Seriously? Not only are sensory tables 'academic,' but they are also a vital tool in differentiating! Yes, you heard me right. Sensory tables are absolutely essential for differentiating instruction in an early childhood classroom.
I know I'm always pulling these little visuals out (because I'm a visual learner) but they help me remember what differentiated instruction really is and why we do it. So here you go:
Notice that we don't just differentiate in response to a student's readiness. We also consider their interests-that's the HOOK!!!! And we look at their learning profile. Learning profile, of course, is the way we learn. It's our learning styles and our multiple intelligences . . .
Looking at this chart, I can identify several MI learners that benefit from sensory table learning. These kinds of activities will appeal to your kinesthetic learners who NEED to move. It is ideal for you the linguistic learner who enjoys the dialogue associated with this kind of learning, the interpersonal learner who is working with other children and even the spatial learner who is coming up with the visual scenario of their 'story' in their mind. It's differentiated instruction at its finest.
I get it though. I know that there might be administrators that see sensory tables as 'fluff.' So I offer you some ideas that might help you on your quest to differentiate and align your instruction especially for all you sensory table lovers like me.
Don't have a sensory table? Use a short sided plastic tote. It works just as well and your kiddos will love it.
You can purchase colored sand and paint dog biscuits for a dinosaur feeling (in response to a learners 'interest.' Here, my kinders are excavating real and nonsense word bones. Depending on their level of readiness, some searched for three-letter words and others searched for four-lettered words.
Once they sorted them out, they recorded their findings, separating real from nonsense words.
You can grab this freebie that goes along with this activity for your own classroom by clicking below.
I'm sure your little paleontologists will love it.
Here I created plaster of paris stones with little dinosaurs hidden inside. Students used excavating tools to claim the little dinos and then used books to identify which dinosaur they found.
Or how about something a little green for St. Patrick's Day. I always have dyed rice laying around. A simple favorite sand/sensory table filler. This time I was given these little yellow tokens that I thought looked just like 'pieces of gold' that a leprechaun might have left. I wrote real and nonsense words on them for my kinders to sort.
I know that not everyone has access to some gold pieces, so here is a little freebie that you can use in your in their place. Just click on the picture.
How about rhyming! I made of these little bugs for a rhyming activity in my sensory table.
Students find the matching bugs in the green grass (shredded green paper) and then clip them together with a fun clothes pin and foamy stuck to the end.
If you need a copy of this one, click on the picture below to get it. It's FREE!!!
In the fall their is corn for shucking (love this fine motor activity to build strong fingers) and weighing. Students love to see how heavy a cup full of kernels versus an entire ear weighs.
At Easter, we add eggs with a rime on one end and an onset on the other. Viola! An aligned and fun word work activity.
I tier this activity by having some student word with only the CVC word combinations and others working with the CVCC word combinations. They record the words they make.
Even polar animals can be a sorting activity (they that's a common core standard folks). At this table my students sorted the Arctic and the Antarctic animals. One little guy told me he 'had to sort them because they would never play together in real life. They live to far away.'
These little butterflies had hidden pictures on them that my students would observe with their magnifying glasses. Once they found the hidden picture, they would record the word on a recording sheet.
And finally, I love these little Dollar Tree orbs that you add water to and they expand. These were great beginning of the year sensory table fun. I had students sorting them and counting them, identifying which number of colored orbs was great and which was less. All these activities align to a common core standard. So how can so many classrooms being shying way from this great differentiated instructional tool?
I hope before you toss aside your own table, you consider trying out a few of these activities. If size is a factor (believe me I have the world's smallest kindergarten classroom), try a plastic tote for a substitute. Sometimes I actually have my sand table and a tote going at the same time, I love it so much.
And just to maybe give you an added little nudge . . . I have one last freebie to offer you as the Valentine's season approaches. So this one is for all you Sensory Table Lovers out there. Just like me.
I am gradually getting my own "products" uploaded over to our EEE
Early Education Emporium.
Follow this direct link to find my little shop under the polka dot umbrella!