Phenomenon-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom


Phenomenon-Based Learning

Hey, y'all. Have you heard of Phenomenon-Based Learning yet? If you've followed the blog for awhile, you've probably heard me mention it a time or six. That's because it's amazing!

PhenomBL is an instructional strategy used in Finland to integrate subjects and make learning connected across the curriculum. Students are given a topic like weather, plants, civil rights, or WWII and explore the topic in each subject area. I'll give you an example in just a sec. It's much deeper than a simple thematic unit!

First, for some background info, you can grab this informational freebie from by TPT store. It has all the basics of what PhenomBL is about and what it entails. 


Now, let's take a look at what a PhenomBL unit looks like. 

The first framework in this series is all about the weather. You'd start the unit by posing an Essential Question. In this case, it's "How does the weather affect plants, animals, and people?" The kids will learn about the weather in each subject area. 

At the beginning of the unit, students will brainstorm what they know about weather and what questions they have (the K and W in a KWL chart). Then, you may have students brainstorm words they know or look over a list of weather-related words and see what words stand out to them. 


In reading, students would read all about the weather--types of weather, how living things adapt to weather and climate, and research any of the questions on their beginning of the unit brainstorm. This is a great time to integrate fictional and nonfictional texts and help students decipher what they can use as answers to their questions and where to go next for more clues. 


In math, students can measure precipitation with a rain gauge (or ruler if it's snow), graph high and low temperatures, track changes over time, measure barometric pressure, and take any number of weather-related measurements. If you're working on subtraction, this is a great time to find the temperature range for each day of the week. Anytime we can show students how to apply what they're learning to real life situations, it's a win!


In science, the topics are pretty straight forward. Students can learn all about weather patterns, vocabulary, how meteorologists make predictions and how they record things, types of clouds, types of climates, plant and animal adaptations to weather, and more. Students can analyze data, make predictions, and ask and answer their guiding questions. 

In social studies, the focus could be on how people adapt to different climates and weather patterns, why people choose to live in different climates, how climate change has affected (or could affect) humans, and so much more. 


The biggest part of PhenomBL is that it is student-centered learning. As teachers, we'll be providing the experience and guiding students in their learning, but the work of learning is largely up to them. Throughout the whole PhenomBL experience, students are asking and answering their own questions. This is not a teacher-directed unit. 

Now, you will need to pre-teach some vocabulary, some basics about weather (if you teach upper elementary, students will already have some background knowledge), and some skills on how to do research to answer their questions, but the overall unit is largely student-directed. 

The premise behind Phenomenon Based Learning is that students see how all the different subject areas are related when exploring different topics. No matter what topic you're studying, reading, math, science, and social studies are all involved. When students apply the skills they are learning in every subject to one topic, they can see how things are connected in the world. Things start to make sense and dendrites grow all over their brains! Call me a nerd, but it really is fascinating. 

You can find out more about this weather PhenomBL framework here or by heading straight to my TPT store. This is the first in this series, so check back frequently for more topics/units of study coming soon. 

I hope you have a wonderful week and I'll talk to you soon.

Stay cozy,

Creating Independent, Self-Directed Learners


Why You Need Independent, Self-Directed Learners

Hey, y'all. Are you going home exhausted at the end of every school day? Guess what, you don't have to! There is a way to get your students to be more self-directed and independent in their learning. This leaves them going home exhausted and excited for all their hard work learning, and you leave rejuvenated and proud at all their growth and accomplishments. 

Don't believe me? It's true. It happens all over the world and it can happen in your classroom, too. Here are five reasons why your students need to be self-directed and independent in their learning. 

1. Self-directed learners become life-long learners

When students learn how to learn on their own, without the direct intervention from adults, they become life-long learners. The whole world opens up for our students when they are able to take initiative for their learning. Most of the information that students would ever need to know is at students' fingertips. Teaching them how to access that information allows students to ask and answer their own questions about nearly anything! Our work happens when they can't find the answers and we get to teach how to problem-solve it. 

2. Self-directed learners construct knowledge that sticks 

Countless research studies have shown that when students construct their own knowledge, meaning they're active participants in their learning, not merely passively receiving information, the learning "sticks" better. When you're interested in something, you retain it more easily. I can remember things I learned during middle school and high school projects many (many) years later because I was invested in the learning. The same holds true for your students. 

3. Self-directed learners are less needy

When you teach your students to how to learn, they become more responsible and independent. They take ownership of their learning and you will see your students begin to blossom. They become accountable for the things they are learning and doing--not just because WE hold them accountable, but because they actually develop accountability on their own. 

4. When your students are self-directed, you can support students in small groups or one-on-one

When your students are focused on their learning, asking and answering their own questions, and teaching or learning with/from each other, you are able to meet with students who may still need support in different areas. It frees you up to confer with your writers, work with a small group of readers, reteach that math concept, lead a small group in an experiment, or support a student developing their own learning plan. Your interruptions (almost) cease. 

5. Self-directed learners use their curiosity for good, and not evil

I know it sounds similar to the first point, but really when your students know how to be self-directed learners, you will have fewer behavior issues because students will be so busy exploring the answers to their questions, instead of causing mayhem because they're "bored." Using open-ended learning explorations creates buy-in, gets students excited, and create more questions in their mind that they become eager to find answers to. It's what many of us always wanted when we decided to go into teaching. 

"Yeah, that's great, but how do we do it?" you ask. Through thoughtful planning and prep work it is possible! (Say that five times fast!) I've set up a quick and easy course that will take you step by step into building the classroom of your dreams. To get started with Creating Independent Learners, head over to the course website here

This process is a journey and you don't have to do it alone. Our Facebook group is full of passionate educators ready to support you in your teaching journey as well. Head over there to join in the fun. 

I hope you have a wonderful day I'll talk to you soon. 

Stay cozy, 

Digital Spring Math Centers for K-2


Digital Spring Math Centers

Hey, y'all. Are you as ready for spring as I am? I love all the seasons for different reasons, but I feel I'm ready for some thawing out. What about you? 

St. Patrick's Day will be here before we know it! When I taught in Texas, we always had spring break on St. Patty's Day so we didn't really get into all the fun. Here in the Tahoe area, we're usually in school for all the shenanigans, which makes these digital math centers extra fun. ;)


This year, we're using digital math centers instead of printed ones. There are definitely pros and cons to each, but I love how these turned out. 

There are digital math centers for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Each set has four "centers," or skills to practice, and are available for both Boom Learning™ and Google Classroom™.


I love using them on Boom Learning because of the instant feedback students get with the self-checking feature. They're also great on Google Classroom because they are so easy to use and check. It all depends on your personal preference. 


Being that these centers are digital, it's super easy to differentiate for your students without the other kiddos knowing who's working on something harder or easier. It's easy to assign one group of kiddos 2nd grade centers while another group works on 1st grade centers. The kids get what they need and no one needs to know anyone else's level of skill progression. 


Skills covered in these centers include number order, comparing numbers, subtraction, expanded form (2nd grade only), telling time, and more. You can find out more about each of these units by heading over to my TPT store. Spring Boom Cards can be found here and Spring Google Classroom cards can be found here

I hope you found some new ideas for your classroom and that you love these centers as much as I do. (They were so fun to make!) I am always adding new resources to my Teachers Pay Teachers store so check back often for new ideas. Have a wonderful week and I'll talk to you soon. 

Stay cozy,