ELA Meets STEAM in This Fun Roller Coaster Extension
Editor's note: Ann and Sandy are beloved Storyworks Jr. teacher advisers, and we were so thrilled when they told us about a fun learning extension they came up with for the May/June Paired Texts. After reading the paired texts about the history and future of roller coasters, students design and pitch their own roller coaster ideas! This activity has it all: fun, skill-building, cooperative learning, and a connection to STEAM! The best part: Ann and Sandy have provided you with everything you need to make it happen in your classroom!
Pitch a Park!
When students interact with a high-interest text, it’s easy to capitalize on their curiosity. Since roller coasters are so intriguing, we decided to go beyond the text and give students a chance to design and pitch their own idea for a roller coaster. This activity follows a close reading of Scream Machines and Want More Thrills? from the May/June issue of Storyworks Jr.
Time: 5 days, working in pairs
Task: Students will be roller coaster engineers. They will draw an original coaster idea including structure, safety features, and theme or special effects. Once completed, students will “pitch” their roller coaster to the class as if they were selling their idea to the owners of Six Flags (or any nearby amusement park).
Student Guidelines: The requirements for student work are that their roller coaster must be fun, safe and have a theme. Pitch should include all of the vocabulary words from the two texts. Direct students to use what they have learned from the articles, their own experience and on websites provided to develop their plan.
1. Read both articles with students. Complete any comprehension activities provided from Storyworks Jr.
2. Introduce the project, distribute the graphic organizer, and share links for research. We posted the project description and links on our Google Classroom. For a list of resources, see below.
3. Give students time to explore resources and sketch their ideas on the graphic organizer.
4. Give students time to finalize their roller coaster plans and draw them on posterboard or large presentation paper. Use markers to make it bold.
5. Use the opinion writing graphic organizer and OREO paragraph planner to guide them in writing their presentation. Links to the graphic organizers from Scholastic are included in the resources below.
6. Use Opinion Words and Phrases page from Scholastic to help students make their writing flow. A mentor text from the Six Flags website that describes a roller coaster is included as a model.
7. Allow students to type their essays and attach it to their poster.
8. Have students present their design to the class, pitching it as if they're speaking directly to the park owners.
Optional assessment: Students can complete their own Glow & Grow, or have the class vote on best coaster, best presentation, best theme, etc.
Materials: Graphic organizers for planning, plenty of paper for sketches plus poster paper and markers for final design and presentation, Glow & Grow, computers for accessing information and publishing.
- Amusement Park Physics
- Funderstanding Roller Coasters
- Build your own coaster
- Kingda-Ka webpage; writing example
- National Geographic Kids roller coaster video playlist
Graphic organizers/planning documents:
- Pitch a Park graphic organizer for planning
- Opinion Words and Phrases
- Opinion writing planner
- OREO paragraph Planner
- Glow and Grow
Extensions with STEAM
Roller coasters inspire excitement in third graders, but they are a great application of scientific principles of force and motion as well. They lend themselves well to STEAM exploration in the classroom. Marble Runs, Knex and classroom STEAM materials can be used for roller coaster engineering and design in the classroom.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.