Craft + Activity = Learning Fun!
Hands-on “craftivities” to extend learning
across your curriculum.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Handcrafting Effective Craftivities We asked teachers about their best-kept secrets for making successful craftivities. Here’s what they had to say:
■ Be Prepared:
“In the early grades, it may help for teachers to have patterns precut so that the students are responsible for only the assembly. This is a huge time-saver,” offers Brooke Hilderbrand. It never hurt to have extra supplies on hand, either.
“I only consider it a successful craftivity if students can explain why they are doing it,” says Deb Hanson. “I am constantly walking around asking my students questions like, ‘What do cupcakes have to do with themes in stories?’ I require my students to verbalize the connection.”
■ Be Flexible:
“Who wants to make something that looks just like everyone else’s?” asks Nancy VandenBerge. “The more creativity afforded, the more connection and ownership kids will enjoy!”
■ Take a Step Back:
“Providing a guiding hand to those who need it and knowing when not to help are also key,” VandenBerge says.
If you think that crafts are just for after-school fun, think again. A growing number of teachers are combining crafts with meaningful learning activities to engage their students in “craftivities.” (It may not be an entry in the dictionary just yet, but it’s certainly our new favorite word.)
In Deb Hanson’s experience as an ESL teacher, she has found that craftivities are all-in-one solutions. The projects help her students retain content and internalize important skills. “ELLs are being exposed to new vocabulary words and academic concepts every hour,” says the teacher at Harney Elementary in South Sioux City, Nebraska. “Adding a concrete object to an abstract concept aids my students in remembering the meaning of academic vocabulary words like inference.”
In addition to helping with retention, craftivities allow Hanson’s students to practice the ever-important skill of following directions, as well as provide ample opportunity to hone fine motor skills and foster creativity.
And, let’s face it, they’re just plain fun. “Students are more motivated by a craftivity than they would ever have been about completing a worksheet,” Hanson says.
With a few supplies and a little imagination, you’ll be surprised how many ways you can weave crafts into lessons. We rounded up some of our favorite craftivities. Grab your scissors, and get crafting!
Snazzy Snow Globes
Submitted by: Laura Fograse and Tori Rebholz, Madison Elementary in Wheaton, Illinois. Rebholz blogs at Tori’s Teacher Tips.
Materials: Card-stock cutouts of snow globes, trapezoid-shaped writing-paper cutouts, photos of students, fake snow, decorations, glue, clear plastic plates, hot-glue gun
When to use it: Use this craftivity as a story starter.
Directions: Have students write short narratives about what they would do if they lived in a snow globe. Attach this paper to the base of the cutout snow globe. Next, take photos of students acting out their stories. Print the pictures and cut out the figures of the students. Afterward, students can assemble the snow globe by gluing their photos, fake snow, and decorations in the top circle. Finish by using a hot-glue gun (adults only!) to adhere a clear plastic plate to the card stock as the globe. And voilà—your students are living in a winter wonderland!
All About Me Bagpacks
Submitted by: Brooke Hilderbrand, White Lick Elementary in Brownsburg, Indiana. Blogger at Once Upon a First Grade Adventure.
Materials: Paper lunch bags, copies of writing template, construction paper, scissors, glue
When to use it: This adorable little “bagpack” is a versatile accessory. Use it with your “Student of the Week” routine.
Directions: Download Hilderbrand’s template at teacherspayteachers.com, or make your own by doing the following: Help students complete some getting-to-know-you statements on a 5-x-7-inch writing template (see above). Next, glue it on the flat side of the bag. Cut two strips of paper for the bagpack’s straps and glue them on the template as shown. Fold over the top two inches of the bag and affix optional front pocket, loop, and button closure. Afterward, students can place personal items inside that reflect their answers.
Submitted by: Sheila Chako, Gravenstein Elementary in Sebastopol, California. Blogger at Sprinkle Teaching Magic.
Materials: Paper plates, markers, construction paper, scissors, glue, glitter, scientific tool template.
When to use it: Use this craft to discuss scientists' jobs.
Directions: Give each student a paper plate and have them draw their own “mad scientist” face. Then, invite students to trace their hands on construction paper and cut them out. Students should also cut out the scientific tool template, which include a magnifying glass and beaker. Your young scientists can decorate the beaker by coloring it in with magic green (or orange) potion and even adding some glitter! To complete, students should glue all of the pieces on the plate. Affix the plate to the cover of a notebook or file folder. See the finished product above!
Submitted by: Melissa Yglesias, Ethel Koger Beckham Elementary in Miami. Blogger at More Time 2 Teach.
Materials: Glue, scissors, markers, construction paper, packet of rules and shape patterns.
When to use it: Cap off a geometry unit with fun monsters.
Directions: Students will create geometry monsters by following directions, such as: If you’re a girl, make the eyes using non-polygons. If you’re a boy, use polygons. (Make your own list of rules, or download Yglesias's rules.) Provide students with shape patterns to trace and cut out, and review the rules before letting students go to work on their math monsters.
Submitted by: Melissa Yglesias
Materials: U.S. map, map key, markers, glue, craft supplies, file folders
When to use it: Pep up your geography-unit.
Directions: Give each student a printout of a United States map. Have students color it in so land is green and water is blue. Then distribute a map key that contains a list of landforms you’ve studied (see photo). Challenge students to identify examples of the landform on the maps. (Think major rivers and mountain chains!) Break out the craft supplies, and allow students to choose different materials to represent these features—for instance, they might glue sand in the Southwest to show deserts. Students should also affix the material on the map key. Both the map and key can then be adhered to a file folder for display.
Submitted by: Nancy VandenBerge, Boon Elementary in Allen, Texas. Blogger at First Grade W.O.W.
Materials: What If You Had Animal Teeth?! by Sandra Markle, writing paper, construction paper, glue, scissors, copies of self portrait patterns.
When to use it: This craftivity is a cross-curricular English language arts and science tie-in.
Directions: Read the book to explore various types of animal teeth. Next, have students write about which animal teeth they would like to have and why. Provide patterns. Students can use craft supplies to create portraits of themselves with those teeth. Leave the rest up to your animals—er, students.
Submitted by: Deb Hanson, Harney Elementary in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Blogger at Crafting Connections.
Materials: Crayons, scissors, glue, construction paper
When to use it: This sweet craft is sure to spice up students' writing.
Directions: Task students with finding interesting synonyms for 12 “boring” words. Next, cut out 12 circles from brown construction paper and 12 from white paper. On the brown circles, students should write the boring words and decorate them to resemble cinnamon rolls. Then, have students write the words’ more exciting pairs on white circles, meant to represent frosting. Glue the frosting on top so it creates a flap to pull up. The dozen synonym rolls can be glued onto a “plate” and referred to when students need to add another layer of word choice to their writing.
Layers of the Earth
Submitted by: Valerie McClintick, homeschool teacher in Grants Pass, Oregon. Blogger at The Crafty Classroom.
Materials: Play dough (six colors), plastic knife, paper plate, markers
When to use it: Engage students in a hands-on, visual geology lesson.
Directions: Set out four colors of play dough to represent Earth’s layers: inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust. Have students roll the first color into a quarter-size ball, then roll the second color into a slightly larger ball, flattening it to make a disk. They should wrap the disk completely around the first ball. Have them repeat this process with two more colors, and finish by adding a blue layer (water) and patches of green (land). Using a plastic knife, they can cut a wedge in the ball to expose Earth’s layers, then place the model on a paper plate and use markers to make a key for the layers.
Submitted by: Joanna Silveira, homeschool teacher in Pittsburgh. Blogger at The Crafty Homeschool Mama.
Materials: Bulletin board paper, markers, general craft supplies, glue
When to use it: Round out a science unit on anatomy by crafting a body map.
Directions: Have students work in pairs to trace the outline of their bodies on bulletin board paper. Discuss the organs and systems you’ve studied. Then, present students with a variety of craft materials, and allow them to decide how best to represent the body parts on the map. For example, for the skeletal system, Silveira uses white construction-paper cutouts for major bones, cotton swabs for finger and toe bones, rubber bands for tendons, and halved foam balls for ball-and-socket joints. After gluing down the necessary materials, invite students to label major organs, bones, or other body parts. They will never confuse the tibia with the fibula again!
The contributors to this article are teachers by day and bloggers by night. After spending a long day educating young minds, they take to the blogosphere to share their best ideas—including these craftivities—with educators around the globe.