Today’s blog is a collaborative post by myself and Heather Barnard, an Elementary Educator at my school in Singapore, Stamford American International School. I am inspired by what Heather does in our school and it is an honor to have her joining our Ed-Tech Coaching team next year. Enjoy this look into the integration of Fidget Spinners in Heather’s Grade 3 classroom to teach Math concepts.
“Put it away.”
“I don’t want to see those out of your bags.”
“You may only play with those during snack and lunch time.”
“I just don’t get the fascination with them.”
“They are everywhere, so annoying.”
Yep, I’m guilty of saying each and every one of those things about the beloved spinner craze. Even my own children have been driving me crazy with their spinners and fidget cubes. Yes, I allowed them to buy them, but then I found myself, almost immediately, telling them to use them somewhere else where I didn’t have to hear them or see them! I just didn’t understand how this spinning device could cause such a demand. But then I held one…and I gave it a spin.
I liked the feeling. I liked the motion. I liked trying to track the spin with my eyes. It was somehow calming, soothing and mesmerizing. The quieter ones, I loved even more. I then, and only then, understood why my students and children loved them so much.
From that moment, I was intrigued by the spinners. The spinner was originally developed for kids with ADHD and Autism (here’s a quick video explaining them). I wanted to figure out how to stop fighting the spinner craze at school and actually, make it a valuable tool for my students, perhaps helping them become more engaged in their classwork – work that they might otherwise consider…boring.
I tossed and turned one night as I started dreaming up all sorts of activities currently related to our math unit of study. We were looking at graphing, perimeter, symmetry, times tables and telling time. As I thought about the activities we were doing in class, I started envisioning the spinner finding its way into each lesson. The next morning, I texted one of my room parents to ask her to tell all the children to bring their spinners for math that day, to which she replied a supportive, “Sounds fun! Kids will love it!”. Another mom said, “You might be crazy!” Sure, I might have been crazy, and the whole thing could flop, but I quickly got to work designing lessons, hoping that I had found a way to bring the students’ interest into the classroom.
Our first lesson used spinners as timers, racing against them to finish a times table grid. We then timed our spins and graphed them, talking about human error, designs of spinners and which ones had the best times. That night, I heard back from parents with comments like, “Loads of praise for your idea…I think the word genius was used. My child was raving about it!”, and “By the way, you are a genius using the fidget spinners in class. My child enjoys Math, but never have I seen him this excited about it!” I was on to something here.
The next day, students brought in their best spinners in hopes of getting the best spin times for our activities. We raced against them for times tables, now an everyday thing, and we then used different spinners to find lines of symmetry as well as to measure the perimeters in centimeters (another target the kids needed to learn). Yesterday, we used spinners to help learn how to tell time, and they were quickly learning, engaged and TALKING about their learning much more than I’ve ever heard.
I’ve since gone on to create even more lessons and have promised them that I’ll keep it going until the end of the year. We still have rules though, such as the spinners do stay in their bags until it’s time for math, and they can’t spin while someone else is talking.
There will always be fads that will come and go, and there will always be devices and toys that teachers will struggle with in the classroom, but sometimes, there are things which we actually can embrace and welcome into the learning environment. We just have to see them through the child’s eye and think about how that “awesome, cool, epic” toy can help them engage in what we’re teaching just that much more.
Have fun spinning!