Integrating STEM in an ELA Classroom

"Wipebook workbooks help students practice their knowledge in a low-risk way, building confidence and skills they can use every day, even outside of the classroom."


How can STEM be integrated in an ELA lesson? How are basketball, math, and science connected? Why do we create prototypes? Does collaboration really create better products or is it better to work on a project independently? These are questions my fifth graders have pondered over the past few weeks. One of the most effective ways of practicing STEM skills is by using the eco-friendly and reusable Wipebook workbooks to make informed decisions without the pressure of being right or wrong! A lot of magic comes out of a dry erase experience.


Students have been reading several fiction and nonfiction books about basketball over the past few weeks. Basketball for a few weeks? You bet! I try to incorporate current events in our classroom as much as possible. The most recent event was the NCAA basketball tournament. Why not take the opportunity to introduce the science of basketball through literature to create interest and teach the standards? The added bonus of a STEM integration is the icing on the cake for 5th graders. Until recently, the students had no idea that basketball is truly a numbers game. That force and motion (a 5th grade science standard) has an impact on if a basketball will make it in the basket. Being the time of year where state testing is around the corner and concept review is critical, I took the opportunity to make a STEM challenge out of what we have been learning about in the classroom. Students were tasked with creating a basketball goal as well as a catapult to launch a miniature basketball successfully in the basket. In addition to creating the goal and catapult, students were asked to collect data and a heat map to measure success outcomes from different distances and positions from the goal. The final product will also include a written paragraph analyzing the data. You see, STEM can be integrated in a language arts lesson. It doesn’t have to be an isolated idea or task.


Students working on problems with wipebook workbooks


Tools to Take the Pressure Off

Students chose a partner to complete the challenge with. The only constraints were the materials students had access to and the number of people in partnership together, two. They began the challenge with each student getting a copy of the engineering design process, a dry erase marker, and a Wipebook Workbook. This lesson was the first lesson where the STEM work wasn’t completed in the STEM journals, but instead on the dry erase surface of the Wipebook. Students were so excited for the change of pace. Who knew that with just a dry erase marker and a different writing surface the students would be more excited and engaged with completing a STEM task? When I solicited feedback from students it was shared that dry erase surfaces take the pressure off of being perfect. That collaborating with their partner was less stressful because everything was easily erased and revised as needed. This was especially helpful in the design and revision stages of the process. Students had to collaborate and label the design before having access to the building materials.


Students working on problems with wipebook workbooks


When partners agreed on changes it was not a big deal to create the change and everything was readable for building day. Using the Wipbook workbooks for whiteboard space allowed students to focus on the task at hand and not be consumed with eraser marks, torn pages, illegible writing after many erases on the paper, ect. Using vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPS) to design, collaborate, test, and revise has been such a great experience. The notebooks fold up and are easily placed inside individual travel tubs to revisit each day of the STEM design challenge.


Can We Save Our Work?

Another favorite function of the Wipebook is the app you can download online to save work products. At this time we were unable to download the application on student devices because of district protocols; however, students did take pictures of their work and have it saved on each individual student device. The pictures will be uploaded to a Google slide deck to share with parents upon the completion of the STEM challenge. The Wipebook workbook has a gridded side as well as a lined side which is perfect for collaboration. For this particular challenge I didn’t specify which side of the notebook each step in the engineering process should go on. I like that there are options to meet the individual preferences of my students. Some enjoyed the grid to create and label a design while others preferred the back of the Wipebook because it was blank and less constricting for design work. Any page of the Wipebook worked for me. My goal was to create engagement through partnership collaboration with students to solve the challenge of basketball by numbers. I wanted to create STEM concepts in an ELA classroom. Wipebook workbooks help students practice their knowledge in a low-risk way, building confidence and skills they can use every day, even outside of the classroom.


Amanda Hallman, Teacher, Lakeshore Elementary School


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