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Apple Science Experiments & STEM Activities

apple science experiments & STEM activities

Fall is one of my favorite seasons! I love the pretty fall leaves and the cooler “jeans & jacket” weather. Nature also gives us lots of great sensory experiences during the fall.

One of my favorite themes during the fall season is apples, not only because they are my favorite fruit (honeycrisp are just so good!) but also because we can do a lot of fun, engaging hands-on activities with them.

In this post I’m sharing the most popular science experiments and STEM activities (as well as a few crafts) that students have enjoyed over the years.

Since I now have iPads available, we have started using them to record our findings and observations. Not only do students find this more engaging but it also teaches them how to use technology as a tool. Since this was not always the case, I’ve included both the print and digital options used for each experiment.

What’s Inside an Apple?

This is a great introductory activity to an apple unit. Prior to beginning, I set out different types of apples for students to observe and handle.

Then I ask them what they think is inside an apple. Oftentimes students will say things like “the part we can eat”, “the white part”, and seeds.

When they say “seeds” I then tell them that each apple has a shape that holds the seeds and ask if they know what shape it is and how many seeds they think it holds.

Students write and draw their guesses on the What’s Inside an Apple? page. For the Pic Collage version, we used the Doodle and Text tools to record our predictions.

apple experiment page  apple experiment page Pic Collage

I then say that we are going to cut an apple open and find out what shape is inside. To see the shape, the apple has to be cut horizontally.  The children then discover the star inside!

cutting apple horizontally  apple cut in half

The seeds are then removed with a toothpick and we count them.

apple and seeds

Students record the actual findings on their page.  When using Pic Collage students are able to take actual photographs of the apple!

apple experiment page  apple experiment page

For an extension activity, cut open several more apples of various sizes and shapes to see if they are all the same.  The star shape will be in each, but the number of seeds will vary.

The Parts of an Apple

When explaining the parts of an apple, I like to use word wall cards as visual aides. They help students learn the words and the the real photos enable them to relate what is on the card to what they are seeing in the experiments and activities.

apple word wall cards

I cut open a real apple and then explain each part and its function.

Afterwards, I place the apple parts in a sorting tray along with magnifying glasses and allow students to touch and observe them.

parts of an apple in sorting tray

After their observations, students take a photo of the tray in Pic Collage and label the parts using the words from the word bank or the apple parts word wall cards.

apple sorting tray page Pic Collage

Parts of an Apple Craftivities

The following crafts are perfect for introducing and reviewing the parts of an apple.

Coffee Filter Apple Core Craft

Materials Needed:

Coffee filters

Glue

Watercolor paint

Paintbrush

Scissors

To prepare the craft, fold a coffee filter in half.  Cut a semi-circle from the round side.  You will have 2 leaf shaped pieces. Leave one for the leaf and cut the other one into a stem.

apple craft - coffee filter apple craft - coffee filter apple craft - coffee filter

Students use the watercolors to paint the skin (red, green, or yellow), the leaf, the stem, and some seeds.

apple core coffee filter craft

When dry, students glue the stem and leaf to the apple core.

apple craft coffee filter

A great way to extend the learning of this craft is to have students take photos of their crafts and label the parts of their apple using Pic Collage.

parts of an apple page

Another option is to have students do a cut and paste activity.

apple cut and paste activity page

Paper Plate Whole Apple Craft

Materials Needed:

Paper plates

Red, green, yellow, and white tissue paper

Real apple seeds OR black or brown tissue paper

Green and brown construction paper

Scissors

Watered down glue

Paintbrushes

To prepare this craft, cut the tissue paper into small squares.

Students glue the white tissue paper squares in the center of the paper plate to represent the flesh of the apple (dip the paintbrush in the watered down glue, paint some glue onto the plate, place the tissue squares on the glue).

apple craftivity

Students glue red, green, or yellow tissue paper squares around the outside of the plate to represent the apple skin.

apple craftivity

Students cut out a stem and leaf from construction paper and glue them on the plate.

Students then glue either real apple seeds to the center of the plate or crinkle up black or brown tissue paper to resemble seeds and glue them to the center of the plate.

apple craftivity - paper plate apple

You can also use Pic Collage to take photos and label this craft similar to the craft above or do a cut and paste activity to check student understanding.

parts of an apple Pic Collage

apple cut and paste page

Sink or Float Apple Experiment

This is a simple experiment that students always enjoy doing. Pose the question – “Do you think an apple will sink or float in water?”.

Allow students to hold and handle a few apples prior to making their predictions. You can make a class graph of students’ predictions or students can record their individual prediction on a page.

I like providing a page with a bowl and having students draw the apple in the appropriate place. This helps them understand the difference between what it means to sink or float.

apple sink or float experiment page

After students have recorded their predictions, place an apple in a bowl of water and see what happens (the apple should float).

apple sink or float experiment

You can also do this experiment with different color apples and have students predict what they think each color of apple will do – sink or float?

We recently did this using the Doodle tool in Pic Collage.

apple sink or float experiment page

After students have recorded their predictions, place each color of apple in the water and see what happens (they will all float).

apple sink or float experiment

Explain to students that apples float because they are approximately 25% air (they have air pockets) which makes them less dense than water.

I then have students draw what actually happened in the experiment and write what they learned.

apple sink or float experiment page    apple sink or float experiment page

Apple Boats STEM

In this activity students design and build apple sailboats and then test them to see if they will float.

Materials Needed:

Apples cut in half and quarters

Toothpicks

Construction paper

Copier paper

Scissors

Crayons (optional)

Tub of water

To prepare this activity cut some apples in half and some in quarters or smaller pieces.  You will need enough for each student to have an apple piece for their boat.

You can choose to have students cut out their own sails from the paper OR if doing this activity with younger students you can choose to cut out some sails for them. Cut sails of different sizes and shapes.

You will also need a tub or container of water in which students can sail their apple boats.

Students cut out and design their sails from either the heavier construction paper or the lighter weight copier paper and draw their design and name on them.

Students use a toothpick to attach their sail to the apple bottom of their choice to create their apple boat.

apple boat

Allow students to place their apple boats in the water to see if they will float.  Students observe the boats and draw conclusions about the various boat bottoms and sails used.

apple boats STEM challenge apple boats STEM challenge

When doing this STEM challenge I like to have students pre-plan and design their boats and reflect on what they learned after sailing them.

apple boats STEM page

Pic Collage can also be used. Students can use the Doodle, Photos, and Text tools to complete the page.

apple boats STEM page Pic Collage

Apple Tower STEM Challenge

The challenge is for students to build the tallest freestanding structure using apple pieces and toothpicks within the given time period.

Materials Needed:

Apples pieces

Toothpicks (flat toothpicks for younger students)

Tape measure

To prepare this activity cut some apples into small, square pieces. You will need approximately 2 cups for each team or student.

Students can complete this challenge in pairs, teams, or individually.

The object of the challenge is for each team or student to build the tallest freestanding structure on the surface of a table within the allotted time period of 5 minutes (time can be adjusted).

Give each team or student a pile of apple pieces and approximately 50-75 toothpicks.

apple tower STEM challenge

On your signal students can begin constructing their apple towers.

apple tower STEM challenge

When time is up, students must step away from their towers.

Measure each tower from the table top to the highest point.

The winner is the structure that stands the highest vertical point above the table.

apple tower STEM challenge measurement apple tower STEM challenge apple tower STEM challenge

After the challenge I have students reflect on what was easy, what was challenging, and what they learned. We have done both print versions and digital versions using Pic Collage.

apple tower STEM challenge page  apple tower STEM challenge page

What Keeps an Apple From Turning Brown? Experiment

During this experiment students will discover what substance will keep an apple from turning brown.

Materials Needed:

Apples pieces

Small bowls or containers

Vinegar

Baking soda

Milk

Water

Lemon juice

Before beginning the experiment ask students if they know why apples turn brown.  Explain that browning occurs because of a chemical reaction between oxygen and an enzyme in the apples (oxidation). Oxidation happens when you expose the inside (flesh) of an apple to air.  Another type of oxidation that students may have seen is rust (when metal comes in contact with oxygen).

Tell students that there are certain substances that can help keep an apple from browning. They are going to test some to see which one works the best.

Prior to beginning the experiment, have students guess which substance they think will work the best and write their predictions on a chart or on a recording page.

apple browning experiment page

Cut an apple into 6 pieces. Place a piece of apple in each container and cover it with a substance (water, milk, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice). Leave one apple piece with nothing on it (the control).  Label the containers. Let sit for several hours.

what prevents an apple from turning brown experiment

After several hours allow students to observe the results. All of the apple pieces should show some form of browning except for the lemon juice.

Explain that the lemon juice has ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and the oxygen reacted with it first before reacting with the enzymes in the apple. If the ascorbic acid in the lemon juice would get used up, then the oxygen would begin to react with the enzymes in the apple and browning would occur.

apple experiment what prevents an apple from turning brown

I like to have students record the outcome of the experiment by coloring pictures of apple slices to resemble the results and then writing which substance worked best.

apple browning experiment page

We have also recorded results using Pic Collage and taking actual photos of each container.

apple browning experiment page Pic Collage

Jumping Apple Seeds Experiment

I love watching students’ reactions to this experiment!

Materials Needed:

Apple seeds

Clear glass

Water

Baking soda

Lemon juice

Measuring spoons

Prior to beginning the experiment explain to students that you are going to put apple seeds in a glass of water with baking soda and lemon juice.

Have students predict what they think will happen. I like giving them multiple choices from which to choose.

apple seeds experiment page

Add about 2/3 teaspoon baking soda to the glass. Add ½ cup water.

Drop apple seeds into the mixture.

jumping apple seeds experiment

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir the mixture.

jumping apple seeds experiment

The mixture will begin to bubble and the apple seeds will “jump” up and down!

jumping apple seeds experiment jumping apple seeds experiment

You can watch a video of the jumping apple seeds here:

We take photos in Pic Collage of the seeds jumping up and down (they can also draw or write about what happened).

apple seed experiment page

Apple Volcano

This is a fun experiment that students love to watch!

Materials Needed:

Apples

Vinegar

Baking soda

Pan or baking sheet

Food coloring (optional)

Apple pie spice (optional)

Cut a hole in the top of an apple.

apple volcano

Add some baking soda to the hole in the apple. Optional: You can mix apple pie spice to the baking soda if you want a pie smell.

apple volcano

Add food coloring to the vinegar if desired

apple volcano

Place the apple in a pan or backing sheet to catch the lava overflow.

Pour the vinegar on the baking soda inside the apple and watch it erupt!

apple volcano science experiment

apple volcano science experiment  apple volcano science experiment

The Science Behind It:
The vinegar (acid) reacts with the baking soda (base) causing carbon dioxide bubbles. As the carbon dioxide bubbles rise up they bring some of the mixture with them causing it to “explode” or “erupt”.

If you would like to use the apple science experiments printable pages with your students they are available here along with step by step directions on how to use them with the free app Pic Collage, more detailed experiment instructions, and a few more apple activities.

Apple Science Experiments, STEM Activities

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Growth Mindset Activity Based On “The Little Engine That Could”

Growth Mindset Craftivity / Class Display

When introducing or discussing growth mindset with young students I like to use the book The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.  The story illustrates believing in yourself, positive self-talk, & perseverance in a way in which young students can understand.

Growth Mindset is a theory based on the work of Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.

People with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence and talents can be improved through hard work and effort.  Anybody can be good at anything, your abilities are due to your actions and effort.  If you put in effort and challenge yourself, you can get smarter. This view creates a love of learning.  People with a growth mindset believe that struggling with something hard doesn’t mean you’re not smart, it is a chance for you to grow, learn, and improve.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits.  You are who you are , you either are or are not good at something.  They believe that it is these talents alone that create success – not effort.  You are born with a certain amount of intelligence and you can’t do much to change it.

During and after the story we discuss the difference between the little blue engine’s mindset and the other two engines’ mindsets (the little blue engine had a growth mindset, the other engines had fixed mindsets).

We also discuss how the little blue engine kept telling herself “I think I can, I think I can”.  She believed in herself instead of doubting herself.  I talk to students about “self talk” or their “inner voice” and how to change their inner voice to a growth mindset voice.

I then have students create a classroom display that will be a visual reminder of the story and its positive message. Hanging student-created displays in your classroom conveys to students that their work is valued and makes the message of the display more meaningful to them because they had a hand in designing it.

Each student thinks of a goal or something that they want to learn or accomplish this school year and finishes the sentence “I think I can…” on a train car.  I provide several types and styles of train cars and let students choose which one they wish to use.

growth mindset activity growth mindset activity

growth mindset class display growth mindset class display based on The Little Engine That Could

I then make a class display by connecting the students’ train cars to an engine that says “The little class that could”.

growth mindset class display based on The Little Engine That Could

I wasn’t able to fit the entire display in the picture. At the end there is a caboose that says “We can!”.

growth mindset class display based on The Little Engine That Could

I love that this display is a reminder to students to believe in themselves, work hard, and not give up! I oftentimes hear students saying to themselves and others “I think I can!” 🙂

Here are what other educators are saying about using this idea in their classrooms:

On February 16, 2017, Miss May’s K  said:
Love this project! I did this with them 2 weeks ago, and they are still talking about it when they get stuck. One of my students told another student, “don’t give up, you have to tell yourself I think I can, and then you’ll be able to!” Love IT!

On April 2, 2017, Wendy Sponseller said:
Fabulous resource! My students love our Growth Mindset hallway display using this! Thanks so much!!

On August 22, 2017, Jessica S. said:
Such a wonderful beginning of the year project. Our school is an AVID school, so my students drew pictures of what they want to get better at this year and we will have it displayed all year, so they remember their goal.

On January 29, 2017, Buyer said:
I loved all the options for writing! This was perfect for Growth Mindset, Whole Brain’s Invincible Grit, New Year’s Resolution, and teaching lesson/theme/message.

On January 29, 2017, Kaitlin M. said:
Hanging in the hallway on display right now! It looked great and the kids enjoyed it!

On March 17, 2017, Tara O. said:
Perfect! We used for the bulletin board for our value of the month- Perseverance!

If you would like to use this idea in your classroom click here.

You’ll receive:

• Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset explanation
• Links to Growth Mindset Resources
• Instructions for using the book The Little Engine That Could to teach students about growth mindset
• Instructions for how to create the class display
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “We can…”
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “We think we can!”
• Train engines in both color and black and white with the words “The little class that could!”
• Cabooses in both color and black and white with the words “We can!”
• Cabooses in both color and black and white with no words
• 8 different train cars for students (3 different styles, cars with lined and unlined text, one line and two line sentences, sentences and student illustrations or sentences only)
• Puffs of smoke with the title “We think we can!” in both color and black and white that can be used as the header
• Blank puffs of smoke (add your own words for the title)

Growth Mindset Craftivity, Classroom Display The Little Engine That Could

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Differentiated Fall Counting Practice Using Pic Collage & Seesaw

Fall Counting Practice Using Pic Collage and Seesaw

Two of my favorite apps for classroom use are Pic Collage (we use the Pic Kids version) and Seesaw.  They are both free and very easy for younger students to use.

These apps make integrating technology into existing lessons and curriculum super simple and they are great motivators for students because the kids love using the iPads! Win-win!

What I like about these 2 apps is you can combine hands-on learning with technology so the students can still get fine motor skills practice.

Number Mats

I love using play dough / center mats to help young students develop number sense. They are multi-sensory and help students visualize the number.

The only drawback of using these mats at centers is you oftentimes don’t have a record of what students have practiced. The mats are laminated so students use the play dough or manipulatives to show the number but then remove or dump them off when finished. This is where technology comes in very handy.

Students complete the mats using play dough or other fall manipulatives.

number play dough mat number counting mat

When finished, students take a photo of their completed mats in either Pic Collage (Pic Kids) or Seesaw – both apps have photo tools.

Pic Collage photo of fall number mat  photo of fall number mat

If students were able to fit all of their completed number mats in one photo, they can save the photo for you to see/assess later OR if they need to take more than one photo to show their work, they can make a collage of their photos in Pic Collage.

photo of fall number mats in Seesaw app OR adding photos of fall number mats in Pic Collage

Students can also use the Drawing tool in either Pic Collage or Seesaw to trace and practice writing the numbers from the mats.

drawing numbers in Pic Collage    writing numbers on counting mats in Seesaw app

Students can also use the Recording and Pointer tools in Seesaw to record themselves pointing to and counting the manipulatives on their mats and then saying and pointing to the number much like they would do if working directly with you. I LOVE this feature in Seesaw!! (When students are using the Recording feature make sure they are in a quiet area of the classroom.)

Using the recording feature in Seesaw to demonstrate counting

Differentiated Practice Pages

Since my students range in ability level, I created differentiated counting practice pages.  I use them with the technology to encourage and motivate reluctant learners (kids LOVE using technology) and to save on ink and paper when using the full-color version of the pages.

Since I need the pages to be in JPEG (picture format) for the apps, I first have to create picture files of the pages from my PDF file.  I have used 2 simple methods.

Method 1: Print one copy of each page. Tape the pages to the wall and take a “straight on” picture using the iPad. Save the photo to the Camera Roll.

taking a photo of fall practice page to use in Pic Collage or Seesaw

Method 2: Use online tools such as Online-Convert.com or ConvertFiles.com to convert my PDF file to JPEG format (please note that using these tools converts ALL the pages in the PDF file).

Here is how I use each counting practice page in the apps.

The first set of differentiated counting pages is for students who still need practice with one to one correspondence and recognizing numbers. It requires students to count sets of objects and circle the correct number from 3 given numbers (core standards K.CC.B.4 and K.CC.B.5).

Students can use the Drawing tool in Pic Collage or Seesaw to circle the correct number for each set and write their names.

differentiated counting practice using Pic Collage  differentiated counting practice using Seesaw app

Students can also use the Recording and Pointer tools in Seesaw to record themselves pointing to and counting each set.  This is a great tool for students who may be struggling with one to one correspondence. It allows the students (and you) to watch the recording and see if they are missing objects or double counting objects. A short video demonstration of what the recording would look like is below. It will give you an idea of how the Pointer tool works and what the recording looks like in Seesaw.

The second set of counting pages is for students who are ready to practice writing numbers. It requires students to count sets of objects and write the correct number (core standards K.CC.A.3, K.CC.B.4 and K.CC.B.5).

This page can also be completed using the Drawing tool in either Pic Collage or Seesaw.  Please note that I feel students also need plenty of practicing writing numbers with pencil and paper and we do practice this! I use this version to encourage reluctant learners, as an early finisher, or as extra practice.

counting, writing numbers practice using Pic Collage  counting, writing numbers practice using Seesaw app

The third set of counting pags requires students to represent a given number by either drawing or cutting and pasting the correct number of apples or pumpkins (core standards K.CC.B.4 and K.CC.B.5)

There are several options for this type of page.

Option 1: Use the Stickers tool along with the Duplicate option in Pic Collage to put the correct number of apples in each row.

using the Stickers tool in Pic Collage for counting practice          using the Stickers tool in Pic Collage for counting practice

Option 2: Use the web search tool in Pic Collage to choose an apple photo. Then use the Duplicate option to put the correct number of apples in each row.

using the web search tool in Pic Collage for counting practice     using the web search tool in Pic Collage for counting practice

Option 3: Use the Drawing tool in Pic Collage to draw the correct number of pumpkins in each row.

counting practice using the Drawing Tool in Pic Collage   counting practice using the Drawing Tool in Pic Collage

Option 4: If your students need practice with cutting and pasting, have them complete the page by cutting and pasting the correct number of apples in each row. Then, have them take a photo of the completed page and upload it to Seesaw. Students can use the Record and Pointer tools to count the apples in each row to double check their work and demonstrate their counting ability.  Students can also record themselves explaining their thinking about how how they pasted the objects. For example, they could explain that they first pasted a row of 10 and then single pumpkins for numbers 11-20.

counting and number practice using the Seesaw app    counting and number practice using the Seesaw app

counting and number practice using the Seesaw app

If you would like to use the number mats and differentiated counting pages shown above in your classroom as well as have step by step directions with pictures on how to use them with Pic Collage and Seesaw, click here.

Differentiated Fall Number Pages and Counting Mats

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Brag tags for colors, shapes, and Numbers

Brag Tags that Motivate Students to Learn Numbers, Shapes, & Colors

After seeing the success I had with brag tags for alphabet letters (you can read more about that here) and how motivated and excited students were about learning the letters and receiving a tag for each one, I decided to create some for numbers, colors, and shapes too.

With the ever increasing demands on young students to learn more and more standards, I like to praise and encourage them each step of the way and keep a positive “vibe” because it can get a little overwhelming for them.  In years past I would use stickers as rewards or place a sticker on an incentive chart each time a student would master a letter or concept and my young students enjoyed receiving them (we all know how excited they get about receiving praise from the teacher!), but they didn’t seem to value them quite as much as they did their brag tags.

My students were really excited about receiving each brag tag and took great pride in seeing all of their accomplishments on their brag tag necklaces. I was told by parents that once the children were allowed to take their necklaces home they hung them in very special places in their rooms or in the house and reviewed them as well as showed them off to others.

How to encourage and motivate students to learn numbers, shapes, and colors.

I have found that receiving something extra special and unique that celebrates their efforts energized students’ desire to learn more, kept them enthusiastic about their learning, and restored their confidence and commitment (especially if they had been struggling). This is why I made each brag tag different with its own praise word and “cheer”.

They are designed to appeal to young children with bright colors and cute characters. They also have pictures of real world objects to not only give students a visual reminder but also help them associate their learning to the real world.

The numbers brag tags have both a number character and a ten frame character that helps students “see” the number and build their number sense.

numbers brag tags

I have distributed them several different ways over the years depending on the personality of my class.  There is really no right or wrong way to use them – it totally depends on your personal preference and your students. They are very versatile and can easily fit any teaching style.

Necklaces

By far the most popular way students have kept track of their brag tags has been on ball chain necklaces. I found mine on Amazon, though I have been told that you can also find them at Oriental Trading and some craft stores.  I use the 24 inch length for my pre-k and kindergarten students.  On Amazon you can find them in packs of 50 or packs of 25.

After students master a number, shape, or color they receive the appropriate tag and place it on their necklace.

Binder Rings

Another option for storing brag tags is to use binder rings.  Several years hanging items on their backpacks was “all the rage” for my kinders so they enjoyed have a ring on their backpack for their brag tags. Since the students brought their backpacks to school every day it worked out well and it also acted as a parent communication tool.  The students were excited to show their parents when they earned a new tag and parents were able to monitor their child’s progress.

Brag Tag Books

If you want a less public way for students to store their brag tags and for you to keep track of their progress, then brag tag books are a good option.  They also a nice keepsake of their accomplishments and can also be used for reference throughout the year.

When students earn a tag, they glue it on a page in their books and then complete a task below it. The task can be differentiated to fit each student’s ability level.

For example, in the numbers brag tag books students glue a number tag on each page as they are earned and can write the number and/or write the number word, color in or draw objects in the appropriate number of boxes in the ten frame underneath.

For the shapes brag tag books, students glue a shape tag on each page as they are earned and can draw the shape, draw an object of that shape, and/or write the shape word underneath.

For the colors brag tag books, students glue a color tag on each page as they are earned and can draw something of that color and/or write the color word underneath.

Individual Rewards

Each brag tag can also be given out as an individual reward. If you do a color, number, or shape of the week you can give the brag tag at the end of the week or when a students shows mastery.

If you would like to use these brag tags with your young students to help motivate and encourage their learning they are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

You can purchase them individually or in several money-saving bundle packs.

Click any of the links or pictures below to view more details and samples.

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salt tray for alphabet letter writing

Fun Alphabet and Handwriting Practice

I wanted to share with you today some favorite and fun ideas for teaching the letters of the alphabet and handwriting.

Fun Alphabet and Handwriting Ideas

Over the years teaching the alphabet has changed quite a lot due to the increase in standards. However, the fact that young children can get overwhelmed with learning both the uppercase and lowercase version of each letter of the alphabet, their sounds, and how to write them has not changed.

Varying your letter practice can increase student motivation and decrease boredom.  I have also found that varying letter practice based on letter difficulty and reviewing frequently are very effective in helping students retain letter knowledge.

Young children need manipulatives in addition to practice pages when learning the alphabet because manipulatives not only hold their attention better but they activate the pathways in the brain better than using only a letter page.

Here are some of my favorite manipulatives to use for teaching the alphabet. They are relatively easy and inexpensive to set up and use.

I use differentiated letter cards with my students along with the manipulative activities as aides for showing students how to properly form the alphabet letters.

Fun Ideas for Teaching the Alphabet and Handwriting

Practice Letters Using Salt and/or Sand Trays

Students love to practice writing letters in salt or sand! You can create a simple salt or sand tray by pouring some salt or sand on a cookie sheet, on a plate, or in a pencil box.

Have students write the letter in the salt or sand with their finger, a Q-Tip, or a pointer.

salt tray for alphabet letter writing       sand tray for alphabet letter writing

Optional: If you would like colored sand or salt for your tray, mix a teaspoon of powder tempera paint per cup of sand or salt. Mix the powder paint and salt or sand thoroughly. You may add more powder tempera paint if desired until you get the color you want.

Practice Letters Using Dry Erase Markers with Dry Erase Boards or Write Directly on the Desk or Table

Allowing students to use washable dry erase markers instead of a pencil can be a real motivator, especially if they get to write directly on their desks or the tables! They think that is really cool! (the marker wipes off with a damp sponge or baby wipe). They can also practice on dry erase boards.

writing alphabet letters on desk writing alphabet letters on dry erase board

Practice Alphabet Letters with Sidewalk Chalk 

Go outside and let students write alphabet letters with sidewalk chalk.  Afterwards, give them squirt bottles, name a letter, and have students squirt the letter with the water.

write letters of the alphabet with sidewalk chalk

Write Letters Outside with Paintbrushes and Water

Give students paintbrushes or sponge brushes and allow them to paint letters with water.
An added activity to do is to have students guess how long they think their letters will last in the sun.

paint alphabet letters with water

Gel Bags

My students love using gel bags! We not only use them to practice letters but numbers and shapes as well.

Create gel bags by buying cheap hair gel from the Dollar Store and filling a Ziploc bag. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired or you can also add glitter for some sparkle. Double bag and/or tape the top of the bag to avoid leaks.

Have students either look at a letter card and write it on the gel bag with their finger or a Q-Tip or place the letter card under the gel bag and have them trace the letter with their finger or a Q-Tip.

practicing letters of the alphabet with gel bags practicing letters of the alphabet with gel bags practicing alphabet letters with gel bags practicing alphabet letters with gel bags

Practice Letters with Salt Puffy Paint

Salt puffy paint dries with a 3D look and texture that students love!

Make a batch of salt puffy paint by mixing equal parts of flour, salt, and water.  Add a few drops of food coloring and mix. Place in squeeze condiment bottles. Our local BBQ was nice enough to donate bottles, you can also find them on Amazon here (affiliate link). You can also try using pastry bags or cutting the corner off a Ziploc bag, however these don’t seem to work as well as the bottles.

how to make salt puffy paint    how to make salt puffy paint

Have students write letters with the salt puffy paint or do a letter hunt and have students mark the correct letters with the salt puffy paint.

writing alphabet letters using salt puffy paint   letter hunt using salt puffy paint

Shape Letters Using Play Dough

Have students form letters on play dough mats or have them look at a letter and form it with the play dough on their own. Teach them how to roll the play dough in their hands to form a “snake” and them form it into the letter.

form letters with play dough form letters with play doughform alphabet letters with play dough

Play Dough Letter Mazes

Another option is to make play dough letter mazes.  Flatten play dough on a tray or in a pencil box and press a letter with your thumb in the play dough. Make sure the maze is wide enough to fit a marble.

Have students push the marble through the letter maze with their finger. See how quickly students can do it without letting the marble leave the letter maze.

play dough letter maze play dough letter maze

Use Paint

Spark interest by allowing students to paint the letters. They can use their finger with finger paint or a brush.

paint letters of the alphabet paint letters of the alphabet

If you have an easel available, placing paper on the easel and having students write/paint on the easel promotes shoulder stability which is critical in fine motor development and also helps to promote hand grasp which is important for writing.

paint letters of the alphabet on an easel

Another option is to use pom-pom painters using clothespins and cotton balls. Have students grab a cotton ball with a clothespin, dip it in paint, and paint their letters. Squeezing the clothespins helps develop the appropriate muscle groups needed for successful handwriting.

paint letters with pom pom painters paint letters with pom pom painters

Build Letters with Blocks

Have students build the letters with Legos, blocks, or Snap Cubes.

build letters of the alphabet with Legos build letters of the alphabet with Legos or blocks

Make a Connection to Reading by Finding Letters in Books

Help students understand the connection between letters and words and reading by having Letter Hunts in books and/or around the room.

Explain that letters put together make words that we read. Allow students to find either the featured letter you are working on or a letter that you name in their favorite books or around the classroom in posters, charts, bulletin boards, etc.

child hunting for alphabet letters in a book

Textured Letters

When students trace textured letters with their fingers it helps them feel the difference of the letters.

Two ideas for making textured letters are to cut letters from sandpaper using stencils or to put a thick layer of glue over letter cards. You can also purchase a tactile letter kit from Amazon.

textured letter made with glue textured letter made with sandpaper

Air Writing

Have students write the letter in the air with their fingers or special pointers. Visualizing the letter in the air promotes visual memory and large arm movements.

air writing letters

Form Letters with Dot Painters

Students love using Dot Painters so have them form / write alphabet letters with them.

dot painters letters

Use Visual Cues & Reminders

Remembering 52 letters (uppercase and lowercase) is challenging for young students, so it is important to review frequently and to have visual reminders for students to reference.

These can include alphabet displays, nameplates on their desks that have the alphabet letters on them, alphabet charts, etc.

I give students a mini alphabet handwriting chart that has all the letters with the directional arrow font that shows how to form each letter to keep in their writing folders.  I also place one at our writing center.

alphabet handwriting chart

I also provide students with QR code cards that link to videos that demonstrate how to write the letters. These really help my visual learners that need to see the letters being formed and also alleviates the need for me to keep showing or demonstrating how to write the letters. My students also LOVE QR codes so they really like using them!

alphabet cards with QR codes

Vary Letter Page Practice

Use a variety of letter practice pages to avoid boredom and increase student motivation. You can vary them according to students’ motor skill ability levels or according to the letter difficulty. Use different pages when introducing, practicing, and reviewing letters.

Another option is to have a variety available and let students choose which one they prefer – giving students choice is a great motivator! You can also provide a number of different pages in your writing center for practice.

differentiated letter pages for learning the alphabet differentiated letter pages for learning the alphabet

differentiated letter pages for learning the alphabet differentiated alphabet letter page alphabet letter writing page

Place Pages Under Desks, On the Wall, or on the Easel

Another way to alleviate boredom and spark interest is to allow students to write on the pages upside down (tape them under the table or desk), hang them on the wall or your painting easel.

This promotes shoulder stability which allows for control of the arm, hand, and fingers and helps with hand grasp for writing. In order to develop shoulder stability, paper needs to be vertical.

shoulder stability

Place Pages in Page Protectors and Use Dry Erase Markers

Another way to change things up and motivate students is to allow them to complete the pages using dry erase markers. As I stated above, young students love writing with markers!

Save paper by placing your letter pages in page protectors. Place some pages in a binder along with dry erase markers and make-up rounds to use as erasers in your writing center or in your small groups. If you need a record of students’ writing, snap a picture.

place letter pages in page protectors alphabet letter practice page

alphabet letter practice page alphabet letter hunt

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If you would like to use the differentiated cards and letter pages shown in this post with your students they are available here.

Differentiated Alphabet Pages & Cards

Here are a few comments from other teachers who have used these alphabet pages and cards in their classrooms:

“So great for the variety of skill levels in my room.” – Megan S.

“Excellent package for working with the alphabet. Love the ideas that went with the worksheets. Thanks.” – Beth S.

“This item is PERFECT for my primary autism class. Most are learning the alphabet and this is great to use along with hands on activities.” – Sharon B.

“Thanks a bunch!!Now I don’t have to search for letter of the week activities for the whole week!!!” – Cassie B.

“My favorite thing about this is how it will address all my learners. Thank you!!” – Nanette F.

“Great for differentiation for some of my firsties still working on letters!” – Amy D.

“I use this daily for letter of day activities!” – Kayla R.

“Love the differentiation!” – Kristin W.

“These are great!! Love the variation and that they can be used with all skill levels!”

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How I Motivated Students to Learn Their Alphabet Letters with Brag Tags / Rewards & Books

How I motivated my students to learn their alphabet letters

How to Use 2 Classic Card Games for Differentiated Alphabet Practice 

How I use 2 classic card games for differentiated alphabet practice

End of the year bulletin board and craft

End of the Year Bulletin Boards & Craftivities with Writing Prompts

This post contains my favorite end of the school year craftivities and bulletin board displays that I have used over the years.

I love doing creative writing craftivities that help students reflect on the school year and then showcasing their work with pride in our classroom or hallway with a cute display! Parents, teachers, & students all enjoy reading about our favorite memories or seeing how much we have learned this year.  The displays also make perfect decorations for our graduation ceremony and end of the school year celebration.

If you are interested in using any of these end of the year displays in your classroom and want to save time creating them, the patterns, printables, detailed instructions, & bulletin board titles/letters are available in a money-saving bundle pack here OR individually by theme: Spring, Beach, Graduation.

This Year was “TOAD”-ally Cool! & “Un-FROG-ettable” Memories Frog Craftivity and Bulletin Board

End of the year bulletin board and craft

I must admit that this is one of my favorites! We usually do a frog unit towards the end of the year so it fits in perfectly with our theme!

To make the frogs, I first fold paper plates in half and have each student paint the top green and the inside pink.

end of the school year frog craft

Then while the plates are drying, students cut out their frog’s legs, arms, eyes, and tongue and draw/write about their favorite memory from the school year on their “My Favorite Memory” lily pads.  I let students choose whether they write directly on the lily pad or write/draw on a frame that they glue to their lily pad.

When the plates are dry, they glue their frogs together.

They look so cute on display in our classroom!  Here is another title you can use:

end of the year bulletin board

We Had an “Un-BEE-lievable” Year! Bee Craftivity & Class Display

End of the year classroom display

This cute, bee-themed bulletin board / classroom display will get your students “buzzing” about their favorite memories and accomplishments of the school year.

Prior to making our bees I wrote “I liked” across the top of an anchor chart and “I learned” across the top of another anchor chart.  We discussed favorite memories from the school year and I wrote them under the “I liked” heading.  We also discussed some things that the students were proud of learning and I wrote them under the “I learned” heading.  I gave the students the choice of which heading to use on their bees or they could use both or make two bees.

Students cut out the bee body and colored the stripes black starting with the first stripe at the top.

I gave students two different options for wings, white construction paper or wax paper that resembled the transparent appearance of bee’s wings. They cut out the wings of their choice along with antennas and a stinger and attached them to their bee bodies.

Then students referred to the anchor charts and wrote what they liked or learned this school year in the yellow lines of the bee body and drew a face for their bee on the top.

This Year Flew By! Kites Writing Craftivity & Bulletin Board

end of the year bulletin board

Students will be flying high after they reflect on all that they learned during the year!

There are 2 different ways that students can make their kites – they can write and/or draw what they learned on the kite itself OR they can write individual things that they learned on each kite tail.

This Year Has Been Buckets of Fun! Sand Bucket Craftivity & Bulletin Board

end of the school year bulletin board, classroom display

I use this display when our end of the year, graduation theme is the beach.

Each student makes a sand bucket and shovel.  Students can choose whether to write their names on the their shovels or on their buckets.  I provide a number of different art supplies from which students can choose to decorate their buckets (glitter, paint, crayons, markers, dot painters, etc.).  I also bring in sand and allow students to glue sand in the top of their buckets.

They write and draw about a fun activity or event from the school year and then glue their handle and shovel to their buckets.

We Had a Ball This Year! Beach Ball Craftivity & Classroom Display

end of the school year classroom display

This is another personal favorite of mine not only because I love how they turn out but now we create them digitally using Pic Kids (Pic Collage)!

Students first used the Clip tool to crop their pictures to a circle shape and then placed them in the center of the beach ball (a pattern that I provided and the students set as the background).

Then students used the text feature and either pictures from the school year stored on the camera roll, stickers, or web search pictures to complete each writing prompt on the beach balls.

To save ink, you can use a black and white beach ball pattern, print them, and then have students color in each section or use a colored pattern and print the full-color versions.

If you don’t want to have students create the beach balls digitally, they can complete them by hand as well.

end of the year writing craftivity

“Sea” What We Have Learned! Fish Craft & Bulletin Board

end of the year bulletin board

For this end of the year display I combined a favorite fish craft with a writing prompt.

To make their fish, students first painted a paper plate. While their plates were drying, they cut out their bubbles and wrote “I learned to” in the first bubble and then what they learned in the other two.

The next day, students cut a v-shape for the mouth and then glued the cut out piece to the other end for the fish tail.  They then glued cut up cupcake liners to their fish as fins.

This Year Has Been a Real Treat! Dog Craftivity & End of the Year Bulletin Board

end of the year bulletin board Dogs

As a dog lover, of course I had to do a dog themed end of the year display to match my room theme!

This craft was simple to do and turned out so adorable! Students simply wrote something they liked about the school year on the dog bone and then colored and cut out their dogs.

Smart Cookies Craft & End of the Year Bulletin Board

end of the school year bulletin board

This end of the school year display turned out yummy LOL!  I had students glue icing on a cookie pattern that was entitled “I’m a smart cookie!”.  Then they glued their pictures in the center and wrote things that they can do now that they could not do at the beginning of the year.  Afterwards, they had the choice of adding construction paper sprinkles, dot painter dots, or fingerprint dot decorations to their cookies.

Grinning Graduates Graduation Craft & Bulletin Board

graduation bulletin board

I have been doing this graduation bulletin board for many, many years and it is always a parent favorite!

Students color a face to resemble their own and glue a graduation hat to it. I have done the hat tassels 2 different ways – a paper cut out and a simple yarn tassel that is poked through a small hole in the hat and taped to the back.

Students then write and/or draw a favorite memory from the school year on their certificates, cut them out along with hands, and attach them to their face.

end of the year graduation craft & writing activity

If you would like the patterns, printables, detailed instructions with pictures, and bulletin board titles/letters for each of the end of the year bulletin boards shown above they are available in a money-saving bundle pack. Click here for details.

End of the Year Craftivities & Bulletin Boards Bundle

You can also purchase them individually according to theme.

End of the Year Bulletin Board & Craftivities Kit – Spring Theme (Frogs, Bees, Kites)

end of the year bulletin boards and craftivities

End of the Year Bulletin Board & Craftivities Kit – Beach Theme 3 Ideas

End of the Year Bulletin Boards & Craftivities Beach Theme

End of the Year, Graduation Bulletin Board & Craftivities Kit – 3 Ideas

coversquare

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End of the Year Student Gifts & Gift Tags

Editable Diplomas & Graduation Invitations for Preschool, Kindergarten, & Grades 1-6

Easter Peeps play dough indredients

Easter Peeps Play Dough & Learning Activities

Easter Peeps Play Dough & Learning Activities

I saw several recipes for Easter Peeps play dough on Pinterest and had to try it for my class! By far the easiest one with the best results was from 123 Homeschool 4 Me. It was super simple (I’m talking like 2 minutes to make!) and was the best consistency.

Making the Easter Peeps Play Dough

All you do is place 5 Peeps, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1 tablespoon of Crisco in a microwave-safe bowl.

Easter Peeps play dough indredients

Place it in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Let it cool for a minute, and then knead it.  That’s it! Super simple!

how to make Easter Peeps play dough

The only thing is it only makes a small amount of play dough and I needed more for my class.

Easter Peeps Play Dough Yellow

So I made a few more batches of the yellow and then decided to try blue bunny Peeps.

Easter Peeps Playdough Ingredients Blue

The blue turned out a pretty pastel color!

Blue Easter Peeps Play Dough

Using the Easter Peeps Play Dough for Learning Activities

My students LOVED it!  We used it in our math groups with our spring counting mats to practice numbers and counting.  Students rolled small balls of the Easter Peeps play dough using their thumbs and forefingers which was terrific fine motor practice and placed them in the ten frames! They thought the blue looked like robin eggs :).

Counting Practice with Easter Peeps Playdough

We also used the Easter Peeps play dough for subtraction smash (a student favorite)! If you aren’t familiar with subtraction smash, students use the play dough as a manipulative to solve subtraction problems. I usually have my students either write the subtraction problem on their dry erase boards or on their desks with a dry erase marker (it wipes right off). They then make the correct number of play dough balls (the first number in the equation) and line them up. Then they smash the correct number of play dough balls (the 2nd number in the equation) with their fists. The number of play dough balls still standing is the answer.

Easter Peeps Playdough Subtraction Smash

A similar phonics activity is to use the Easter Peeps play dough for CVC word practice.  Students write a CVC word from a list on their dry erase boards and place a Peeps play dough ball under each letter. As they say the sound of each letter, they smash the corresponding play dough ball with their fist and then they blend the sounds together while swiping up the smashed Peeps play dough balls.

Of course my students also just wanted to play and mold it, so I placed some in a play dough center along with our play dough toys and cutters.  We also used it to make Easter shapes for math word problems/stories.

Easter Peeps Play Dough shapes

After use, simply wrap it up in saran wrap.  If it gets hard, place it in the microwave for a few seconds.  This really was a surprisingly easy play dough recipe and a great use for Easter Peeps!

Easter Peeps Play Dough yellow and blue

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Easter Student Gifts & Gift Tags

Fun Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs with Students or Children

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The Colors of Easter Jelly Bean Poem Christian Activities, Printable Book

Winter Play Dough Recipes & Activities (Snow Dough Recipe & Hot Chocolate Play Dough Recipe)