroom... I make that one minute count!

You can find a variety of Roll and Read resources here! 

2. Reading Nonsense Words
Nonsense words are any CVC words that are not real words- like pag or fet. Why would you want students to practice reading nonsense words? Well, this HELPS their fluency! Nonsense words are words that students have to sound out. Most students will recognize CVC words and can memorize them if they see it enough times, like "cat" or "run". When reading nonsense words, students will not recognize it, so they have to blend the word. It is a great way to see if a student is really able to decode CVC words.


To practice differentiating Real and Nonsense Words, we like to use this pocket chart sort found in the CVC Words Center Activities pack. Students will pick a word, sound it out, and decide whether or not it is a real or nonsense word. This works as either a whole group activity or a center!

3. I Have, Who Has
Another way to build fluency is through playing "I Have, Who Has" games. Pass out all the cards to your students. The student with "START" goes first, "I have ___, who has ____?" and they have to read the CVC word. The student who has that matching picture stands up and says "I have ____, who has ____?" and reading the CVC word. Continue playing until you reach the "END" card.

If you have too many students, you can have students work in pairs to complete. If you do not have enough students, you can take an extra card or two or have a few students have more than one card.

You can find this I Have, Who Has CVC set here! 

4. Around the World
When I was in elementary school, I LOVED playing Around the World to practice math facts. Well, this game doesn't just have to be for math! I like using this as a fluency game to practice whatever skill we are learning- letter recognition, numbers, sounds, and CVC words!

To play, students can sit at their desks or in a circle. The first student stands up next to the student next to them. Show a CVC word flashcard. The student who reads it first gets to move onto the next student, and the other student sits down. Continue playing until you are back to the start or until time runs out.

Around the World is one of the many activities found in the Unit 5: CVC Words Phonics Curriculum!
If you are looking for a comprehensive way to teach phonics, you can check out the CVC Words Unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! It includes 25 pre-written lessons, aligning to the Common Core standards, with a whole group activity ( the four activities above plus MORE), phonics song, and daily phonemic awareness practice. You can also find assessments, 12 hands on center activities, and 80 worksheets to choose from. Everything you need to help YOUR students become successful at reading CVC Words fluently.

I hope these activities will help your students build their CVC fluency!




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