September 26, 2017

Using STEM in Speech: Density

One of my professional goals this year is to incorporate more STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) Activities in my therapy setting. STEM concepts and activities are rich in language and the hands-on nature of many of the activities lends itself wonderfully to our population. I am planning to have a monthly theme to support  this objective, so this blog series is a summary of my progress.

Our September theme was Density (Sink/Float). Not only is this super easy to implement in the therapy room, but you can target tons of language and articulation concepts with this lesson. Most of my groups got to do this and they seemed to have a blast (many kids asked if we could do this activity again during their next Speech session).

Before we started we had a brief discussion of molecules and density (i.e. how much something weights compared to how much space it takes up). We also defined the terms "sinking" versus "floating". Visuals are super helpful for this. 

All you need for the hands-on/experimentation portion of this lesson is a tub of water (perhaps with food coloring in it for effect) and various items collected from around your house or classroom. Make sure the items are small enough to fit into the tub. Some easy finds are: pencils, coins, dice, pompoms, leaves, twigs, rocks, keys, paperclips, erasers, markers, etc. 

Allow students to make a prediction (make sure to define this term!) about what they think will happen to the item before actually placing it in the water to watch the result.

I created a number of worksheets of varying difficulty levels that would allow students to record their predictions as well as the resulting observations. A lot of my younger students had a hard time navigating where to record each observation (they would often try to color in the wrong row), so this provided an excellent teaching opportunity.

Worksheet for my younger kiddos with pre-entered items.
Worksheet for my older kiddos - a little more complex.

We placed visuals on the board (with Magnet Tape) to keep track of whether the "Sinkers" or "Floaters" would win. You can also use the visual cards to let students randomly select one to see which item would be the next "experiment". My students had a lot of fun with this. I also "challenged" them to solve certain Sink/Float predicaments (e.g., how do you make a rock float using only a balloon) to stimulate problem solving and critical thinking skills. 

Additionally, I used this activity in my social skills group to work on turn-taking, interrupting, problem-solving, and dealing with making the wrong predictions. 

You can also adapt this lesson and turn it into a push-in classroom unit. I pushed into our younger SDC class and as a group we made predictions about the various items. To make the concepts more visually concrete, I drew a tub of water on the whiteboard and had students place the items onto the drawing based on whether they thought the items would sink or float.

With my articulation groups, we tested items that contained the target sound of students - you can see in the picture of one of the worksheets above that all of the items contain the /r/ sound. And the words "sink" and "float" are great for /s/, /k/, and /l/ kiddos!! I absolutely loved the versatility of this lesson!

If you want to try this with your own students and like the visuals/worksheets that I have used - they are available on TPT here. The unit also includes challenges and material lists with items containing specific phonemes.

This was a pretty successful lesson - I can't wait for our next monthly STEM unit!

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