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Creating Effective STEM Lesson Plans: Tips and Tricks

STEM education at its core is about applying science, technology, engineering and math skills and knowledge to solve problems. Therefore, the focus of STEM lesson plans should be on developing students’ problem-solving abilities. 

Therefore, STEM lesson plans usually consist of longer term projects where students are doing the majority of the work and teachers are acting as a facilitator. As a STEM teacher, it’s your responsibility to create lesson plans that teach the necessary skills and concepts and also engage and excite your students. Then you’ll guide and assist as your students take the lead working through the project. Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, these tips and tricks will help you design effective STEM lesson plans.

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1. Start with a real-world problem.

One of the best ways to engage students in STEM and develop an effective STEM lesson plan is to start with a real-world problem. This could be a current issue in the news, a problem in the local community, or a challenge faced by a particular industry. By framing the lesson around a real-world problem, students can see the relevance and importance of the concepts they are learning. It also allows for more creativity and critical thinking as students work to find solutions to the problem.

2. Determine the project criteria and constraints.

Before diving into a STEM project, it’s important to determine the project criteria and constraints. This includes identifying the project goals and any limitations or restrictions, such as the resources available and time constraints. For example, if the project involves building a bridge, the criteria and constraints may include a specific budget, materials available, and weight capacity requirements. By establishing these parameters upfront, students can focus their efforts on meeting the project goals while also developing important problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

3. Identify the specific design process steps you want students to follow.

When creating STEM lesson plans, it’s important to identify the specific engineering design process you want your students to follow. This will help you plan the flow of the project and guide students’ approach to problem solving. The design process typically includes steps such as defining the problem, researching and brainstorming solutions, prototyping and testing, and refining the final solution. By breaking down the design process into specific steps, you can help your students develop solutions to problems that at first seem overwhelming. They’ll also be able to apply this problem solving approach to future STEM projects and beyond.

4. Determine the assessment criteria.

Before creating your STEM lesson plan, it’s important to determine the assessment criteria you will use to evaluate your students’ understanding and mastery of the material. Will you be assessing their understanding of specific content or their problem solving approach? Will the success of their prototype factor into their score? By clearly defining your assessment criteria, you can ensure that your students are meeting the learning objectives of the project and that you are providing them with the feedback they need to improve their skills and knowledge. I highly recommend using a rubric and emphasizing the problem-solving process over the product with students who are new to STEM.

5. Find or create supplemental materials your students will need.

In order to create effective STEM lesson plans, it’s important to find or create supplemental materials that will help your students successfully develop a solution to the problem you are presenting. This can include background research videos and articles or graphic organizers to guide and document their work throughout the engineering design process. You will need to gather supplies, solicit donations, or have students bring in the materials they’ll need to create their prototypes.

6. Create a calendar with daily goals.

One of the best ways to stay organized and on track when creating STEM lesson plans is to create a project timeline with daily goals. This will help you break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, you might set a goal to introduce the problem and have students identify the project criteria and constraints on Monday, research and brainstorm on Tuesday, begin building their prototype on Wednesday, test and improve their prototype on Thursday, and present their finished prototype on Friday. By breaking down your tasks into smaller goals, you’ll be able to set manageable goals for your students and keep them moving forward towards your overall lesson plan.

7. Plan how you will encourage collaboration and teamwork.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential components of effective STEM learning. When creating your lesson plans, be sure to include activities that encourage students to work together and share ideas. This could include using group roles, having students reflect on their collaboration skills, and having students provide one another feedback on their teamwork. Intentionally planning how you will encourage teamwork will help foster a collaborative learning environment. You’ll not only deal with less drama once the project is underway, but you’ll also help prepare them for future careers in STEM fields where teamwork is often required.

Looking for more support with your STEM lesson plans?

Your are busy enough… Grab a few ready-to-go STEM projects and cross lesson planning off your to-do list. You’ll have a classroom full of engaged kids and extra time to drink your coffee while it’s hot!

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Each of the STEM challenges has:

  • Printable, Google and Easel versions of the student activities and worksheets that guide students through the engineering design process
  • Detailed lesson plans and slideshows for easy lesson facilitation
  • Easy-to-use grading rubrics and assessments
  • Flexible building materials, so you can use what you have on hand
  • Printable certificates for student engineers
  • Suggestions for building materials, distance learning, and differentiation

Grab one today to save your planning and prep time for all your other important tasks, while knowing your students will be learning and engaged in an amazing STEM project!

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Hi, I'm Trilby!

I help middle school educators like you facilitate high quality STEM lessons that engage and challenge students while saving time and energy.

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