KinderGals: Developing STEM and Literacy in the Block Center

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Developing STEM and Literacy in the Block Center

How long have you been teaching? Have you been teaching long enough to see things "cycle"?  When I first started teaching, kindergarten revolved around play, recess, and snack. Over the years we have moved to the much more academic side of kindergarten. But isn't there a happy medium? Isn't there a way that we can validate learning through play?  With the new emphasis on STEM, many kindergarten classes are once again pulling out the blocks! Yeah for them!  This post shares ideas on how to make block play meaningful as we develop a generation of critical thinkers!
Here are 4 different ways to develop literacy and STEM in the block center.

Word Cards

 During the year, we change the theme in our block center depending on what we are learning in our science and social studies curriculum. For example, if we are doing a unit on animals, than I want to "prop up" my block center with plastic animals, animal supplies, habitat materials, etc.  During a recent unit on transportation, we stocked up the block center with all things vehicles!  The kids loved building roads, creating maps, etc. To develop that literacy connection, I make a set of word cards to match common vehicles. The kids can use the cards for labeling, sorting, or for other ideas they generate themselves.
Be sure and read to the bottom where you can snag this file of word cards for free.

STEM Task Cards

Another fun way to develop critical thinkers in the block center, is through STEM challenge cards. We created a variety of cards that would require the kids to use to blocks to solve a problem. In this case, the children used the magnetic blocks to build a barn. They chose the magnetic blocks because one child said it would be easy to build a door to keep the animals in!
During a unit on transportation, we added this task card that required the children to build a bridge for the boat to travel under. The next week, we left the same card, but added a larger boat. This required the kids to rethink their engineering plan!
During our fairy tale unit, we added this card. It requires the children to figure out how to get inside the tower.  As you can see, the children's plan failed.  That's perfect! Children need to see that not every idea is going to give them the results they expected. They learn to redesign and rethink their plan.  Don't jump in! True understanding is just past frustration. It's okay for them to struggle!
Be sure and scroll to the bottom where you can snag these task cards for free!

Brainstorming Card

Sometimes children struggle with "what can I build?" Do you ever see the blocks just scattered around on the floor? Or children using the blocks in an undesirable manner? Ever ask yourself why? I think part of it was my fault. This kids didn't know what to do with the blocks. We MUST spend time conducting mini lessons and small group lessons on ways to use the blocks.  One thing we did was to make a list of all the things we could build with our blocks. Feel free to make more lists as the year goes on!
These boys are building a veterinarian office with spaces for the different sizes of pets!
This guy is building an insect habitat following our recent trip to the Atlanta Zoo.
These girls are using the blocks to build a robot!
To snag this brainstorming card, scroll to the bottom for the free file.

Procedural Writing

The block center is also a great place to develop procedural writing!  This guy built a tower. Then, we worked together to get his steps in writing. This was early in the year, so I was taking dictation.  As the children progress as writers, they become more independent in this task and tackle the writing independently.  After I took his dictation, he drew pictures to match each step.
This How To Booklet is also included in the free file below!  Be sure and grab this freebee to "prop up" your block center! Can't wait to hear how it goes for you!



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