Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Challenging Little Learners

I like to offer students choices in their learning. Giving my students the freedom to make choices makes learning meaningful to them.  Every student is unique and learns differently. Some students are musicians, artists, actors, authors, scientists, or engineers. I feel as educators we sometimes forget this. It’s easy to do when you are in the school year rush desperately trying to teach all of the standards before the dreaded state tests. Districts tend to forget this too and try to make us “cookie cutter teachers.” Which is ironic. We teach differently, just like our students learn differently. What works for one teacher may not work for another. We teach through our strengths.

That being said, it’s important that we challenge all of our little learners. We need to give all of our students a chance to grow.  I don’t know about you, but every school year I always have a group of kiddos that need to be challenged. Learning comes easy for this group and they need that extra push. Over the years, I have created different activities for them to complete when they finish their work. I try to make these activities meaningful for them, so they don’t feel like I am punishing them for finishing early.  I feel like I am always looking for activities that will keep those students engaged and deepen their learning.

Over the summer, I came across some great products from MindWare. If you haven’t heard about this company, you need to check them out.  They have amazing products that get children to use their higher level thinking skills and think outside of the box. Which is perfect for my classroom!  




This year I started using the Brain Builders and PerplexorsLet me tell you, they are game changers! They are perfect for integrating STEAM skills into your classroom. The best part is that my students absolutely love using these products!  I have students asking me if they can work on these activities all of the time.



My students LOVE logic problems, so I knew that the Perplexors were a perfect fit for my classroom. My students like the mystery aspect of these problems, and I love the high-level thinking that goes on during these activities.


I like to copy the Perplexors and place them in plastic sleeves so my students can use their dry erase markers and easily erase mistakes.  
The Brain Builders are my favorite. This product is perfect for challenging your visual learners. Brain Builders get students to change the way they look at solving a problem and are a great interactive STEM tool. Each Brain Builder set comes with 20 KEVA planks and a set of double-sided puzzle cards. The puzzles cards have a 2-D challenge on one side and its solution on the other side. When students are completing these tasks, they have to recreate 2D patterns into 3D structures. This is perfect for your visual learners! The 2-D cards show the design from different angles to challenge the students to see things differently. These activities are a perfect addition to any STEM-focused lesson.





When I first started using these products, I had the activities set up in stations throughout the room. Then I did a quick mini-lesson to demonstrate procedures and expectations. When I felt like my students understood these activities, I had them work with partners and complete center rotations. I wanted to make sure that each student felt comfortable with these activities so I could use them throughout the school year.  Now that the students are comfortable with these tools, I use them for early finisher work and problem-solving centers. I feel like these products help teach valuable learning skills for the next generation of learners.