It wasn’t until my Assistant Director of Schools tweeted a picture I sent out with the caption, “Mrs. Bible using STEM in ELA,” that I realized I was even doing STEM at all. I just thought I was doing a really fun tiny house project! Ha! After that, I was all like: If this is STEM, then I’m in! 😉
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEAM when you add in arts), and it can be incorporated into any English class!
STEM Ideas for the English Classroom:
1. Design a tiny house for ANY character or author. This is the project that got my students and me hooked on STEM. After reading some informational texts on the environmental benefits of tiny houses (science),
watching researching tiny house clips (technology), and evaluating character traits, my students designed a tiny house to fit the needs of a character in the novel we were reading. They used Floorplanner.com to design their houses (engineering) while calculating square footage so as not go over the 500 sq ft mark (math). I can not tell you how much my students loved this project. They really got into the design symbolism for the character and especially enjoyed seeing their designs come to life in 3D.
This lesson is perfect for free reading choice projects or as a whole end-of-novel project. If you want my design symbolism worksheet and instructions for floorplanner.com, click below.
Nothing gets me more excited than hearing how students are having fun with reading! 🙂
2. Design a theme park based on ANY novel, play, or short story: This idea from The Literary Maven is awesome! To make this a little more STEM-y, students could build an element in the park (engineering), calculate the size of the park, the speed of a ride, or cost needed for attendance (math), and create a commercial for their park (technology).
Here’s an example of a ride-building exercise that could be included in this lesson: STEM Water Slides
3. Practice procedural writing with survival themed books: This is my latest STEM adventure, and it went really well! This activity can be used with any novel or story in which the character needs to create a shelter in the wilderness. Examples include: Lord of the Flies – Hatchet – My Side of the Mountain – Island of the Blue Dolphins – Sign of the Beaver – Touching Spirit Bear +More.
For this STEM activity, I had students come up with 3 reasons why Ralph needed to build a shelter in Lord of the Flies. Then, I had students research the best shelters that can be built out of things in nature. Next, students designed a shelter to best fit the 3 needs of the character out in the wilderness (science and engineering).
After they had finished, I had students write the procedural steps that they took to build this shelter.
Then, things got interesting. I rotated the groups so that each new group had to follow the other group’s directions. Needless to say, everyone realized that their procedural writing needed some major revising. 😉 This is what I WANTED to happen.
Since they realized that their instructions were poorly written, we then looked at an exemplary procedural writing found here and revised accordingly.
4. Team building and get to know you activities. There are so many STEM team building challenges on Pinterest, but I especially love this notecard stacking one for English class. Read all about it here: Literal team building from The Pensive Sloth
5. Review games. The concept above would also be great to use as a novel review (list as many character traits you can think of for ___________ ) , as an informational text summary (list as many facts as you can remember, list as many connections you can make), or synonym brainstorming session (list as many synonyms for “says” you can think of) The possibilities are endless really!
Also, there is the construction paper link challenge where the idea is to see who can make the longest chain out of a single piece of paper. However, to add a little rigor to it, students can’t actually use the pieces they cut unless they get a question right (Kahoot teams would be great for this!). After they have cut out their links, you take them up then only give them back out based on how many answers they get correct. Then, they create their chain. This makes it a game of knowledge and engineering. 🙂
6. Real World Issues. With the push of informational text, students are reading more and more articles about real world issues. These articles have a way of presenting opportunities for STEM. For example, when we read the poem “Thanatopsis,” I have my students research the environmental impacts of traditional burials. Then, they come up with solutions that are more environmentally friendly and present their inventions to the class.
As a way to add in math and science, I teamed up with a fellow math teacher who designed a fantastic and FREE math lesson to go along with my English lesson.
6. Science experiments with a twist: You can read about how I used a fun science experiment with The Great Gatsby here: Science and ELA Integrated Lesson Blog Post
So there you have it; 6 creative ways to use STEM in the ELA classroom! I would absolutely LOVE to add to this list of STEM activities for the English classroom, so if you have any ideas, please leave a comment!!!
Added 12/16/16 Lots of book ideas for STEM-related thinking!
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