A clever teacher once suggested to me that the building things unit should take place in June. It's engaging and fun so the students are legitimately occupied with "work" that they love, get lost in, and enjoy during the last month of school.
I send home 1 large ziploc bag with each student with their name on it. They bring it back to school with materials they want to use as well as any extras they are willing to share with the class. This way everyone has a variety of materials to sort and build with.
Aviva, a blogger, is very good at having her students solve real world problems as she teaches the learning outcomes. Have a look at the challenge she gave her students here.
Clear targets for building things unit from grade 1 Alberta Science Program of Study. I print off one for every student, keep notes as we go and send the sheet home to be signed by parents during and after the unit. Students refer to the targets to track their learning. I use this sheet to plan lessons and projects, attempting to investigate every outcome thoroughly.
Legend and explanation of clear targets can be found here.
NOTE: The only project I sent home was the car. There was a specific request for parents to step back from "helping" too much. We raced our cars and so having wheels that roll was key. There are times when parent input is great and gets the students excited about their project. Otherwise, these projects were to be 100% student generated!
This unit followed the Needs of Plants and Animals. We already had a collection of domestic animals in the class on display. The first task was to build a home for one of the domestic animals we had in the classroom (plastic to scale). The home had criteria, it had to have a door that could lock, have an area for food, sleep and exercise. It also had to be big enough to fit the animal the students chose, they used the plastic models to be sure.
- booklet of clear targets and collection of all student building projects
- response sheets from Edmonton Public resource were used
- criteria sheets for tasks include teacher and student evaluation
- each project was displayed on long tables as a "town" and photographed
- booklet goes home for parents to sign and comment
- final student self-assessment is included
- digital collection of projects would be a next step, wiki or class blog
- polystyrene mammal
- must stand on its own (notch and stand technique taught)
- must with stand small gust of air (blowing)
- insect or bird puppet with moving parts - list materials and describe steps
For students who want to get fancier there are some beautiful examples on this blog.
- pipe-cleaner reptile - compared to actual skeletons of animals for inspiration - studied toys with joints (barbies, GI Joe figures) - recorded materials, steps, possible improvements - staples item right to the booklet - photo journal showed progression of sophistication of student projects
- houses out of manilla tag, popsicle sticks, marshmallows
- incorporate with fairy tales unit and 3 little pigs
We watched a short youtube video of a cabin being built of logs and an igloo. The log cabin one is a bit long and slow - maybe there's something better out there. They are both in English:
The vocabulary we focused on was first the words for all of our building supplies and then for the parts of a house, walls, roof, stairs, windows, doors, hinges, and so on. Will find and post . . .
As you can see on this sheet this was our first attempt at comparaison, not an easy writing task for my grade 1s. Students had a photo of their house and of someone else's in the class to compare.
The resource I have suggested using popsicle sticks or stir sticks or pretzels for building our log houses. I would stick to popsicle sticks, the other 2 were tiny and harder to glue. These inspiration ideas may help spur students on.
The Edmonton Public resource I used has some very simple building ideas. They include a pinwheel, pop-up cards, simple boats. Here are some pinwheels that we thought were a little more fun. This was an entry task one day for during announcements, nothin' fancy but the students looooooved them.