elementary students
Empatico Blog | October 8, 2018

Nine activities to enhance your elementary lesson plans

By Christina Bruno
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Finding fresh activities to try in your classroom can be a maze of navigating different websites, downloads, and social media channels. While there’s no shortage of content out there, finding materials that are age-appropriate, high quality, and aligned with standards can be time-intensive and exhausting. And in the busy lives of educators, that’s time away from more critical tasks.

Before launching Empatico, we heard just this when we spoke with more than 100 global educators to understand the barriers to bringing new activities into the classroom. One of the top challenges they identified is the time needed to sift through tons of material to find valuable content that’s fun for students and easy to integrate into existing elementary lesson plans.

 

Simple and easy activities that support meaningful experiences

Empatico eliminates the burden of finding intentional, goal-oriented activities for your primary classroom by offering nine completely free activity plans created specifically for partner classrooms to do together. We designed our activities to be 1) relatively short – each activity is only 2-3 hours from start to finish, and they can be broken up into stages that are completed over a few days or weeks, and 2) aligned to a range of academic standards from US State Standards to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme to the UK National Curriculum. And whether you’re looking to supplement your existing lesson plans in social studies, science, English language arts, or geography, we have you covered.

Empatico activities also help students practice social skills, such as perspective taking, critical thinking, respectful communication, and cooperation, as students experience positive connections with peers around the world. All of our activities are based on the latest research about how students learn and how they build relationships with peers.

We developed our activities in partnership with Educurious, a not-for-profit organization that combines technology and student-centered learning to create meaningful experiences for students and teachers. Designed to cover universal topics like play, weather, festivals, and community service, our activities are relatable no matter where you and your students are in the world. Best of all, our activities are completely free and stimulate intentional learning and interpersonal connections in your classroom.

 

Clear objectives and step-by-step instructions

Each Empatico activity follows a three stage progression to deepen learning:

Prepare – Students complete short exercises to prepare them for the interaction with their partner classroom and activate prior knowledge of the activity topic.

Interact – Students interact with their partner classroom in a live video interaction to discover new ideas and perspectives.

Reflect – Students reflect on the interaction in a Reflection Circle to make sense of their developing ideas, build community, and encourage honest dialogue.

We currently have nine activities covering the following topics:Get to Know You
Our Local Landmarks
Everyday Energy
Folktales to Learn From
Festivals Around the World
Ways We Play
Helping Hands
Weather Out the Window
Community Cartographers

Within each activity plan, you will find clear learning goals, a description of materials and resources needed, a high level overview of the activity, and detailed descriptions of each stage of the activity, including an estimate of class time necessary to complete each step. You will also find links to additional Empatico resources, like handouts and reflection tools for your students, and external resources that can be integrated into the activity.

 

How our activities align to elementary lesson plans

Empatico’s activities support the goals and skills outlined in several academic and social emotional standards at the national and international level. For example, Empatico activities meet the Speaking and Listening components of both the U.S. Common Core English Language Arts Standards and the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Empatico activities also address the digital literacy standards set by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the communication components of the WIDA English Language Development Standards.

 

Example: How to incorporate the ‘Ways We Play’ activity into your lesson plan

Creative free play is essential for children. Through play, children learn to problem-solve, explore the physical world, and develop social skills. Our Ways We Play activity explores the similarities and differences in how students around the world play.

Ways We Play Learning Goals

  • Identify and explain the kinds of creative free play that interest individual students and the class
  • Explore another community’s interests, perspectives, and values in relation to play
  • Connect to others through respectful, open-minded listening and speaking
  • Compare other kids’ play preferences to identify similarities and differences

The only materials required for Ways We Play are:

  • A storybook (like Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, or Mattland by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert – all of which can be accessed online via YouTube)
  • A globe or map to show your partner classroom location
  • Printed handouts of the Ways We Play Thinking and Reflection Tool can also be used

Ways We Play Activity Plan

The “Prepare” stage of this activity takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete with your class and includes reading a storybook about creative play. Students then brainstorm ways to play and prepare to share their favorite kinds of play with a partner classroom. Students will also learn where their partner classroom is located and predict how their new friends play.

The “Interact” stage includes a 20 to 30 minute live video interaction with a partner classroom in which students introduce themselves, compare play preferences, and ask/answer questions of their peers in their partner class.

Finally, the “Reflect” stage of Ways We Play can be completed in 15 to 20 minutes within your class. Students gather in a circle to reflect on what they learned about how everyone plays; they discuss how their experiences were similar to and different from those of their partner classroom, as well as how they are inspired to play in new ways.

Ways We Play can easily be incorporated into a longer lesson about comparing and contrasting, identifying cultural characteristics, applying civic virtues like mutual respect and attentiveness to multiple perspectives, reading and summarizing text, making decisions as a group, and/or speaking and listening. The activity plan can be followed step-by-step or tailored to meet your classroom’s needs.

You can also extend your Empatico activity with activities from other organizations focused on character development and global connections, like Character.org, Sustainable Development Goals (see Empatico’s optional SDG extension exercises), or World’s Largest Lesson.

Ready to try an Empatico activity in your classroom this school year? Sign up for a free Empatico account today!

“This was such a wonderful/human way to launch our weather science unit. The kids were engaged in learning about our own weather likes/dislikes/patterns. They got such a kick to learn about our partner school who gets 23 feet of snow a year, while we live in the mild Northern California area. We followed the format to begin, then simply asked and answered questions. Such fun!”
– Aimee Demaret, 3rd grade teacher