Magnets in the Classroom
First, allow me to give you some background into who I am: I’m an emotional disturbance intervention specialist, online English teacher, and a person passionate about the lifelong learning of others. My position as an educator has brought on many challenges over the years; one of which was how to incorporate meaningful and interactive learning opportunities for my students throughout their school day.
This past school year (2018-2019) I had 12 wonderful students in my Emotional Disturbance classroom, sometimes even up to 14! It was my responsibility to provide them with their social and emotional learning, but also to cover all academic areas. How did I do it?
My students LOVE magnets. Didn’t seem to matter the age. My second grade friends, fourth grade friends, and everyone else in between! They like manipulating them, thinking about the way they work, and engaging in word play in a low-risk, informal learning environment. To learn more about why wordplay is so critical to a student’s development, click here.
Okay, so are my reasons:
#1: The kids love it
Magnets are cool! No matter how old you are, it’s always fun to play with these things. Do you remember when you had letter and number magnets on your fridge as a child? If you did, you can’t tell me you never played with them! What cool words and numbers did you make?
If you loved it, the kids will, too! Try it out!
#2: They’re interactive
Hmm.. would you rather have your student write words with the same old pencil and paper combo that will end up on YOUR desk for YOU to take care of later?
Would you rather provide the students with an opportunity to be in control of their learning and hand over some magnets with a board for them to generate words with?
Let me think for a mili-second… MAGNETS ALL THE WAY!
I’m sure you’re worried about documentation, right? Because that child’s magnet wordplay can go away before you know it! I have two solutions: the first is to do what I do and take a photograph of it to document your student’s progress and to evaluate later. The second solution is to have the child set his/her magnet board to a location of your choosing for you to review and record the words he/she created later.
If you’re interested in seeing my personal data tracking template, I’d love to share it with you! Click here now.
#3: Magnets support wordplay
Let’s face it: the English language is confusing. Probably because it’s made up of like 200 languages! Crazy, right? If we want our students to succeed at their phonics skills, they need to have opportunities to think long and hard about letters, letter sounds, and spelling patterns. Wordplay with magnets offers them the opportunity to be little word investigators!
Real life example:
I had a third grade student who was reading at a Pre-K level. Heck, when he started with me, he didn’t even know all of his letters and sounds. Naturally, I did what any intervention teacher would do: I put in place interventions and tracked his progress over 6-8 weeks periods of times. I noticed that he was learning more effectively when he was able to manipulate his letters and to see them visually rather than non-stop direct and verbal instruction.
So, from September until January, we worked tirelessly on his letter and sound identification. Then, we slowly started to work on his flash cards. Immediate following this direct and explicit instruction approach, I would give him 5-10 minutes everyday on his own for wordplay with his magnets and magnet board.
He started out with basic letters and a lot of CVC words. But, by March, he was moving onto nonsense words, names and even spelling some of his sight words we had been practicing during his guided reading group! Gradually, this magnet intervention was proving to be a success for him!
Please note that I did not just give my student a magnet board and say, “Here you go! Have fun with the wordplay!” A lot of planning and intentionality led up to this point. Comment below if you want details or support on where to begin!
Advice: intentionally put letters on his/her board to choose from with letters he/she knows and have the ability to build some words you know are in that child’s word palette.
As time goes on, you may either increase or decrease the amount of letters based on your student’s needs. You can also ask the student to spell some words before exploring others on his/her own if you want that student to review a particular word, sound, or pattern. Make the magnet word-building intentional and relevant to what your student needs.
#4: Progression is Easy to Track
Aha! Finally an intervention that does not take an incredible amount of time to implement, score, and analyze!
With my data tracking sheet, I can see all that I need to see! I write down the words my student created from this session in my notes. Then after my data sheet has been filled, I can take a few moments to analyze it to determine where we should go next!
This particular intervention is kid friendly, teacher friendly, and data-tracking friendly!
#5: Independent Work at it’s Finest
I believe that this magnet wordplay is a great idea for a station! Allow it to be a rotation in your stations during your reading block. If more structure is needed since I really only did it with one student rather than the whole group, create a word bank for the students to refer to.
Instruct them to make these words out of magnets. And, if you must, encourage them to write these words after they make it! For accountability, this could be done as partner work! The options for how to utilize this magnet wordplay activity are limitless! Let your creativity go wild!
Please comment or reach out to me if you have any questions!
Also, if you do implement this into your classroom, I’d love to see it on social media! #teachonclimbon #teachertaylortravels
Best of luck, teachers!