No computer screen necessary for this one… let’s share some Hands-On Ideas for the Digital Classroom.
I found over my years of teaching that when students are up moving, creating, and engaged they tend to be happier, focused and more productive with the activity. Let’s face it… I LOVE my centers and have a hard time giving that up! However, with that said, I find myself struggling with getting students engaged with hands-on activities through a totally virtual platform that would match that same experience with in-person instruction.
How about Individual Hands-On Centers? What makes these resources unique is that they utilize only one type of manipulative! You only have to print off the activity/resource you need and provide the noted manipulative (e.g., dice, dabber, counters, counting cubes, etc.). All these resources can be utilized whether teaching in-person, a hybrid model or fully virtual.
All of these ideas and suggestions below are designed to get students up and moving in a hands on way without the use of a computer or other electronics. They literally are “Hands-On” Ideas for the Digital Classroom.
General Classroom Ideas —
Scavenger hunts are not anything new, but they could be extremely useful in a virtual platform. You can use these hunts across subjects. For example “Find three items in your house that begins with the /b/ sound”, begins with a certain letter, rhymes with, three items you can smell, items to solve 3 + 4?, etc.
You can also use this activity during science for a leaf hunt, gathering rock samples or collecting/spying insects. Create a checklist for a nature walk of items to look for on a family walk, in their own backyards or looking out their windows. Although personally, I would stay far away from the bug collecting, but hey if they’re at home- have at it!
Creating a Collage —
Have students create a collage using old magazines, newspapers, old books, articles. You can provide your students with a project name and expectations. Get creative using only pictures: same color, same beginning sound, or rhymes with. Extend for higher students by using only words that start with a certain letter, short or long vowels, sight words in text, and number identification.
Have students act out their answers to see if others can guess what they are trying to say.
I totally came across this idea by accident. This began because one of my virtual student’s microphone was not working. She was trying to answer and was getting extremely frustrated not being able to be an active participant throughout the class. Then she tried using the chat box, signing in and out and using her white board to write down her answers when appropriate. Finally, she began talking really slowly for me to read her lips, but then she began pointing to her eyes to say I see, then held up the picture from the story and pointing to the book to prompt me to say “I see the illustration” and she began to act out the setting of the event. We both thought this was hilarious!
Target Practice —
Have students write down a variety of Math Facts, Sight Words, Blends/Letters/Digraphs on pieces of scrap paper. You can prompt the students to place them face up on the floor beside them. Crumble a piece of paper into a ball and when prompted they toss the ball towards the group of papers on the floor. Wherever they land they must either solve the problem, pronounce the sound/letter they land on or provide a word beginning or ending with that sound.
Subject Based Hands-On Activities
STEM is probably one of the best ways to be “hands on” without using the computer. Teachers can suggest students to look for recycled materials, things around the house, etc. to be utilized during STEM. Students may plan and brainstorm the idea first, create a list of what they need, document steps of how to build, build it and see if it works, then plan on how to make it function better.
- Place Value – Using ten single blocks you can build a ten unit and then use the single blocks for your one units. You can have students build a variety of numbers
- Patterns – Using either a color pattern or a number pattern you can do: Red, yellow, red, yellow or 2 blocks red, 3 blocks yellow, 2 blocks red, 3 blocks yellow
- Skip Counting – Using the number of studs (small raised circles) on the flat building platforms, you can use them as markers while you count. Place a block every fifth circle and count by fives or every second circle and count by twos.
- Create and build your own ten frame – Students can be creative when shown an example of building a ten frame out of legos. You can then use their creation to help make ten, addition and subtraction within ten, etc.
A student can use multiple items around their home to build a lesson around measurement (e.g., pencils, paper clips, coins). All you need to do is create a list of items for them to measure in their home! I would recommend identifying items that would be in every home (e.g., doorway, couch, window, sink, etc.) – stay away from items like electronics and other specific items that not every student may have in their house. You can also incorporate the importance of units. What are you using to measure? So it would be “5 pencils long” or “13 pennies long”.
Using the number of items in their home to create number stories. As the teacher you can begin by providing the story to them: “Take the number of windows in your house and add the total number of chairs in your home. What number do you get?” or you can provide a subtraction story of “What number will you get if you take the number of people in the house and subtract the number of refrigerators you have.” The thought process behind this is for students to be up and moving to count these items. They may also have the ability to create their own number stories.
Reader’s Theatre is an excellent activity to use in reading for a more hands on approach. You can have students act out the story and build their character development, but you can also take it a step further and allow students to build their own costume using things they have readily available. Let their creativity shine!
- A teacher can provide a paper of all the letters of the alphabet or you can have students create their own. You can individualize this by adding what is important to you. Perhaps you want to include multiple copies of specific letters such as L, S, F or perhaps you would like to include digraphs or blends. Students can then cut out these tiles.
- Feel free to use these tiles in a variety of ways. Perhaps you want to instruct your students to place them on the floor and do a specific action like “crawl, hop, tip-toe” to a specific letter or sound. The students can also use these as manipulatives to spell out words provided.
Of course it goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list by any means. Also, I would like to note that you DO NOT have to do them all! Take one or two of these hands-on ideas for the digital classroom and try them out. The great thing about this list is that they can be incorporated into any method of teaching: in-person, hybrid, online. Feel free to take an idea and personalize it to make it your own because you know your students best! All I ask is that I would love for you to drop a comment below or in our Facebook group of any successes or struggles you may have had with these hands-on ideas for the digital classroom! Our community only grows stronger together.
Written by: Christopher Olson
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