I love good science experiments that leave my first graders SHOCKED!  And these two oldies, but goodies never disappoint!

Light Exploration Stations

During the second week of our Next Gen Light Unit, we learn how different materials affect light.  We spend one day exploring a range of materials with light sources to describe how the materials affect the light.  My first graders are super engaged with almost anything that is set up as stations they get to rotate through!  Add some high level scientific exploration and it's a win for everyone!

I set up 8 light stations around the room.  In my light unit, I have given to response sheet options with the light stations I use or a blank template for you to use your own materials.

At each station, students use the material listed and a light source to explore what happens with the light when the material interacts with it.  I give them some guiding questions to explore like...

(1) How does the light change?
(2) What makes the light change or stay the same?
(3) What would happen to the light if I move it closer/farther?

Then they get about 2 minutes to explore!  That doesn't sound very long, but it really is once you are in the middle of it.  And you don't want to give too much time or else kids get off task... :)

Transparent, Translucent and Opaque Experiment

I love this experiment because it's super easy to do, it requires very little materials, it's super fast, and most importantly, it's super effective!

First, we use our recording sheet to write our prediction about what how much light we will see when we shine the light through the cling wrap.  Then we test our predictions.  This can easily be done whole group or in small groups as long as you can trust your groups not to test before they predict.  And I would definitely recommend doing it step by step together if you choose to do it as small groups! #learnfrommymistakes

Then, we repeat our predictions and testing for wax paper.  And with each material, we write a conclusion together where I tell give them the words transparent, translucent and opaque as describing words for materials.

Finally, we test the cardstock!

If you have older kids or just want to extend this experiment, have kids brainstorm with their table groups other materials that could be opaque, transparent or translucent as you test and write conclusions about each material.  This helps guide your kids to that application level of higher order thinking skills.  Cooper and I did that with our opaque material so you can see what the conclusions look like both ways!

Find these experiments and more in this Next Gen Light Unit!

As I was writing this Next Gen Light Unit, I knew I wanted to include some light experiments I've done in the classroom, but I also wanted to include some STEM based experiments and challenges...so the Pinhole Box Challenge was born!  This morning, I tried it out with my 5 year old and he LOVED it!  Here's an up close look at this engaging challenge!

During the first week of our light unit, we are learning about why we need light.  So for the pinhole box challenge, I placed 1 small bulldozer toy in the box. (In the classroom, I would set up one box for each table group with something different in each box.)  I used a pen to poke a hole in the side of our box.

Then, I told Cooper the problem.

"The UPS truck man needs to find out what is in this box, but we are not allowed to open it! Can you peek inside and see what is in there?"

He quickly figured out that we couldn't see anything, and when I asked him why not, he said, "It's too dark!"

So, I asked, "What can we do about that so that we can see what is in the box without opening it?"

First, he tried poking another hole on the same side.

...and shining a flashlight through one hole and looking though the same hole...and then looking through the second hole...

He poked another hole or two on that side before deciding to poke one on the top.

"Mommy, shine that light on the side and I'll look in at the top!"

But still, no good visual on the toy...So he laid the flashlight on the top hole and peeked through the side.

No luck!  Finally, he tried poking a hole on the other side and peeking through!  "I see it, Momma!! It's my bulldozer!"

Then, he drew a picture of the bulldozer and labeled it!

That was enough for my 5 year old, but in the classroom, we would rotate through each pinhole box after the groups figured out how to see the object in the box.  Then, we would observe what was in the box and draw and label our observations for each of the boxes.  This was the perfect way to discover why we need light and how light helps us!

Find this STEM project and much more in this Next Gen Light Unit!

By now you know that I'm a big fan of board games in the classroom. {If you don't know that, read this blog post.}

And we've talked about how to work in games in our already busy schedule here.

But not any old game will do.  There are some games that really fabulous and classics, but they just don't lend themselves to any sort of strategy building.  Those are not the games you will find in this blog.  Those are games like Candyland, Hi Ho Cherry-o, Chutes and Ladders and more.  While they are fun, and build people skills, they are more fit for inside recess than during instructional time.

So let's chat about strategies and skill sets we want to develop in primary kids and my favorite no-fluff board games to do just that in the primary classroom {and kids of all ages}!
{affiliate links are included in this post, which means I get a very small commission to add to my chocolate fund! Thanks for supporting me!}

Games That Build Logic

Games that build logic are games that make us think in "If...then..." statements.  Remember those logic grid puzzles?  It's the same sort of thing, but they are built into games to make it friendlier for our littles.

Guess Who
Clue Junior

Games That Build Planning Ahead

These games are ones that make us account for our opponents next step.  "I think they will do _____, so I need to do ______."  Or, "If they do ____, I'll do ____, but if not, I'll do ______."  They help us practice flexibility and adapting our plans to unexpected changes.  And they help us learn that there are multiple ways to win a game or solve a problem...or in Arkansas language: There's more than one way to skin a cat! :)

Connect 4
Chinese Checkers

Games That Build Comparing and Contrasting

These are games where we have to look at similarities and differences, and decide on important information between two objects or cards.  We also need to be able to see how things are connected in order to win the game.  Again, many of the other games also work on these skills, but these games are especially good for this.

Apples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples Junior is more for kids who can read as they will need to be able to read the words independently.  I would suggest it for 2nd grade and maybe some first graders.

Games That Build Stamina

These games are not won in 5 minutes or less.  They take time.  They help us focus and practice building stamina.  If I can engage in a game for 20-30 minutes, then that can help me engage in other areas of learning during other parts of the day.  Focus and stamina is a learned skill that good problem solvers have.  There are plenty of the other games that are longer and build stamina, but these are the best fit for this skill!

Monopoly Junior

What are your favorite strategy games for the classroom?
I'm not gonna lie, when those Next Gen Science Standards came out and had light waves and such for first grade, my stomach turned in knots a little. Ok, a lot

Because physics is not my strong suit.  Like, for reals.

And I may have let out a sigh of relief that I'm on a short term Mommy break from the classroom.

But then, I dug my heals in and came across some great books on light, made some connections to things I was already teaching in first grade, and this Light unit, along with this list of awesome trade books, was born!
{This post contains affiliate links which means that I get a tiny bit of pocket change from each purchase to feed my chocolate addiction! :)}

All of my integrated units and Next Gen Science Units come with big ideas and essential questions.  I just don't know how to teach without guiding truths and questions--it keeps me on track, focused on the bigger picture and helps me make literacy and math connections more easily!  Here are the essential questions for this unit and the books I used as literacy connections!

Week 1: Why Do We Need Light?

During this first week, we are reading about what light is, light sources and charting our learning.  And all of that research leads us to our Pinhole Box STEM connection (read about that HERE) to learn why we need light.  Here are the books we use for this first week... Click on the covers to

Week 2: How Do Materials Affect Light?

This second week is jam packed full of academic vocabulary like opaque, translucent, refract, reflect, and more!  And the best and most engaging way to learn new concepts is through science labs.  You'll find a ton of labs in week 2 that I'll blog about later!  But I love how much literacy can be pulled in even when science labs are the primary focus.  Click the covers to find the books!

Week 3: How Can We Use Light?

The first part of week 3, we learn some real life applications for using light.  We study fireflies (and make a firefly which I've blogged about before!), lighthouses, as well as make our own connections for how we use light!  There are great fictional connections this week as well!

Week 3: What Color Is Light?

Yes, I know this is the second week 3... That's just because there are 2 essential questions in the same week!

The second half of week 3, we learn about the science of color with my favorite man Bill Nye and then do one of my favorite science experiments I've blogged about before: Catching Rainbows!

Make sure you follow my blog because I'll be blogging about some of our favorite light STEM challenges and science labs in the next couple of weeks!

As I blogged about earlier, I believe games are a must in the primary classroom.  {Read more HERE if you want to know why.}  But that doesn't mean we play board games all day long in my primary classroom.

And just because I know it's important to play games doesn't mean it's easy to squeeze in to my already crammed schedule...amirite??

So how can we play good, meaningful strategy games in the classroom that we know are worthwhile in the middle of our busy day?

Play Games at Math Stations

Whether you use stations or centers during guided reading time or math rotations during guided math, games are a perfect addition here.  Before I got scared of pulling out board games in my classroom, I had a station devoted to puzzles and games.

To sharpen those academic skills I blogged about earlier, I like to model the games together first on our ELMO projector before I add them to a station, or during the mini-lesson in guided math if the skills match our goals for the week.  This way,  I can reinforce the skills I want kids to develop.  So it sounds something like this if we are modeling Checkers...

"When it's my turn, I'm thinking, 'If I play move here, what will his next move be?' and 'Is this the most reasonable place for me to play?' I'm always thinking of multiple places for me to play and analyzing which spot is the most efficient." 

I'm basically doing a Think Aloud using those key words from our math practices and also directly modeling problem solving skills and higher order analysis and strategy.  These skills take practice and modeling to learn well.  Stations and Math Rotations in Guided Math are the perfect place to hone these skills

Play Games for Early Finishers

I soooooo wish I had thought of using games and puzzles for my early finishers when I was in the classroom.

I love having a puzzle table set up with large puzzles at home....Can you imagine how fun it would be when someone finally finished our class puzzle?!?

Plus, strategy games are perfect for early finishers.  Because, typically, our early finishers are hungry for a challenge.  Providing single player games like Jenga and multi-player games like battleship and checkers would be just enough to provide quieter games that engage all learners, but also take time to finish to build their stamina and focus.

I always have multiple choices for early finishers, so this would be just one of the choices and I like to keep the number of board games as choices small (like 2-3) so it doesn't get all out crazy over there! :)

Play Games for Homework

I hate homework.  Daddy always said hate was a really strong word, but homework deserves it.  I hate homework.  As much as I could get away with it, I didn't send home required homework each night.  I did send home guided readers a few times a week and sight word folders for families to practice at their own pace and if they wanted to.  But nothing was required.

I love all of the ideas I've seen for homework choice boards and such!  How fun would it be to encourage families to play games together after dinner one night a week?  Some of my favorite family memories are of playing strategy games with my preschooler at home.  Screens are off, we are talking to each other more, and we are all learning to be problem solvers at the same time!

Do you have parents that want to be more involved with their child's school work?  Tell them to play strategy games at home using this list of suggestions from this blog post (coming soon)!

Are you a parent wanting to help your child's focus, stamina, and problem solving skills?  Play strategy games at home.
Back to Top